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Greenfield’s power company to go to voters

GREENFIELD — Town Council will decide later this month whether to ask the Legislature to allow townspeople to buy electricity in bulk.

Voters would be asked to create a municipal aggregation that presumably would save users money.

Mayor William Martin said the special election would be the last step in the process. Martin has discussed creating a power-buying aggregation for several years.

The mayor has been working with Peregrine Energy Group of Boston to create a plan, which would not only allow the town government to save money, but also sell electricity at a lower rate to residents and businesses.

Martin said he is excited to see the plan close to fruition.

“This will be a great economic development tool for us,” said Martin. “Large companies use a lot of electricity and we will be able to offer them reduced prices. It will be a great marketing tool for attracting new businesses.”

If the state approves the special election, the move could end up saving the town and any resident or business who wants to sign on between 50 cents and $2 per month on electric bills.

While Martin said it may not seem like a lot, the town would also be able to offer itself and others a choice in what type of energy would be used on an individual basis.

Carole Collins, the town’s energy-sustainability coordinator, said nothing will change for residents, except the savings.

She said residents will still get their bills directly from Western Massachusetts Electric Co., and will call WMECO if there is a problem. The electric company will continue to read meters.

“It would simply be a way for residents to purchase the power they want through the town, and save a little money doing so,” said Collins.

Martin said the town will follow all of the state Department of Public Utilities’ regulations when creating a municipal aggregation.

If passed by voters, every resident will automatically purchase electricity through the town, unless they decide to opt out.

“They could opt out at any time,” said Martin.

He said residents and businesses will also be able to choose the type of energy source they want, including wind or solar, for example.

Martin said the town could be selling electricity beginning some time later this year or the beginning of next.

Martin said the entire process has been at no cost to the town, because it has used grants.

“The goal is to increase the amount of electricity generated by town projects so everyone’s bill would be lowered and dependence on energy from foreign and environmentally degrading sources would be decreased,” said Martin. “We are moving toward a truly green Greenfield.”

According to town officials, based on data provided by WMECO on electricity used by homes in Greenfield, the total use for an entire year is about $4.1 million in supply costs alone. That does not include delivery costs.

Commercial use — including municipal, state and federal accounts located in Greenfield — totals about 69,887 megawatt hours and industrial accounts add an additional 14,183 megawatt hours.

There are about 8,000 residential electricity accounts with WMECO in Greenfield and more than 1,000 commercial accounts. There are also more than 30 industrial accounts, according to data.

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