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Greenfield conduit for better rates?

Recorder/Peter MacDonald
Greenfield Mayor William Martin in his office in the town hall

Recorder/Peter MacDonald Greenfield Mayor William Martin in his office in the town hall

GREENFIELD — If all goes as planned, the mayor expects the town will be buying electricity at bulk rates on behalf of its residents by early 2014.

Mayor William Martin said the town is moving forward with plans to help Greenfield residents save money by buying electricity at bulk rates and then selling it to them. He said residents will automatically be signed up, but will be able to opt out, if they choose.

Martin said the savings to residents and businesses might only be 50 cents to $2 a month, but there will be other benefits, including the opportunity for them to choose “greener” power at lower prices than they would probably receive on their own.

He said the town also does not expect to save a lot, but will save some and be an even “greener,” energy-efficient town.

Martin, who has been working with Peregrine Energy Group of Boston, said the town will send the state Department of Public Utilities its detailed plan for the municipal aggregation by the end of April. He said the plan will need the DPU’s approval.

Martin said state approval could take up to five months, but is hoping it will happen sooner.

After the town’s plan is approved, Greenfield will put out a request for proposals to find a supplier.

In the meantime, the town will hold meetings to educate the public on just what the program will mean to them.

Finally, the town hopes to have a signed contract with a supplier by the end of this year and to begin selling to residents by the beginning of next year, said Martin.

He said the town will be looking for a supplier who is able to offer different choices, especially “green” ones, like wind- and solar-generated power, who offers a good price, has good customer service, and is “solid, secure and licensed.”

Only electricity will be purchased, said Martin. The aggregation will not include gas or heating oil.

Carole Collins, the town’s energy sustainability coordinator, said nothing will change for residents in terms of what they have to do to get their electricity.

They will still get their bills from Western Massachusetts Electric Co. and will call that company with problems or issues. The electric company will also continue to read their meters.

It would simply be a way for residents and businesses to purchase the power they want through the town, and save a little money in the process, she said.

Martin said the municipal aggregation is not being created to offer “sweetheart” deals to anyone. He said there will be fixed pricing for individuals, businesses, and industrial companies.

It will not cost the town anything to start the municipal aggregation. He said the cost to do studies and planning has come from grants.

Martin began working on the idea more than three years ago.

“The goal is to increase the amount of electricity generated by town projects so everyone’s bill will be lower and dependence on energy from foreign and environmentally degrading sources will decrease,” said Martin.

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

Commercial use, which includes 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 about 30 industrial accounts.

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