Bernardston residents express concern over new energy deal

  • A view looking east on Church Street in Bernardston. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

Recorder Staff
Published: 12/22/2016 10:42:41 PM

BERNARDSTON — Residents expressed concerns that town officials did little to spread the word about Bernardston’s newly created Community Choice Power Supply program during an informational session at Town Hall Wednesday night.

The program will save ratepayers more than $7,200 on their power bills in the first half of 2017 through municipal electricity aggregation. Such savings is possible due to an agreement between Bernardston and Colonial Power Group, an aggregation consulting firm that works with local and state government to secure reduced electricity rates for communities across New England.

Throughout the six-month period, Verde Energy USA of Norwalk, Conn., will be the electricity supplier for customers currently on Eversource’s basic service, having been selected as the cheapest option through a competitive process. All customers will automatically be enrolled, unless they choose to opt out.

Brian Murphy, who attended the meeting as a representative of Colonial Power Group, said the usual pool of suppliers is about four or five, though he estimated around 100 Massachusetts-licensed suppliers could have put in a bid.

Still, among the 9-member audience during the informational session, Bernardston residents Kerry Baird and Mike Snow said they felt residents didn’t have enough say in the process of selecting a supplier, nor were residents well-informed when the new program came to fruition.

“It just seems like nobody ever heard about any of it until the letter went out,” said Baird, who is also a broker with XOOM Energy.

Colonial Power Group recently sent letters to all customers currently on Eversource’s basic service, and a notification was uploaded to the Bernardston town website. However, Baird noted that residents who do not use Eversource wouldn’t know about the program, found no fliers on Town Hall’s bulletin board and said she surveyed 32 town businesses to ask if they had heard about the program. She claimed 30 percent didn’t receive the notice, including Snow, who owns The Steel Shed and Townline Ice Cream. Many who did thought it was junk mail, she added.

“A lot of people just threw it in the trash,” Snow said after the meeting.

Baird said she would have liked to see the town consider companies that would donate a portion of their revenue to charities, as there are “so many different plans out there that offer different services.”

“The town was not approached by any supplier that said, ‘We’ll give back to the town,’” Board of Selectmen Chairman Andrew Girard said.

Having put the work of supplying ratepayers with electricity out to bid, Girard noted Colonial Power Group secured ratepayers the cheapest possible rates from the suppliers who expressed interest. However, he said the town will explore more ways to reach out to community members in the future, such as using the community newsletter or the new Code Red alert system.

“This is the first time we’ve done anything like this and it’s a learning process,” Girard said.

Twice each year going forward, the work of supplying ratepayers with electricity will go out to bid again, to ensure ratepayers receive the lowest rates possible, whether it be through Eversource, Verde Energy USA or another company.

Residents can view a list of frequently asked questions regarding the Community Choice Power Supply program online at bit.ly/2il5G5h.


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