Friday afternoon, I came home to the building littered with an oversized addressed mailing from Clean Energy Option. The official-looking envelope, complete with perforated edges, instructions for opening, and a NOTICE in bold capital letters, announcing
NOTICE: MASSACHUSETTS RESIDENTS CAN NOW CHOOSE THE SOURCE OF THEIR ELECTRICITY
After peeling open the envelope, I found a “Dear Massachusetts Resident” letter with my name imprinted in the top margin along with a request that I act by 4/30/16.
Curious I kept reading. “If you pay your electric bill” [that idea made me laugh, I then realized they meant, as opposed to electricity being included in your rent or condo fee], you are now able to choose the source of your electricity power supply. If you would prefer your electricity to come from clean, renewable sources like wind and solar, please return the Clean Energy Option form provided.”
As a gal who has been recycling since she was ten-years-old (perilously close to fifty years!) and is very conscious of her carbon footprint, the idea of my now being able to choose to have my electricity generated from clean, renewable sources is very interesting. I kept reading.
“Once your form is received, the source of your electricity will be switched to clean sources with no switch fees or conversion charges.”
As this letter began reading more and more like PublishersClearinghouse or one of those “live forever vitamin sales pitches, my Spidey Senses began twitching. Where’s the catch, I wondered.
“You will not be changing your utility company. Billing and service will come from Eversource just as it does now. By choosing renewable you are simply telling Eversource to get the electricity for your home from Clean Energy Option, a supplier of 100% wind and solar power.”
I called the 800- number on the letter hoping to figure out how much more it would cost to have my electricity supplied by renewables. I expected it to be more costly. I just wanted to know by how much.
It took a while, but between the two of us, I finally learned the Clean Energy Option charges would replace the “Generation Charge, Basic Svc Fixed” line item on my Eversource bill. With a little high math, I determined, at the current rate, renewably sourced electricity would cost me $4.51 more per month—not a deal-breaking surcharge. But still, those Spidey Senses…
With some trepidation, I called Eversource. It felt as if I were calling to inquire about a competitor trying to steal their business.
It’s not like that,” the Eversource rep explained. “We no longer generate electricity. Eversource gets electricity from whatever sources our customers choose or from the default we negotiate. We distribute the electricity/get it to your home, maintain the grid, and handle billing for both distribution and generation. This separation is because of the Massachusetts Electric Industry Restructuring Act of 1997.”
So not a newly acquired choice, I thought.
I also learned that contrary to the mailing’s implication it’s either the Eversource “Basic Svc Fixed,” option or this Clean Energy Option, other companies generate electricity. The rep also cautioned me about choosing an energy supplier whose rates “vary on market conditions a month-to-month basis,” an admission I found in the fine print. The Eversource “Basic Svc Fixed” electricity rate can fluctuate every six months.
Calling the Mass. Department of Public Utilities, I learned the legislation didn’t require an Electricity Supplier “Connector” enabling citizens to intelligently select the company they want to generate their electric energy. Sadly, there’s only a Mass. Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs Excel spreadsheet (see it here) identifying those electricity generation companies choosing to be listed, and their websites. Rate-payers are left to painstakingly comb the sites researching individual terms and conditions.
I find this Clean Energy Option mailing littering our neighborhood, and perhaps the whole city, misleading in a number of ways. It insinuates the choice of electricity supply is only newly available. It implies Clean Energy Option is the only alternative to the Eversource “Basic Svc Fixed” default electricity supply option (a presumably not-renewably-source). The mailing suggests the decision is time-sensitive. And of course, the language misleads about the true costs of choosing Clean Energy Option.
I am incredibly disappointed this Weld/Cellucci deregulation/decentralizing measure was not implemented to provide the tools citizens need to advantage any possible benefit, to the customer, separating generation from distribution of electricity might provide.
I’ve had long conversation with the City of Boston Environmental Department, alerting them to this mailing and asking my “data-driven” city government to create this necessary “City of Boston Electricity Supplier Connector” webpage. Surely, I argued, isn’t it in the interest of the “30% less by 2030” goal to help Boston electricity ratepayers navigate their options in choosing how their electricity is generated?
I’ve been promised the idea will be raised up the flagpole. We’ll see if it goes further. Meanwhile, I am sufficiently disquieted by Clean Energy Option to leave my electricity generation with the Eversource “Basic Svc Fixed” default.