WE ARE HOMETOWN NEWS.

SOUTHWICK — The town has released its municipal aggregation plan prepared by the Colonial Power Group that can lower electricity costs for residents and businesses.

“The purpose of this plan is to represent consumer interests in competitive markets for electricity,” according to the 81-page plan that can found at tinyurl.com/5dp8h4uk.

For those interested in learning more, representatives of the town and Colonial Power will host an informational session at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 8, in the Town Hall auditorium.

According to the plan, there are 11 steps that must be completed before the town’s aggregation program becomes operational. The first was when Town Meeting approved the article to allow the town to begin the long process of becoming an aggregator.

Before the plan was released Jan. 24, Colonial Power developed it with the state’s Department of Energy Resources, which was the second step. Next was the release of the plan.

The public is now invited to read the plan and make comments, which will be accepted until 5 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 27. Comments can be made in person at the town clerk’s office, by email to kstinehart@southwickma.gov, or by mail to Chief Administrative Officer Karl Stinehart, Town Hall, 454 College Hwy., Southwick. All comments should be clearly marked “Town of Southwick’s Aggregation Plan,” according to the plan.

After the comment period closes, the Select Board must then formally adopt the plan for the town. From there, the plan is sent to the state Department of Public Utilities, which will then schedule a public hearing.

The biggest obstacle for towns starting up its aggregation program has been the wait time to the DPU approve the plan.

Select Board member Jason Perron was the driving force to get the issue in front of Town Meeting, and on numerous occasions said that once residents approved the program, it would take about six months to get it up and running.

However, DPU had been taking, in some cases, up to three years to approve filed municipal aggregation plans. In December, the DPU approved the plans for 13 municipalities, including Belchertown which filed its aggregation plan with the DPU in 2021.

Because of significant delays, state Rep. Tommy Vitolo (D-Brookline) filed a bill in October requiring the state to issue a decision on aggregation applications within 90 days of a city or town submitting its plan. If this deadline is not met, the program would automatically be approved.

The bill remains in the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy at the Statehouse.

Before that, DPU announced it was opening an investigation to “establish municipal aggregation guidelines and a proposed template to streamline the approval process.” The investigation, the agency announced, had addressed procedural requirements and plan elements which resulted in the 13 plan approvals.

Once Southwick’s plan is approved by the DPU, the process to implement the program can happen within two months, according to the plan. The plan says an electricity supplier will be chosen by the Select Board with advice from Colonial Power Group and the town’s energy consultant, Boston-based Beacon Integrated Solutions.

The supplier chosen must offer a combination of electricity options, according to the plan. The options must meet the state Renewable Portfolio Standard obligation and provide additional Renewable Energy Certificates, according to the plan.

Every electrical consumer in town will be enrolled in “standard” plan at a rate that is negotiated by the Select Board, unless that consumer opts out of the program.

There are “optional” products which will typically include renewable energy at a higher per-kilowatt-hour price, according to the plan.

The program doesn’t cost the town anything, but there is a funding mechanism to pay for Colonial Power Group’s services. It makes money from the town’s electricity customers using a pre-determined formula of one-tenth of 1 cent for every kilowatt-hour used.

The Select Board, according to the plan, can also choose include an additional one-tenth of 1 cent for every kilowatt-hour used to fund personnel costs that might be incurred if the town wanted to hire a program manager.

For more information, visit www.colonialpowergroup.com/southwick.

cclark@thereminder.com | + posts