AMHERST — The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities’ approved the Valley Green Energy Community Choice Aggregation application, which will now lead to Amherst, Northampton and Pelham having collective buying power to purchase electricity more competitively and increase the amount of renewable energy in the electricity supply.

Valley Green Energy is an electricity aggregation program, which is a way for communities to purchase electricity as a group. Through the program, residents and businesses will have new choices and greater control over the cost and environmental impact of the electricity they use. Amherst has been the lead community for the work.

“We are grateful to Mass Power Choice for their guidance and expertise in ensuring all three communities provided the materials, resources and followed the requisite process to make our application a success,” said Amherst Town Manager Paul Bockelman.

As lead community Amherst worked with Northampton and Pelham to submit the application. This application was submitted on behalf of the participating communities by the consultant for the three communities, Mass Power Choice on Oct. 13, 2023.

Amherst Director of Sustainability Stephanie Ciccarello told Reminder Publishing that all three communities involved have been considering becoming community choice aggregation and pursuing more flexibility and control over their electricity purchased.

Ciccarello explained a group of community members from the three communities worked to find a way to pull their resources in order to collectively leverage more buying power through becoming an aggregation.

“That prompted the communities to work together to look into doing this at an intermunicipal effort versus becoming community choice aggregation communities independently,” Ciccarello said.

Ultimately the community choice aggregation ended up being appealing for the three communities as it works to create a more appealing partner when identifying a supplier.

“By combining our three communities together there are then more residents, more customers if you will, so it makes it more appealing for having more bargaining power and getting more companies interested,” Ciccarello said. “For us to work together, the three of us definitely felt like it makes more of an incentive for a company to want to work with us.”

The program is expected to launch this fall. Community members who currently receive basic service from their utility provider will be automatically opted in. A robust community outreach and education campaign to further inform residents about the program’s membership options will be executed over the next several months prior to its implementation.

Ciccarello explained anyone currently on the public utilities basic rate service will automatically be opted into Valley Green energy when it is launched. This and much more will be brought to the public’s attention in the near future as an outreach and education process will begin to bring context and transparency to curious residents.

“They’ll be getting information in the mail about it but people don’t always read the mail so we want to make sure we’re doing as much as we can to get the word out,” Ciccarello said. “That’s really the main thrust of the education, and also to let people know they don’t have to stay with it, people can opt out of it and go back to their basic service rate with the utility. It’s not going to change how their electricity comes to their phones, distribution is still through the utilities that deliver the power, it’s just a matter of where the power is sourced.”

Ciccarello said the collaboration of communities will give them more flexibility in finding a supplier to work with that can offer a greener product in electricity.

Though Valley Green Energy will not be able to guarantee savings, the communities are committed to working toward competitive and stable prices. Ciccarello said she has a lot of faith in their consultant Mass Power Choice who will be the ones helping to identify the best supplies through outreach for the communities.

“I very much trust them. They have a lot of experience with working on aggregation and they’ve worked with several communities in the commonwealth and have been successful in securing a reasonable rate for their customers,” Ciccarello said. “We can’t guarantee it in any direction whether its going to be more or less, but we can say that the consultant that we’ve partnered with is very knowledgeable and experienced and have worked well for their customers.”

Ciccarello encourages residents to reach out to her office or look online on at any of the municipalities involved websites for more information. For more information on Valley Green’s Community Choice Aggregation work visit the Valley Green Energy Website at www.masspowerchoice.com/valleygreenenergy.