Winchester Announces New Community Choice Electricity Program: WinPower
Program aims to stabilize electricity costs while introducing renewable energy sources
The Town of Winchester started a new electricity bulk buying program for households and businesses this July 2017. Called WinPower Winchester Community Choice Electricity (or CCE) the goal of the program is to stabilize and reduce the cost of electricity for residents and businesses in Winchester, as well as increase the share of renewable “green” energy in Winchester’s electricity supply. Winchester has joined more than 60 Massachusetts cities and towns that take advantage of state law that allows them to offer this type of “municipal aggregation” program.
Over the duration of the 30-month program, Winchester ratepayers are expected to save on monthly electricity costs relative to the default rate from Eversource (formerly NSTAR). As with all municipal aggregation programs in the country, there is no guarantee of cost savings because Eversource adjusts rates twice annually, while the Winchester CCE program locks in rates for 30 months. Ratepayers, however, will be insulated from market fluctuations which occurred in recent winters. Program participants may leave the program at any time with no termination fee.
Increasing Our Use of Green Energy
In addition to stabilizing costs, WinPower brings more renewable energy to Winchester’s supply. The default supply contains 5% more renewable energy than what is currently required by the State of Massachusetts. In addition, ratepayers have the option to either increase their renewable energy percentage to 100% or drop down to the minimum state requirement. Transitioning the community’s electricity supply to renewable sources is critical to the Commonwealth’s goal to become carbon neutral by 2050.
How Does Electricity Aggregation Work?
Municipal aggregation harnesses the bulk buying power of ratepayers to secure a low, fixed rate for electricity. Aggregation is essentially a group purchase, with Winchester residents coming together to get better terms for their power. Communities have been aggregating electricity since 1997, and more than 60 cities and towns in Massachusetts—including Lowell, New Bedford and Salem—already have active electricity aggregation programs. These communities, and Winchester, along with Somerville, Arlington, Brookline and Sudbury, developed their aggregation plans in accordance with Mass. General Law c.164, sec. 134, which authorizes any municipality to aggregate the electrical load of interested consumers within its boundaries.
How the WinPower Program Works
- All Winchester ratepayers should have received a notification letter as of June 1, 2017. Letters included a mail-in opt-out letter, with pre-paid envelope.
- Ratepayers will be automatically enrolled 30 days after notification unless they choose to opt out of the program in advance.
- Once enrolled, at any time during the program, customers may leave the program with no penalty. They will automatically be returned to Eversource supply.
- Bills and service are still issued and provided by Eversource. Program participants are still Eversource customers, and Eversource is still responsible for emergency response and maintenance.
- Rates are fixed from July 1, 2017, to December 31, 2019. When the program ends, Winchester has the option to go out to bid again for a second round of the program.
- Ratepayers have the option to increase their supply to 100% renewable energy ($0.13558/kWh) or drop down to the state minimum requirement for renewable energy ($0.10758/kWh), which costs less than Eversource basic service.
Outreach for WinPower
- The program website, WinPowerMA.com, has program information, current rates, and answers to an extensive list of frequently asked questions.
- All Winchester ratepayers should have received a notification letter as of June 1, 2017.
- Brochures are available at Town Hall, the library, and DPW.
- There was a booth on Main Street at this year’s Town Day with information and people to answer questions about the program.
- A public information and Q&A session to discuss the program was held on Monday, June 5, 2017, at the Jenks Senior Center.
Background on the municipal aggregation initiative
The launch of this program represents the culmination of a multi-year process:
- Fall 2015: Town Meeting votes unanimously to pursue municipal aggregation.
- Winter 2015-6: Board of Selectmen vote to move forward with electricity aggregation.
- Winter 2016: Winchester participates in a competitive procurement, in partnership with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), to select an aggregation consultant. The contract is awarded to Good Energy.
- Spring 2016: Winchester and Good Energy complete aggregation plan. Board of Selectmen approves aggregation plan for public comment.
- Summer 2016: Winchester solicits public comments and holds public informational events.
- September 2016: The Board of Selectmen approves Winchester’s municipal aggregation plan.
- September 2016: Winchester submits aggregation plan for review and approval by the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU).
- April 2017: DPU Approves Winchester’s aggregation plan.
Opt-Out Letter you should have received as of June 1, 2017