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MAPC Joins Boston’s Community Choice Electricity Program

Streetscape on Summer and Washington Streets

MAPC joins Boston's Community Choice Electricity Program

When MAPC staff can head back to the office, they’ll find a greener workplace: our downtown office is now officially a part of the City of Boston’s Community Choice Electricity Program!

Also known as green municipal aggregation (GMA), community choice electricity allows municipalities in Massachusetts to decide where their electricity comes from and to create demand for new renewable energy. In Boston, residents and businesses that are not already part of a competitive energy supply contract are automatically enrolled in the program (and can opt-out at any time). The current utility continues to provide electric bills and deliver electricity: the only thing that changes is the supply source and rate are changed on the bill.

MAPC has been working with our municipalities since 2014 to develop GMA programs, and to date over 30 municipalities in our region have authorized or are running GMA programs. The model that MAPC helped pioneer encourages cities and towns to procure at least five percentage points of additional Massachusetts Class I Renewable Energy Certificates (also known as RECs) beyond the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) requirements.

When an eligible renewable energy source generates one mega-watt hour of electricity for the grid, a REC is created to represent the environmental benefits of the energy generated. By procuring more renewable electricity than the minimum required by state law, GMA programs help drive the demand for and development of new renewable energy projects in Massachusetts and the New England region.

MAPC municipalities have continued to innovate around GMA programs and are including even more renewable electricity in their standard program offerings. Customers in Boston’s program will receive an electricity supply that includes 10% RECs in addition to the 18% renewable electricity supply required by the state (a 55% increase). Many other communities, including Arlington, Brookline, Newton, Natick, Somerville, Watertown, and Winchester, have added 10 percentage points or more extra renewable energy credits into their programs. Starting a GMA program and procuring more renewable electricity is one of the most impactful options for Massachusetts municipalities to decrease their carbon emissions and meet their climate goals.

GMA programs provide another important benefit to residents and businesses – consumer protection. While municipalities can procure electricity on behalf of their residents, Massachusetts law also allows for residents and businesses to enter into individual competitive energy supply contracts. Residents in Massachusetts are often targeted by predatory energy brokers attempting to sell them contracts with misleading or confusing terms that have led them to pay significantly more for their electricity than the utility’s basic service or GMA programs costs. The Attorney General’s Office estimates that these contracts have cost residents $253 million in losses between 2015 and 2018 and that low-income households have been disproportionately impacted. Municipal aggregation programs provide a safe alternative to these contracts by offering clear and stable pricing with rates that are competitive with what the utility provides, and often cost less over the term of the contract.

MAPC is continuing to work with municipalities to start or further develop their GMA programs. Our GMA Toolkit provides step-by-step guidance for cities and towns on how to start a program and members of our Clean Energy team are available to provide technical assistance. We are also continuing to research and explore ways to innovate via GMA programs: last year, we worked with several North Shore communities to explore the potential for communities to run GMA programs collaboratively. If your community does not have a GMA program yet, please reach out to Julie Curti, jcurti@mapc.org, to learn more! We’re excited for Boston to have joined the GMA ranks with a strong and innovative program, and for the agency to walk the walk as part of it.