Hitting Eversource where it hurts

After the October 26th Board of Selectmen’s meeting with Eversource, Protect Sudbury friends expressed great enthusiasm to do something. Many people wanted to hit Eversource where it hurts by switching suppliers. The good news is, things are already on the move to switch electricity suppliers for the entire town. The bad news is, unless you go off grid completely, you can’t ditch Eversource altogether.

Let’s start with the bad news:

Why you can’t ditch Eversource completely: Distribution & Supply

Your electric bill is composed of two parts – distribution and supply.

Distribution charges pay the grid operator (in Sudbury’s case, Eversource) and the system operator (ISO New England). If you are connected to the grid, there’s no way around being tied into Eversource’s distribution system.

The supply charge pays generators based on contracts that Eversource is required to arrange on your behalf, the “basic service.” Eversource arranges and passes it through to the consumer without cost mark up. Basic service includes a mandated 20% renewable electricity. Massachusetts’s deregulated electricity market means you can choose an alternate supplier, either to try to find a cheaper contract, sign up for higher renewables mix, or simply as a form of expressing your disenchantment.

The reality of the supply charge

As frustrating as it is to hear, choosing a competitive supplier will not hurt Eversource’s bottom line per se. No regulated utility in Massachusetts makes money on the sale of power; it only makes money on the distribution and transmission of power. Switching suppliers would lower Eversource revenues, but would also lower costs. Pointing this out is given in the spirit of “know your enemy.” Let’s make sure whatever actions we take have real meaning and impact.

If you disconnect entirely from the grid by installing solar with battery storage back up, that would impact Eversource financially, but in the short term, that probably isn’t feasible for most residents. The vast majority of those with solar remain grid connected. That said, if we all switch suppliers overnight, it does send a very clear message, especially if we choose suppliers with a wind or solar mix. The good news is, the Town of Sudbury is already doing this for us.

Town Wide Electricity Aggregation

A 2015 Town Meeting resolution tasked the Sudbury Energy Committee to aggregate the electricity consumption of its residents and seek competitive bids for its supply. In early November this year, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities approved the Town’s application. In other words, the Town is switching electricity suppliers for all of us. Notwithstanding whether or not this hurts Eversource’s bottom line, this is good news for residents. The program uses a bulk purchasing process designed to provide annual savings and rate stability, as well as providing additional renewable energy options.

Once an aggregation contract for Sudbury is in place in early 2017, any individual will be permitted to opt-out in favor of Eversource basic service or another supplier. If you already have an alternative electricity supplier, you can choose to join the town-wide program at the end of your current contract. Households with solar who are net metering customers will continue to receive net metering credits from Eversource.

Watch town-wide communication channels for official announcements in the near future.

Hitting the bottom line other ways

If we’ve learned one lesson in the Protect Sudbury journey from March to now, it’s that individual actions matter and that raising your voice makes a difference. Let your elected representatives know that you support policies and political candidates who encourage legislation and utility programs that reward those who use less, i.e.:

Time-of-use rates so people to use less electricity during peak hours
Clean renewable energy generation
Local microgrids
Efficiency and Conservation

All of these policies would help minimize the electricity transmitted or distributed by Eversource. That does hit a utility’s bottom line.

And of course you could go solar. The caveat remains that you still are tethered to Eversource through the grid, but the more you generate yourself, the less Eversource transmits. If you’ve already switched electricity suppliers, chosen a renewables option or installed solar and you’d like to share your experience or expertise, comment below. If you’d rather not comment publicly, email blog@protectsudbury.org so we can crowdsource info on people’s experiences.

Finally, public image matters. Continue to name and shame Eversource’s bad corporate behavior to your friends, neighbors, and social media channels. Share the Protect Sudbury video and use hashtags shamelessly: #treesnottowers, #peopleoverprofits.


Update November 21, 2016: Sudbury Facilities Director Jim Kelly commended for helping keep the town green with his energy efforts: http://wayland.wickedlocal.com/…/local-group-gears-to-fight…


With many thanks to PS research lead Julie Lieberman and Town of Sudbury Energy Committee member Bob Morrison for background info for this blog.