It’s been more than 15 months since Andover contracted with Good Energy and applied with the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities to form a municipal aggregation plan called Andover Community Power that would lower residents’ electric bills and potentially help the town green its energy supply.
Andover and dozens of other towns are still waiting for an answer. On Sunday, the Boston Globe reported that 32 Massachusetts communities have been waiting for at least a year and a half for DPU to approve their plans, which would allow the towns to choose their own energy supplier and buy electricity in bulk.
In a letter sent Thursday to DPU Secretary Mark D. Marini, Andover Town Manager Andrew Flanagan said the town was “dismayed” with the delays.
“Andover residents and businesses are set to pay the highest National Grid winter Basic services rate ever,” Flanagan wrote. “It is deeply unfortunate that Andover still awaits an Approval Order and therefore does not yet have the opportunity to seek relief for our residents and businesses.”
In the Andover Community Power case, DPU held a public hearing last year. The public comment period, which drew letters of support from the Andover Green Advisory Board, Andover Community Trust, and Andover WECAN, was closed on Oct. 21, 2021. In June, DPU made its first information requests on the town’s application. There has been no activity in the application docket since Andover sent the requested response to the information request on July 15.
“It took the Department nearly a year to issue its first Information Requests on Andover’s Plan,” Flanagan wrote. “We sincerely hope we do not have another year of waiting ahead.”
DPU Blames The Pandemic
The issue is coming to the forefront as officials predict crippling energy costs this winter. National Grid, Andover’s electricity provider, is raising rates Nov. 1, a move that would raise the average Andover customer’s energy bill by 64 percent over last winter. Eversource, the town’s gas supplier, is raising rates by 25 percent for Andover residents on Nov. 1.
Massachusetts has had the program in place since 1997 and about 160 communities have already been approved for it. But a backlog has increasingly slowed approvals since 2015, when the median wait for a town to get DPU approval of its plan was 15 days. In 2020, that median wait time was 676 days, according to the Globe.
A DPU spokesman told the Globe the pandemic had slowed its approval process and that it was working to develop a template for expediated reviews. The spokesperson also said DPU is deliberate in its reviews because approval automatically opts residents into the energy provider chosen by the town unless they choose to stay with their existing provider.