Andover officials are hopeful the state Department of Public Utilities will approve a program that could save residents money on their electric bills and increase green power use in Andover by the end of the year, Assistant Town Manager Michael A. Lindstrom told the select board Monday.
Andover is among 25 Massachusetts communities that have been waiting more than a year for the state Department of Public Utilities to approve its municipal aggregation plan. It’s been more than 15 months since Andover contracted with Good Energy and applied for DPU approval for the program known as Andover Community Power.
Additional coverage of Monday’s meeting: Select Board Notebook
Lindstrom said seven communities have been removed from the waiting list since a Boston Globe published an article in October calling attention to the backlog of applications.
How The Program Will Work
The program allows Andover to negotiate rates on behalf of almost all Andover electric customers directly with utilities. National Grid will continue to deliver power to Andover, including billing and restoring power during outages.
Most Andover electric customers will be able to choose from one of four tiers:
- Eligible customers will be enrolled in the Andover Standard tier, the second cheapest program which includes 35% renewable energy from local sources. That’s above the 20 percent minimum required by Massachusetts.
- Customers can choose the more expensive Andover Plus tier, which includes 70 percent renewable energy from local sources.
- The Andover Ultimate tier allows customers to choose a plan that includes 100 percent renewable energy from local sources.
- The cheapest tier will be Andover Basic, which includes the state minimum of 20 percent renewable energy from local sources.
While exact rates cannot be determined until DPU approves the program and Andover Community Power receives bids from electric providers, Lindstrom said a review of other towns’ community power programs often shows negligible cost differences between tiers in costs per kilowatt hour.
Delays Are Normal
Lindstrom told the select board the delays in approvals are standard, given that most town’s submit applications in excess of 500 pages, and DPU often requests additional information. 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.
Town Manage Andre Flanagan sent a letter to DPU and state legislators representing Andover in October saying the town is “dismayed” by the delays. DPU has attributed the backlog to the coronavirus pandemic.
“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.”
The issue is coming to the forefront as officials predict crippling energy costs this winter. National Grid, Andover’s electricity provider, raised rates Nov. 1, a move hikes the average Andover customer’s energy bill by 64 percent over last winter. Eversource, the town’s gas supplier, raised rates by 25 percent for Andover residents on Nov. 1.