Dear Friends & Neighbors,
I hope that this note finds you well - staying safe and dry during today's Nor'Easter.
I know that many residents have questions and concerns about the new electricity program that was recently announced, so I wanted to share some information. I also want to be clear that I have been - and am still - very excited and supportive of this program! If you have emailed me a question, I will respond to everyone individually as well.
To view this newsletter online, check out: https://www.sueanderbois.com/news
What is Community Choice Aggregation?
Providence Community Electricity is Providence's new electricity program. It is our city's version of "Community Choice Aggregation". For a higher level, but still very accurate explanation - Alex Kuffner's Providence Journal Story was excellent.
First it's helpful to know a little bit about your electric bill. Electric bills in Rhode Island are split into two sections: a) the charges related to the distribution of electricity (this generally pays for the upkeep of the poles and wires, which are owned and operated by Rhode Island Energy) and b) charges related to the generation of electricity (these are called "supply charges"). Most residents in Providence use the default 'supply' for their electricity, which is procured by Rhode Island energy and approved every 6 months by the Public Utilities Commission. RI law does allow for residents to purchase their 'supply' from competitive third- party companies, but for many reasons most people stick with the default option. Regardless of who you choose for 'supply', your bill arrives each month from RI Energy.
Community Choice Aggregation allows municipalities like Providence to collectively purchase this "supply" on behalf of all residents in the competitive market, which can allow for higher levels of local clean energy and lower prices. The program allows us to be more nimble than the utility and take advantage of better rates and cleaner options for our residents. You will still continue to receive one electricity bill a month - and it will still be from Rhode Island Energy.
6 other towns in Rhode Island are currently going through the same process, and more than 50 towns in Massachusetts have similar programs.
How and Why was this program created?
The RI General Assembly passed legislation modeled after successful programs in other states to enable this program. In 2019, Councilwoman Helen Anthony sponsored the ordinance that enabled Providence to participate. At the time, I was Chair of the Providence Sustainability Commission. I partnered with Councilwoman Anthony and assisted this process by holding the public hearing on this ordinance through our Commission in the spring of 2020. Because of the pandemic, the public hearing was on Zoom, and we had a lot of good testimony and questions from residents across the City.
The dual goals of the program are to procure additional amounts of clean electricity for Providence residents while also reducing and smoothing out electricity costs. These goals were built into the program design. The program was reviewed and approved by the Public Utilities Committee. The City underwent a Request for Proposals (RFP) process to identify a consultant who could help manage this program through a standard competitive bid process.
Am I Enrolled Automatically?
Most residents will be enrolled in the program automatically. If this is the case for you, you would have received a letter in the mail within the last few days describing the program.
However, residents are able to opt-out at any point in this process and return to the standard offer service through RI Energy. You are under no obligation to stay in this program.
Where Can I Get More Information?
The City has created a website of information about the program, which you can access at https://electricity.providenceri.gov/
March 20th at 5:30pm: The Sustainability Commission will have time in their monthly meeting to address questions and concerns. You can attend in person in Room 312 of City Hall or online at: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85683012296
March 27th at 6pm: The Mayor's team will be holding a community meeting to answer questions on the program. It can be accessed at the Zoom link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84119813584
April 6th at 7pm: I arranged for a Q&A session for our community with the City's Consultant on this program and the City's Acting Director of Sustainability. This can be accessed at this Zoom Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89954580632
I will be sharing more information via my social media through Facebook and Instagram.
Please reach out directly to me any time, and I am happy to answer any questions. If you've already emailed me and have not yet received a reply - please know I will respond back ASAP: I have received a very high volume of questions about this program and want to respond to each of you thoroughly.
What is the TL;DR? (Too Long; Didn't Read):
Providence is implementing a program that will help keep electric prices low and competitive while investing in more clean energy. It was fully vetted by both the City Council and the Public Utilities Commission. The program is entirely voluntary for residents, and you can opt out at any time.
Thank you everyone! Please be in touch any time.
With Deep Gratitude,
Councilwoman Sue AnderBois