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Proposed Law Banning Residential Retail Electric Choice Now "Buried" In Larger "Climate" Bill

June 7, 2022

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Copyright 2010-21
Reporting by Paul Ring •

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The Retail Energy Advancement League (REAL) noted that a proposed prohibition on new individual retail electricity contracts for residential customers in Massachusetts is now "buried" in a larger "climate" bill pending before the Massachusetts legislature

Section 54 of Amendment S. 2842, passed by the Senate, provides that, "Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, beginning on January 1, 2023, no supplier as defined in section 1 of chapter 164 of the General Laws shall execute a new contract or renew an existing contract for generation services with any individual residential retail customer."

Amendment S. 2842 is a Senate-adopted amendment to a passed House bill (H. 4524) addressing various clean energy policies; the House bill did not include the prohibition

The House did not concur with the Senate amendments, and the bill has been assigned to a conference committee

As previously reported, similar language, championed by the state's attorney general, has been proposed in several prior legislative sessions

As in past attempts, the latest language would exempt from the prohibition opt-out municipal aggregations

The bill provides, "This section shall not apply to, or otherwise affect, any government body that aggregates the load of residential retail customers as part of a municipal aggregation energy plan pursuant to section 134 of chapter 164 of the General Laws."

REAL said that the prohibition on residential electric choice would be contrary to the bill's stated clean energy goals

REAL said that the state's investor-owned utilities are only required to provide 51% renewable energy.

In contrast, REAL said, "More than three quarters of the competitive electric supply available to Massachusetts residents right now is a 100% renewable, clean energy product and almost 20% of renewable generation residential customers have chosen will be removed from the market if this language is included in the final bill."

"The language to ban the market is buried in a comprehensive plan to address climate change. However, banning customers from choosing renewable energy supply from electric retailers will hinder the Commonwealth’s progress in achieving those goals and block customers from accessing the diverse and increasingly clean energy sources available on the regional electric grid," REAL said

REAL further said that survey results from last year, which included 550 Massachusetts adults across the state who rent or own their homes, "demonstrated residents overwhelmingly want options and the ability to choose an energy provider that is not their default utility."

REAL said that the survey shows that:

• 83% want the freedom to choose clean energy for their homes.

• 79% want to be able to choose who provides their electricity.

• 73% would be interested in 100% clean energy if provided the option.

• 82% want the freedom to choose an alternative provider, even if their city or town has selected a provider through a municipal aggregation program.

• 74% prefer having alternative energy suppliers, more than rooftop solar (50%) and other home efficiency products and smart thermostats (60%).

Link to survey results

REAL noted that, "Many residents already use the state website, 'Energy Switch Massachusetts,' to shop competitive suppliers. In 2021, almost 500,000 Massachusetts residents chose a different energy source than their default electric utility."

"Nearly 500,000 Massachusetts households already voted with their wallets, and most are accelerating the purchase of renewable energy – an option that Senate Bill 2842 (S. 2842) would take away," said Christopher Ercoli, president and chief executive officer of the Retail Energy Advancement League (REAL).

REAL also pointed to a recent petition from 230+ consumer, anti-monopoly advocates and environmental organizations petitioned at the Federal Trade Commission which asked the FTC to investigate the electric utility industry’s practices that are alleged to impede renewable energy competition and harm consumer protection.

While the petition (available here) largely focuses on large scale renewable energy development as well as distributed resources, it did note utility actions to oppose retail electric choice in Michigan

The petition at the FTC further said that the outcome of its petition should include, "Proposed legislative and/or regulatory action that examines reformed and new structures of power delivery to address utility abuses leading to consumer and competitor harms. These structures may include utility accountability mechanisms through greater regulation and legal enforcement over the status quo utility system; alternative methods to address rather than suppress self-generation of renewable energy, including decentralized models of power delivery and demand management, unbundling generation, transmission and distribution in separate companies, and mandatory RTO membership or coverage; and alternative structures of power delivery, including accountable federal and local public power, co-operative, consumer-owned, peer-to-peer, transactive and de-centralized models, non-profit models, and other energy democracy models."

The Energy Choice Coalition was among the signatories to the FTC petition

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