Jaffrey responds to Office of Consumer Services complaint on community power

Town of Jaffrey

Town of Jaffrey Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

By ASHLEY SAARI

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 02-26-2024 11:13 AM

Modified: 02-26-2024 12:17 PM


The Town of Jaffrey has officially disputed a complaint filed by the Office of the Consumer Advocate and Consumer Advocate Donald Kreis with the state Department of Energy that called for a pause in rolling out Jaffrey’s community power program.

Community power is a program where a group – in this case, the Town of Jaffrey – can pool buying power for its members to negotiate for electricity rates. Jaffrey, like many community power models, has four tiers customers can chose from, including a default rate that includes more green energy sources than required by law; a basic rate, which contains only the state-mandated amount of renewable energy and is the cheapest rate; a 50% renewable option; and a 100% renewable option.

In October, Jaffrey entered into a service agreement with First Point Power, following a bidding process. The default rate for Jaffrey was set at 10.968 cents per kilowatt-hour, locked in from March 2024 through November 2025. The Eversource default rate, at that time, was 12.582 cents per kilowatt-hour. The town’s community power plan has yet to go into effect, with customers expected to be impacted by the new pricing model starting March 1.

The Office of the Consumer Advocate called for the pause on the grounds that after Eversource reset its rates to 8.285 cents per kilowatt-hour, the Jaffrey community power plan is now the more-expensive option. The office has requested similar pauses in Milford and New Boston.

The complaint notes that Jaffrey prefaced the adoption of community power on being more affordable than Eversource, with the town’s community power plan stating “At minimum, no bid will be accepted at a price higher than the utility default rate at the time of program launch, but the town may specify stricter criteria.”

In a response to the complaint, Jaffrey Town Manager Jon Frederick said it was “misleading and invalid,” and “ignores relevant information” from the town’s community power plan. Jaffrey intends to proceed with implementing community power March 1, as previously scheduled. In the town’s response, Frederick noted that the bid package that was accepted in October met all the criteria cited in the community power plan – as at the time, the rate was lower than the Eversource default.

“The fact that Eversource changed electrical rates after the [Electric Service Agreement] was signed does not constitute a violation of the terms in the community power plan,” Frederick wrote in the town’s response.

The Office of Consumer Services also included in its complaint that the town was “providing misleading information to consumers,” citing a flyer that was posted on the town’s website prior to the March 2023 Town Meeting, where community power was adopted. Specifically, it pointed to a question-and-answer section that asked if community power offered lowest-cost energy choices. The flyer answered the question by explaining that the “basic” option offered the best price possible while meeting all state requirements, a lower-cost option than the town’s default, which includes more renewable sources than required by the state.

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Frederick said that the complaint took the citation out of context, and that it was providing information about an option that met state standards, without any extras, making it the lowest-cost option.

In the response, Frederick stated the town had sent every resident in town a letter allowing them to opt out of the program if they were already an Eversource default customer, or an opt-in option if they were on some other plan, which included information regarding how the rates were set and how the town arrived at a point with a rate higher than the Eversource default. The town held two information sessions, where it explained the same concepts, and how to opt out of the program if desired.

“The Town of Jaffrey has made every effort to be transparent with its residents regarding the community power rates we intend to offer at service commencement in March,” Frederick said.

According to Frederick, despite rates now being higher than the Eversource default, there were still potential benefits to the program for residents.

“The rate’s 20-month term makes it desirable for those seeking longer-term stability, despite the current monetary difference with the Eversource rate. Market timing, our executed electric service agreement, the service commencement date established in the agreement, and Eversource setting a lower rate two months after contract execution have complicated the process,” he said. “However, we have provided the information necessary for our residents to make their own informed decision.”

Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172, Ext. 244, or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on X @AshleySaariMLT.