The Department of Public Utilities opened an investigation on Aug. 15 into municipal aggregation, with a goal to create a streamlined process for Massachusetts municipalities to establish new programs.

With an aggregation program, a municipality purchases electricity in bulk from an investor-owned utility on behalf of customers in the community, thereby being able to offer more competitive pricing, higher renewable energy content, and relative price stability.

Aggregation has become an important local option for Massachusetts municipalities since 1997. The number of communities with active aggregation programs continues to grow, and 19 new programs have been approved since the start of 2022.

Over the years, the DPU has developed a body of rules and requirements governing the creation and operation of municipal aggregation programs, but these rules were not made publicly available, so municipalities and their consultants needed to regularly review newly approved plans for helpful information they might need to include in future proposals.

In the past several years, local governments seeking to create new programs have faced complications including long delays in the approval process. Communities must remain on investor-owned utility service while awaiting approval, which delays potential cost savings.

The DPU has proposed guidelines setting forth filing requirements to create a new program, as well as rules governing programs after establishment. The guidelines, when finalized, would apply to any municipality that is aggregating electrical load. The guidelines include new timeframes for municipalities to use to gauge their proposed program launch date.

Municipal aggregation plans that follow the guidelines and all elements of the template plan will be prioritized through an expedited process, with an expected approval within 120 days of filing. For others, approval could be assumed within 180 days of filing.

Some details articulated in a template plan – which is required for expedited review – relate to the program offerings a customer may choose from. If finalized, expedited plans must include one product offering with energy content equivalent to basic service on an investor-owned utility plan. Such a proposal would only be able to offer one other product offering with additional renewable energy content.

Many communities offer three or more products for customers to consider in their existing municipal aggregation programs, with up to 100% voluntary renewable energy. Proposals that do not follow these provisions, among others, would not be eligible for expedited review.

The DPU is seeking public comments on the proposed guidelines and template plan through Oct. 6.

Public comments may be submitted to, and Comments should include the docket number D.P.U. 23-67. Submitted comments can be found in the DPU File Room under the investigation’s docket number.

More information can be found online.

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