What is Needham Power Choice?
Needham Power Choice is a municipal electricity aggregation, which is a form of group electricity purchasing.
Typically, your electric utility, Eversource, provides two sets of services to you:
- They deliver your electricity. Delivery services appear on your bill as your Delivery charge.
- They also supply your electricity, which means they buy electricity for you and pass the cost along to you. The cost of the electricity they buy for you appears on your bill as your Supply charge.
In Massachusetts, there are actually three ways to purchase your electricity:
- Your utility can do it for you, as just described. This is called Basic Service, and this is how most people buy their electricity.
- You can sign a contract with an electricity supplier yourself. You may have received offers in the mail or over the phone.
- Your municipal government can sign a contract with an electricity supplier that you can benefit from. This third option is municipal electricity aggregation, and this is what Needham Power Choice is.
Learn more about how aggregation works.
What gives Needham the authority to launch a municipal electricity aggregation?
Municipal electricity aggregation was enabled by the Massachusetts Restructuring Act of 1997 (Chapter 164, Section 134), which allows local municipal governments to aggregate the electricity supply loads of the electricity consumers within their geographic boundaries in order to negotiate more favorable terms with an electricity supplier.
Municipal aggregations are subject to oversight by the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities, and Needham’s aggregation plan is subject to a regulatory review and approval process before the Town will be authorized to implement the program. (Learn more about Needham’s implementation process.)
Nearly 50% of Massachusetts communities have already launched electricity aggregations.
Why is Needham launching this program?
The primary goal of Needham Power Choice is to provide more clean, renewable electricity, electricity price stability, and consumer-friendly choices for Needham residents and businesses, all at a competitive price. Needham Power Choice will be a Town alternative to Eversource’s Basic Service. It will also be a transparent alternative to other electricity offers, but without the high pressure or fees of those other offers.
(Please note, that while Needham Power Choice will offer the potential for savings when compared with Eversource’s Basic Service price, Needham Power Choice cannot guarantee savings because Eversource’s prices change, and their future prices are not known.)
Massachusetts state law already requires that a minimum amount of renewable energy be included in all the electricity sold in the state. The default option in Needham Power Choice will include additional renewable energy over and above the state required minimum. Needham Power Choice will also offer options with other amounts of renewable electricity.
How will I benefit from Needham Power Choice?
With Needham Power Choice, the Town will use the bulk buying power of the community to provide you with new electricity choices that will give you greater control over the environmental characteristics and price of your electricity supply.
- Cleaner electricity – Needham Power Choice participants will automatically receive more renewable electricity than is required by state law. (The standard amount is still to be determined, depending in part on electricity prices at the time the Town enters into a contract with an electricity supplier.) Or you will be able to choose other amounts of renewable electricity.
- Price stability – The program will provide a fixed price for electricity supply over a long period of time. This will make the program different from Eversource’s Basic Service, where the price changes every six months or less, and from many commercial offers in the marketplace.
- Consumer protections – Needham Power Choice will provide a trustworthy, Town-vetted alternative to other electricity supply offers in the marketplace. The program will include consumer protections, such as no hidden fees and the ability to opt out of the program at any time with no penalty.
Is Needham the only community in Massachusetts implementing an aggregation?
No. Municipal electricity aggregation has been building momentum across Massachusetts. Needham is joining more than 150 other Massachusetts communities that already have aggregations. Increasingly, communities are implementing “green” aggregations like Needham’s program will be, which increase the amount of renewable electricity in the community’s electricity supply beyond the minimum amount required by state law.
What will change for me with Needham Power Choice?
You will see two key changes as a result of participating in Needham Power Choice:
- On the first page of your Eversource electric bill, you will see the Needham Power Choice electricity supplier listed as your supplier instead of Eversource. Needham will choose its supplier through a competitive procurement process after the Needham Power Choice Aggregation Plan receives regulatory approval.
- Eversource will use a Needham Power Choice price to calculate the supply charge on your bill instead of their own Basic Service price.
Additionally, the amount of renewable energy that you receive may change, depending on which program option you choose.
Otherwise, everything else will remain the same. You will continue to receive your electric bill from Eversource, you will continue to pay Eversource, and you will continue to call Eversource if your power goes out.
If you are eligible for any discounts or credits from Eversource, those benefits will be unaffected by your participation in Needham Power Choice.
I have solar panels on my property or I participate in a community solar program. If I join Needham Power Choice, will I continue to receive the credits or payments that I receive now?
Yes. You will continue to receive solar credits and/or solar incentive payments, and participating in Needham Power Choice will not change how they are calculated. Their calculation is not tied to your specific electricity supply price, and it does not change just because the supply price for your account changes. The calculation is not impacted by participation in Needham Power Choice.
I received a call/visit/letter in the mail about my electric bill. Is it from the Town, this program, or Eversource?
The Town of Needham will send a letter to electricity accounts that are eligible for automatic enrollment after Needham’s Aggregation Plan receives regulatory approval. That letter has not been mailed. It will arrive in an envelope bearing the Town Seal, and the letter itself will also bear the Town Seal. The letter will not ask for additional information. If your account is eligible to be automatically enrolled, as will be the case for most Needham electricity customers, you will not need to provide any additional information.
Please note: Eversource, the Town of Needham, and Needham Power Choice do not make sales calls or visits to your home.
Any person or company who asks for additional information (such as the account number on your electric bill) when they market their program to you does not represent Needham Power Choice or Eversource.
If you receive a letter that does not include the Town Seal, it is not from the Town and does not represent Needham Power Choice. If you want to confirm whether you have received a legitimate Town communication, you can contact customer support with Needham’s program consultants.
If you receive a call or a visit from someone who wants to discuss your electricity, keep these two things in mind:
- You should treat your Eversource electricity account number like you treat your credit card information. Do not give it out unless you want to change your electricity supplier.
- You do have the right to select an electricity supplier of your choice. If you choose to explore this option, please check the terms of the agreement carefully. Things to check for include, but are not limited to: minimum bill amounts, contract length requirements, early termination fees, low introductory rates that change after the introductory period ends, and rates that vary.
If you feel a salesperson has fraudulently identified themself as working for Eversource or the Town, please report it to the Department of Public Utilities Consumer Division 617-737-2836, or DPUConsumer.Complaints@state.ma.us.
How long will Needham Power Choice last?
The program will last as long as Needham believes it is providing value for the community. Needham will sign an initial contract with an electricity supplier when the program launches. At the end of that contract, Needham can decide whether to continue the program or discontinue it and return all participants to Eversource’s Basic Service.
Who do I call if the power goes out?
Call Eversource if your power goes out, as always. Eversource will continue to deliver your electricity and maintain the polls and wires, and will remain responsible for addressing power outages.
How do I maintain my account's tax-exempt status if I participate in Needham Power Choice?
Tax-exempt accounts that wish to maintain their tax-exempt status in Needham Power Choice must submit tax-exemption documentation to the program’s electricity supplier.
This means that tax-exemption documentation must be submitted each time the program’s electricity supplier changes.
The program’s electricity supplier is required by the State of Massachusetts to have valid tax-exemption documentation on hand for all tax-exempt accounts.
You may have submitted tax-exemption documentation to Eversource already, but Eversource does not share this documentation with the program’s electricity supplier. It is the customer’s responsibility to submit this documentation.
More information about where to send your tax-exemption documentation will be available closer to program launch.
Enrolling and participating
How do I join Needham Power Choice?
Most electricity accounts in Needham will be automatically enrolled when the program launches.
Specifically, all electricity accounts on Eversource’s Basic Service (meaning those who have not signed a private contract with an electricity supplier) will be automatically enrolled at launch, unless they opt out.
If you have a contract with an electricity supplier at the time the program launches, your account will not be automatically enrolled, but you can choose to enroll, and the enrollment process will be easy. Please be aware that your electricity supplier may charge early termination fees, so you should carefully review your current contract terms and conditions before deciding to enroll.
More information about enrollment will be available after Needham’s Aggregation Plan receives regulatory approval.
Who will be eligible to participate in Needham Power Choice?
All metered electricity customers within the geographic boundaries of Needham will be eligible to participate. All Needham electricity customers with Eversource’s Basic Service (meaning those who have not signed a private contract with an electricity supplier) will be automatically enrolled when the program launches. The automatic enrollment model is state law.
I have already signed my own contract with an electricity supplier. Can I participate in Needham Power Choice?
Yes. If you have already chosen an electricity supplier, you will not be automatically enrolled in Needham Power Choice, but you may choose to participate, and enrolling will be easy. Please be aware that your electricity supplier may charge early termination fees, so you should carefully review your current contract terms and conditions before choosing to enroll. More information about enrolling will be available closer to program launch.
Is participation required?
No. While the program has an automatic enrollment model in accordance with state law, participation is not required. There is no penalty for opting out. You may do so at any time. If you receive a letter notifying you that your account will be automatically enrolled, you may opt out of the program before being automatically enrolled, and you may also opt out any time after enrollment. If you opt out, the Supply portion of your Eversource electric bill will continue to be calculated using Eversource’s Basic Service price.
Can I opt out and then re-enroll?
Yes, however if you opt out of the program and want to re-enroll, there’s a possibility that you will be charged a market price instead of the program price.
I have a large commercial account. Am I eligible for program pricing?
Large commercial accounts may be eligible for higher market pricing instead of program pricing when they request initial enrollment in the program. If you are interested in submitting an enrollment request for your large commercial account, please contact customer support.
Pricing, potential savings, and billing
Will Needham Power Choice provide savings compared with Eversource's prices?
Needham Power Choice will offer the potential for savings compared with the average of Eversource’s changing Basic Service prices. However, because Eversource’s prices change every 6 months for residential and small business accounts and every 3 months for large business accounts and their future prices are not known, Needham Power Choice cannot guarantee to provide savings.
Will I know the program options and the price for each before I am enrolled?
Yes. If you are an Eversource Basic Service customer and eligible for automatic enrollment in Needham Power Choice, you will receive a letter in the mail with program information, including pricing, before you are enrolled.
What will my electricity supply price be if I participate in Needham Power Choice?
We do not know yet. Needham Power Choice prices will be determined when the Town signs a contract with an electricity supplier. That contract will be signed after a competitive procurement process, which will occur after the state regulatory review and approval process for the Needham Power Choice Aggregation Plan has been completed.
Needham Power Choice will provide a stable electricity supply price. Why is a stable electricity supply price important?
Having a stable price for the Supply portion of your electric bill can protect you from the seasonal price increases that occur when you have Eversource’s Basic Service pricing. When you have Eversource’s Basic Service, the price that is used to calculate the Supply portion of your electric bill changes every 6 months for residential and small business accounts and every 3 months for large business accounts, often rising in the winter.
Having a stable price for the Supply portion of your electric bill can also provide a predictable alternative to the variable prices of some electricity supply offers in the marketplace. Some electricity supply offers will provide a stable price for a few months, but then the price will vary monthly and will rise significantly.
The Needham Power Choice price will be fixed for longer than 6 months, and when it changes, the Town will announce the new price publicly before it takes effect.
However, because Eversource’s prices change and future prices are not known, Needham Power Choice cannot guarantee to provide savings compared with Eversource’s Basic Service prices.
What if Eversource's Basic Service price falls below the Needham Power Choice price?
The Needham Power Choice price will be a long-term price, while Eversource’s Basic Service prices change every 6 months for residential and small business accounts and every 3 months for large business accounts. As a result, it is likely that for some months, the Eversource price will fall below the Needham Power Choice price. Needham Power Choice cannot guarantee that it will beat Eversource’s Basic Service prices at all times. Remember that you are free to leave the program at any time and return to Eversource’s Basic Service with no penalty or fee.
Will I receive a second electric bill?
No. Eversource will continue to bill you for your electricity. This is the only electric bill you will receive as a participant in Needham Power Choice. The program will be integrated into your existing electric bill. See an example Eversource bill.
Where will I see Needham Power Choice on my Eversource electric bill?
Needham Power Choice will appear on your Eversource electric bill in two ways:
- On the first page of your electric bill, you will see the Needham Power Choice supplier listed as your electricity supplier instead of Eversource.
- On the second page, the price that Eversource uses to calculate your Supply charge will be a Needham Power Choice price instead of their own Basic Service price. See an example Eversource bill.
Electricity supply and electricity suppliers
What's the difference between Eversource and an electricity supplier?
In Massachusetts, an electric utility like Eversource is fundamentally an electricity delivery company. Eversource does not generate electricity for you. They are responsible for delivering electricity to you, for maintaining the poles and wires, and for addressing power outages. They charge you for these services on the Delivery portion of your electric bill.
An electricity supplier is a company that buys electricity for you.
- For most electricity customers, their utility is also their electricity supplier. When you first open your electricity account, this is the case. When Eversource is also your electricity supplier, you have what is known as Eversource’s Basic Service.
- You may also choose your own electricity supplier. If you do, the name of that company will appear on your Eversource bill as your electricity supplier, and Eversource will use the rate you negotiated with that electricity supplier to calculate the Supply charge on your bill.
- With Needham Power Choice, the Town will choose an electricity supplier. If you participate, the name of the company selected by the Town will appear on your Eversource bill as your electricity supplier, and Eversource will use a Needham Power Choice price to calculate the Supply charge on your bill.
What is electricity supply?
Electricity service has two parts: supply and delivery. Supply refers to the electricity itself. Delivery is the process of bringing that electricity to you over the wires.
With Basic Service, your electric utility (Eversource) is your electricity supplier and also delivers the electricity to you.
With Needham Power Choice, Eversource will continue to deliver your electricity, but Needham ill choose its own electricity supplier.
What is a competitive electricity supplier?
A competitive electricity supplier is not your electric utility. Electricity suppliers do not deliver your electricity. They buy it for you, and your electric utility delivers it.
A competitive electricity supplier is a company licensed by the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities to purchase electricity and related services from the wholesale electricity markets for resale to retail electricity customers.
If you sign a private contract with an electricity supplier or you participate in a municipal program like Needham Power Choice, your electric utility (Eversource in Needham) will use your electricity supplier’s price to calculate the Supply charge on your electric bill instead of their own Basic Service price.
Will Needham Power Choice replace Eversource as my electric utility?
No. Eversource will remain the electric utility for Needham and will continue to deliver your electricity, and your primary relationship for electricity will remain with Eversource.
Needham Power Choice will change the supplier on your Eversource electric bill, and it will change the price that Eversource uses to calculate the Supply charge on your electric bill. But your electric bill will continue to come from Eversource, and Eversource will continue to be your electric utility.
Will Eversource provide me with a lower quality of service if I participate in Needham Power Choice?
No. Eversource’s quality of service to you will be unaffected by your participation in Needham Power Choice. Eversource does not profit from the Supply charge on your electric bill. They make their profit from Delivery charges. As a result, they have no preference whether they choose your supplier or Needham does.
I am currently eligible for a low-income discount from Eversource. Will that change?
No. If you are eligible for a low-income discount from Eversource, it will be unaffected by your participation in Needham Power Choice. You will continue to receive that discount.
I have budget billing from Eversource. Will this change?
Yes. If you participate in Needham Power Choice, budget billing will continue to apply to the Delivery charge on your bill, but it will no longer apply to the Supply charge on your bill.
What is renewable electricity?
Renewable electricity is generated by sources that can be renewed as opposed to sources that can be used only once, such as fossil fuels. Under Massachusetts state law, a variety of resources qualify as renewable. The main sources of renewable electricity are solar, wind, and small hydroelectric projects. Renewable electricity is sometimes referred to as green electricity or clean electricity.
Why is renewable electricity important?
Using renewable electricity is an important step you can take to fight climate change and increase your independence from fossil fuels like gas, coal, and oil. Electricity generated from renewable sources does not cause air pollution and does not emit the gases that cause climate change.
What is the minimum amount of renewable electricity required by Massachusetts law?
The minimum amount increases every year. For 2023, Massachusetts state law requires that 22% of your electricity comes from newer renewable energy projects in New England (Massachusetts Class I RECs).
In addition, state law requires the inclusion of a minimum amount of renewable energy from older renewable energy projects in New England (Massachusetts Class II RECs), as well as from some alternative energy sources that are considered highly efficient but not renewable.
For more information, visit the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources page on compliance information for the Renewable Portfolio Standard.
What is a renewable energy certificate, or a REC?
Because electricity is comingled on the electric grid, an accounting system was developed to keep track of the renewable electricity that is generated on the grid and to allow people to buy and sell it. That system is renewable energy certificates, abbreviated to RECs.
Electricity customers who wish to be able to say they are using renewable electricity from the grid can pay for RECs in addition to paying for the electricity they use. Purchasing RECs gives an electricity customer the right to say he/she has used the electricity generated by the renewable energy systems associated with the REC.
The Town of Needham will purchase RECs in order to provide options in Needham Power Choice with more electricity from renewable sources than the state minimum amount. As part of that, the Town specifically plans to prioritize the purchase of MA Class I RECs, which are from new renewable energy projects in the New England region. Learn more about RECs. Learn about MA Class I RECs.