Definitions

The list below includes terms frequently used when discussing aggregation, electricity, and renewable energy.

Basic Service

When your electric utility, National Grid, is also your electricity supplier, you have a service called Basic Service. The Basic Service price is the price National Grid uses to calculate the Supply Services portion of your electric bill as long as you have not chosen another supplier. The Basic Service price changes seasonally.

If you sign a contract with an electricity supplier on your own or you participate in an electricity aggregation like Westborough Power Choice, National Grid will continue to deliver your electricity, but they will no longer be your electricity supplier, so you will no longer have Basic Service.

Electricity delivery (sometimes referred to simply as delivery or distribution)

This term refers to the service of delivering electricity to you through poles and wires, and also to the maintenance of that electricity delivery infrastructure. Electricity delivery charges appear on the Delivery Services portion of your National Grid electric bill. Electricity delivery charges do not include the cost of the electricity itself, which appears on the Supply Services portion of your National Grid electric bill.

Electricity supplier

An electricity supplier is a company that buys electricity on your behalf. The price that your electricity supplier charges appears in the Supply Services portion of your National Grid electric bill. In Massachusetts, you can choose your electricity supplier from these three options:

  1. Your electric utility, National Grid, can serve as your electricity supplier. In that case, you have National Grid’s Basic Service, and National Grid buys electricity for you and uses their own Basic Service price to calculate the Supply Services portion of your electric bill.
  2. You can select a competitive electricity supplier on your own.  A competitive electricity supplier is a company licensed by the Department of Public Utilities to sell electricity supply in Massachusetts.  In that case, National Grid only delivers electricity to you, and they use the price provided by your electricity supplier to calculate the Supply Services portion of your electric bill.
  3. Your municipal government can establish an electricity aggregation program and, with that program, your Town can select the electricity supplier for the community. Westborough has established Westborough Power Choice as its electricity aggregation program. In this case, National Grid only delivers electricity to you, and it uses the Westborough Power Choice price to calculate the Supply Services portion of your electric bill.

Electricity supply (sometimes referred to as supply)

This term refers to the electricity that is delivered. Electricity supply charges appear on the Supply Services portion of your National Grid electric bill. Electricity supply charges are calculated by multiplying the amount of electricity you use (in kilowatt-hours) by a price established by the electricity supplier. Electricity supply charges do not include charges for the delivery of the electricity or for the maintenance of electricity-related infrastructure. Those charges appear on the Delivery Services portion of your National Grid electric bill.

Green electricity

Green electricity is electricity that is generated by a renewable energy resource, such as solar or wind.

Renewable electricity (sometimes referred to as green electricity)

Renewable electricity is electricity generated from energy 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 energy certificates (RECs)

RECs are a method of keeping track of renewable electricity. One REC is issued for every 1 megawatt-hour of electricity generated. RECs are tracked in a central database known as the NEPOOL GIS (generation information system). Electricity customers who wish to be able to say they are purchasing renewable electricity or “green” electricity from the grid must 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 renewable electricity. A REC can be purchased only once, so that no one else can claim to have used the same renewable electricity.  Within Westborough Power Choice, all RECs purchased voluntarily by the Town of Westborough in addition to the minimum required by state law are Massachusetts Class I RECs.

Renewable portfolio standard (RPS)

An RPS is the minimum amount of renewable energy required by law which must be included in the electricity sold by utilities and other electricity suppliers in a state. Massachusetts has an RPS, as do many other states. An RPS specifies both the amount and type of renewable energy that must be included. Because of the Massachusetts RPS, all electricity sold in the state includes a minimum amount of Renewable Electricity.

Massachusetts also has an APS, an alternative portfolio standard, which requires that all electricity include a minimum amount generated by alternative energy sources, which contribute to meeting the Commonwealth’s clean energy goals, but may not be renewable or clean. Read more on the Massachusetts DOER website.

Opt down

Opt down means changing from the 100% Green plan or the Standard plan to a plan with fewer RECs. When you opt down, you cannot claim to be using as much renewable electricity.

Opt out

To opt out means to leave the Westborough Power Choice program and instead receive your electricity supply from a competitive supplier or through National Grid’s Basic Service. You have the right to participate in the program for as long as you like, and to opt out at any time, with no penalty or fee.

Opt up

To opt up means to change from the Budget plan or the Standard plan to a plan with more RECs. When you opt up, you can claim to be using a greater portion of renewable electricity.

Utility

In Massachusetts, an electric utility is an electricity delivery or distribution company. Electric utilities do not generate electricity. They are responsible for delivering electricity to you. You have no choice in your electric utility because they have geographic monopolies. In Westborough, your electric utility is National Grid. However, you have a choice in who your electricity supplier is (see Electricity supplier above).