Massachusetts Community Choice Law to Give Cape Cod Towns $25 Million for Conservation

The Massachusetts Community Choice law passed last November authorized cities and towns to recover energy efficiency funds traditionally controlled by utilities, and to use the monies collected from local residents and businesses in accordance with locally-approved plans. Now the consortium of 12 towns which led the fight for Community Choice in Massachusetts says it expects Cape Cod towns to receive approximately $25 million in conservation funds from its local utility over the next five years.

The Cape Light Compact is developing an energy efficiency plan that will go to town meetings for approval next fall, and will then be submitted to the state to certify compliance with state energy goals. Initial estimates of the amount of funds the Compact will recover for each of the 12 member towns total more than $3.3 million for 1998, and nearly $4 million in 1999, with similar amounts in 2000, 2001 and 2002.

The plan will include programs for weatherization, fuel switching, lighting, consumer education, and other efforts that would give consumers the best return for their money. "The reason we have this opportunity is because we have joined together under the Compact," said Vicky Bebout, an Eastham selectwoman. "If the towns hadn't agreed to work together to represent consumer interests, people would have no opportunity to recover this money, ro say how or where it will be spent."

Unlike the Cape's incumbent utility, Commonwealth Electric, which up to now has administered energy efficiency programs, the Compact will not require a 12.9 percent return on investment on the costs of its program.

Compact leaders emphasize that power companies, which earn profit from electricity sales, have never genuinely wanted to reduce consumption; and that giving communities control is the key to making conservation really work. "This changes the whole dynamic of our efforts to become more energy efficient," said Matt Patrick, a Falmouth selectman who lobbied state legislators and regulators for the Community Choice law, and subsequently helped form the Compact with Barnstable County. "It also means that more can be done for residential and small business consumers."

The Cape Light is a cooperative effort of 12 Cape Cod towns and Barnstable County. The Compact was formed in 1997 through resolutions passed by town meeting, and the board of selectmen or town council, in each member community. The purpose of the Compact is to protect the Cape's consumers. It pools the buying power of more than 150,000 residential and business customers to achieve better electricity rates and services, it examines methods to lower utility bills, and gives consumers a voice in discussions with the state regulators and Commonwealth Electric, the local utility. Participation in the Compact is voluntary for the towns and for each individual consumer.

Copyright (c) 1998 by the American Local Power Project