Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities Gives Green Light to Development of Community Franchise Pilot Project (June 12, 1996)

Cape Cod, MA - The Barnstable County Commissioners announced today that they have received a green light from the State Department of Public Utilities to plan a pilot project for electricity service. Robert O'Leary, Chairman of the Barnstable County Commissioners, said the pilot - known as a "community franchise" -- will allow consumers to join together in seeking competitive bids for electricity. "This is a valuable option for residents and small businesses that will give them important leverage in a competitive marketplace," he said. "It has national significance and it's particularly valuable for the towns in Barnstable County because we pay among the highest electricity rates in the country."

Massachusetts is one of several states moving aggressively to deregulate the electric industry and replace existing monopolies with competitive markets. The pilot would provide advance experience for the new markets. Under the community franchise, consumers would use local government as a contracting agent. Those who didn't want to particulate could opt out.

Barnstable County will now engage in discussions with Commonwealth Electric Company, the current monopoly supplier, to outline the features of the pilot. The county has been involved in proceedings at the state level for the past year, and is the primary partner in a national study examining local franchise options.

Scott Ridley, a utility analyst and consultant for the County, said the community franchise would give consumers choice of a range of services. He said the County is currently putting together a market test for several of the towns. "Initial discussions with power suppliers have been very positive. Based on the features of the pilot and the market test, the towns and their residents will have a good opportunity to decide what to do."

Matthew Patrick, a Falmouth Selectman and Director fo Cape & Islands Self-Reliance, said, "Lower electricity prices are important, but the community franchise also provides benefits by helping consumers capture savings from energy conservation. Communities can also determine what they want for 'green power' or clean energy sources. There are a lot of environmental and economic advantages that have a long term impact."

O'Leary said the County would work to have the community franchise pilot together at the end of the year.