Electricity Demand Aggregation Under Chapter 53-E Can Help Your Constituents Save Money on Their Electricity Bills  

New Hampshire law Chapter 53-E brings the competitive marketplace to retail electricity consumers by empowering town officials to act as brokers for their municipalities and school districts, negotiating lower electricity rates and other electricity-related perks.  Chapter 53-E enables counties and municipalities to aggregate electricity demand within their boundaries, broker agreements for power supply, and coordinate demand-side management, conservation, meter reading, and customer service.  Counties and towns may also establish electricity aggregation committees and write electricity aggregation plans, giving constituents the ability to choose among this range of benefits.  Chapter 53-E puts all of these perks within their constituents’ reach—upon approval from their constituents, towns and school districts can all opt-in to any aggregation program that their region puts forward.

The statute was enacted in 1996 with the aim of allowing counties and municipalities to access the competitive electricity market so as to “encourage voluntary, cost-effective, and innovative solutions to local needs with careful consideration of local conditions and opportunities.”  RSA 53-E:1.  Any aggregator under this chapter is not regulated as a wholesale electricity purchaser and is not responsible for transmission or distribution costs, but is still subject to applicable energy laws.  Unlike private aggregators, municipal or county aggregators are not subject to NH Public Utilities Commission rules governing competitive suppliers and aggregators.  Admin. Rule Puc 2001.02.

Since the enactment of Chapter 53-E in 1996, several municipalities and regions have implemented aggregation plans or organized as aggregators.  These municipalities and regions include Manchester, Lebanon, the Lakes Region Planning Commission, the Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission, and Nashua.  Lebanon formed an aggregation committee and has implemented a pilot program combining real-time pricing and electricity demand aggregation, also called Community Choice Aggregation or CCA.  Lebanon is also in the process of developing an aggregation plan called Lebanon Community Power.  The Lakes Region Planning Commission has previously considered aggregation for its constituent towns and school districts but has yet to develop a plan or adopt a program.  A survey in 2017 showed that 18 towns and 6 school districts within the Lakes Region indicated interest in aggregation.  Select towns within the Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission have implemented cooperative utility purchasing agreements; so far there is a cooperative utility purchasing agreement among Goffstown, School Administrative Unit #19, and New Boston; and another among Hancock, Peterborough, Temple, Dublin, Jaffrey, Milford, and the school districts of Conval and Jaffrey/Rindge.

The most developed and successful aggregation program is Nashua’s.  The Nashua Regional Planning Commission has served as a regional aggregator under Chapter 53-E since 2012.  Currently, nine towns and six school districts within the region participate.  From 2012 to 2017, the towns and school districts have saved an estimated $1.6M in electricity costs.

About the Author: Laura Hartz

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