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Massachusetts Attorney General Publishes Report Demonstrating Retail Energy Supply Customers Saved $30 Million in 2023

Despite their own data and firsthand accounts from thousands of retail energy customers, Attorney General continues to advocate to close the market

BOSTON – The Massachusetts Attorney General released a report today demonstrating that Massachusetts customers enrolled with a retail energy supplier saved $30 million in 2023 compared to customers on utility service. Even greater savings would have been realized had all utility ratepayers shopped for the supply portion of their electric bill. A monthly review of retail energy supplier offers posted on the state-managed shopping website, EnergySwitchMA.gov, showed that utility ratepayers who did not enroll with the lowest fixed-rate offer available on the site overpaid by $1.14 billion in 2023 alone.

The Massachusetts Attorney General has partnered with the Green Energy Consumers Alliance to advocate for the closure of the residential retail energy market and the instatement of municipal aggregation as the only option for customers to choose outside of their utility. According to their website, the Green Energy Consumers Alliance “pioneered Green Municipal Aggregation, and now serves 30 communities in MA & RI with more local renewable electricity than required by state law.” Only 176 out of 351 Massachusetts towns offer this option. If the market closure legislation (S. 2106, sponsored by Sen. Brendan Crighton and H. 3196 sponsored by Rep. Frank Moran) passes, residents in the communities without aggregation would be forced back to the utility when their current energy supplier contract ends.

In 2022, 408,000 residents chose to enroll with a competitive electric supplier over their default utility supplier. Their motivations varied, from seeking better rates and more predictable billing with flat monthly bills to accessing 100% renewable energy offerings and enjoying value-added offerings like free nighttime charging for electric vehicles.

More than 3,000 Massachusetts residents have voiced their opposition to the proposed market closure legislation. Despite this direct feedback from constituents, the Attorney General, City of Boston and some legislators continue to claim that customers are not capable of shopping for their energy supply needs.

As Andy, a resident of Freetown, Massachusetts, expressed during the February 24th show of NightSide with Dan Rea on WBZ Radio, “I have been using that site [EnergySwitchMA.gov] for 5 or 6 years. I agree with the last gentlemen. I’ve got six months of college behind me and I seem to have no problems.”

The Attorney General has contracted a consultant to publish a report critical of the competitive retail electric market for the last several years. The Retail Energy Advancement League (REAL) has raised concerns publicly and directly with the Attorney General’s staff regarding the methodology and transparency of this type of reporting.

For example, the report:

  • Compares the price of a standard 6-month contract for utility customers with the prices chosen by customers in the competitive market for various shorter or longer-term plans, ranging from 3 months to 3 years. However, due to market volatility, longer-term fixed-price contracts offer significant value to many Massachusetts electricity consumers, making direct comparison with a 6-month contract inaccurate.
  • Compares utility basic service with value-added retail products that customers opt for, paying a higher rate/kWh. These products include 100% renewable energy, unlimited usage, flat-rate billing, and free products like electric vehicle chargers and smart home thermostats upon enrollment. In a competitive energy market, customers have the choice to pay a premium for features they value, such as clean energy or predictable bills.

Even with this flawed methodology, the inclusion of customers that chose to enroll in premium products, and additional concerns raised in a 2023 letter from REAL to the Attorney General’s staff regarding the collection of data used in the report, the savings in 2023 were significant.

Next door in Connecticut, according to the Office of Consumer Council, the state’s 265,000 retail energy customers also experienced significant savings of $107 million in 2023.  Again, this reporting does not account for value-added products or varying contract terms compared to the utility. 

This news comes as National Grid announced their plans last month to increase rates by 12.7 percent to fund investments in infrastructure, not accounting for potential increases in supply costs. The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities is considering a program to offset these increases by offering discounts to low-income customers for electricity and natural gas that will be paid for by all other residential ratepayers.

Rather than searching for new solutions to address rising costs to be paid for by ratepayers and taxpayers, REAL suggests the state educate customers on a current savings solution already available to them: reviewing their options and shopping for the best rate and plan for their household’s energy needs.

“The recent report misleads both the public and the state legislature,” said Christopher Ercoli, President and CEO of the Retail Energy Advancement League. “We’ve continued to share with the Attorney General that there are inconsistencies in reporting, including comparing basic power products from the utility to renewable products and value-added products from suppliers. Despite this, the data still shows that the competitive market shields consumers from rate shock, a crucial point the author fails to emphasize. Massachusetts customers have spoken loud and clear. They prefer the freedom to shop for power, rather than being subjected to price uncertainty and limited renewable options from the incumbent utilities.”

The Attorney General has pointed to customer complaints as the driver for their efforts to close the market. In fact, their office received just 79 complaints in 2023, a 57% decrease since 2019. In contrast, 526 complaints were filed by customers about the state utilities. In a 2023 report, the Attorney General’s office listed the top 10 industries by complaint volume, with healthcare services ranking highest, followed by travel, landlord-tenant issues, auto repair, used car sales, home improvement, health insurance, auto and home insurance, rooftop and community solar, and home appliances. Retail energy suppliers did not make the list.

The retail energy industry supports H.3155, sponsored by Rep. Tackey Chan, to improve oversight and consumer protections in the local electric market while preserving its benefits for local customers. Proposed reforms include:

  • Creating an office of Competitive Market Oversight with additional staff to oversee the market and enforce regulations, funded by a fee on the retail energy suppliers
  • Enabling customers to switch suppliers mid-billing cycle within three business days
  • Establishes guidelines for customers on energy assistance programs
  • Mandating auto-renewal notices
  • Tackling issues related to bad actors in the market by requiring supplier training and certification
  • Enhancing transparency by publishing complaints
  • Increasing industry licensing fees to support oversight and enforcement measures
  • Requiring disclosure and reporting of voluntary renewable energy credits to the state
Additional information: 

QUOTES FROM MASSACHUSETTS CUSTOMERS (view more)

If you would like to interview a customer in your readership area, please contact Andrew Farnitano at 925-917-1354 or andrew@crawfordstrategies.com.

  • “I never had any negative experiences with energy suppliers, even when I changed from one year to another. Having the opportunity to make the wisest decision for my family is undeniably the way consumer commerce works,” said Linda Kauss of Rockport. “Choosing the best rate is a top priority.  It appears National Grid is trying to limit competition.  It has never been a problem making a decision to choose a supplier, National Grid is fabricating the notion it’s too difficult to make a choice and there isn’t any benefit.”
  • “I already choose an energy provider that is not my local utility so that I can buy 100% renewable energy at a reasonable price,” said Adam Mercer of Needham. “Please don’t limit this competition.”
  • “I have been using alternative suppliers for approximately ten years. During that time I have enjoyed significant benefits that have resulted in excess of a thousand, possibly thousands, of dollars,” said John Heath of Saugus. “Each time my contract term is about to expire I am notified by the supplier and I use the available websites to search for rates and the best deal for me. I have never felt misled or cheated and on at least 2 occasions when rates were lowered during my contract term I contacted the supplier and they lowered my rate further.”
  • “My choice of an alternative energy source is saving me about $200 a month,” said Elizabeth Brown of West Bridgewater. “A difference much appreciated by this 85-year-old widow.”

MASSACHUSETTS ENERGY MARKET DATA:

2022 residential customer enrollment data from Massachusetts DPU:

  • 2.4 million households on utility default service (Eversource, National Grid or Unitil)
  • 1 million households enrolled in the Municipal Aggregation selected retail energy supplier
  • 408,000 households enrolled with an individual retail energy supplier
  • 50 Municipal Light Plant towns where customers must purchase electricity from the plant owned by the town

SHOPPING RESOURCES:

In the absence of proactive education for ratepayers about their options to shop, the Retail Energy Advancement League developed a shopping guide to help customers navigate the EnergySwitchMA website with explanations of contract terms and helpful shopping tips.

REAL also produces a monthly summary of offers in the market that customers can subscribe to receive. As of March 11, 2024 there were 255 retail supply offers available across the territories above, including:

  • 120 fixed price offers, cheaper than the default utility rate
  • 126 100% renewable offerings
  • 109 100% renewable offerings cheaper than the default utility rate

Massachusetts residents could save as much as $80,226,962 this month by enrolling with a retail supplier.

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Categories
Energy News

Legislation to Block Energy Choice Elicits Public Outcry from Maryland Customers, Companies and Organizations

SB 1 cuts clean energy and EV charging products, blocks companies from competing with the utility and backtracks Maryland’s decarbonization progress

ANNAPOLIS, March 13, 2024 – Maryland customers, companies and organizations have mobilized in opposition to Senate Bill 1, sponsored by Senator Malcolm Augustine, which would block retail energy suppliers from offering innovative energy products that compete with the utility basic service offering.

The passage of this bill bans long-term fixed contracts that shield customers from frequent utility rate hikes. The legislation also bans all products priced higher than the utility rate, even if there are additional value-added benefits, such as 100% renewable energy plans (the utility supply is only 37% renewable energy), free EV charging equipment and free nights and weekend charging and innovative time-of-use programs that incentivize customers to reduce usage during peak demand by offering free electric vehicle charging or special rates.

As suppliers are being banned from offering these products, electric utilities have received approval to fund these types of programs through customer rates, including the cost of research and development, advertising and deployment of these types of programs, even if the customer isn’t participating in the program.

“This legislation was developed in a vacuum with no input from market subject matter experts. As a result, the legislation does not accomplish the goal of improving consumer protections, but it does have the unintended impact of blocking a range of value-added products that customers have chosen, which play a crucial role in meeting state decarbonization goals,” said Christopher Ercoli, CEO of the Retail Energy Advancement League (‘REAL’). “This legislation will restrict retail suppliers to offering only basic supply like the utility. It is a market killer.”

At a February 15 Economic Matters Committee hearing, John Hanger, former Pennsylvania Utility Commission, Department of Environmental Protection Secretary and consumer advocate said, “This bill would kill long term contracts . . . The price cap would kill just about every green energy offer.”

In Maryland, almost 500,000 residential customers chose to enroll with an alternative energy supplier in 2023, and many of the products these customers chose will be banned if this legislation passes.

“I appreciate the option of choosing the least expensive source of energy,” said Robert Koch in Anne Arundel County.

In the last two weeks, more than 1,200 Maryland customers have contacted their legislator asking them to oppose the legislation.

“I like to compare options on the PSC website and lock in a rate for 1 to 3 years if rates are relatively low.  I appreciate the sponsors’ intention to reduce abuse and predatory pricing, but limiting future prices to the prior trailing price will preclude fixed price contracts when market conditions require a price that is above the prior price,” said Steve Shapiro in Montgomery County.

“Energy costs, like everything else, have gone through the roof. I want competition and to find the lowest price. Robbing me of this costs me and my family money,” said Aaron Hoge in Wicomico County.

While Maryland customers have voiced their preference to retain their retail supplier, they have been overlooked. The bill passed the Senate on March 8 and has moved to the House for consideration. The proposed legislation would force Marylanders to switch back to utilities, contradicting their expressed desires.

“My money, my choice. I’m tired of politicians trying to make every discussion for me or telling me what’s right for me; they don’t have my best interests,” said Robert Death in Anne Arundel County.

Retail energy industry leaders expressed their concerns with the legislation in a letter to Maryland Governor Moore, emphasizing the urgent need for action to prevent the legislation from becoming law. These leaders made clear that reputable energy suppliers may view the Maryland consumer market as closed for business, driving companies out and the cost of energy up.

“The legislation would effectively end renewable energy choice in Maryland and move our state back towards utility monopoly control,” said Tom Matzzie, Founder and CEO of CleanChoice Energy, a retail energy supplier. “As a climate activist and a Maryland resident it would pain me greatly to be forced to buy the dirty energy mix sold to me by the monopoly utility. Maryland should not deprive customers like me of this choice.”

This legislation comes at a time when the Maryland Public Service Commission is reviewing the market and opportunity to improve consumer protections and market structures. REAL recommends these proposed reforms from the legislature be reviewed in the regulatory process so all associated impacts are assessed and stakeholders have an opportunity to participate in the process.

Senate Bill 1 significantly disadvantages both consumers and businesses alike. Opponents urge policymakers to reconsider the implications of this legislation and work towards solutions that uphold the principles of competition, consumer empowerment, and environmental sustainability.

Marylanders can take action by texting EnergyMaryland to 844-435-9600.

About Retail Energy Advancement League (‘REAL’)

REAL is a national advocacy organization dedicated to the expansion and modernization of American retail energy markets.

Established by a coalition of companies advocating for smart regulation and consumer protections, REAL engages with commissioners and regulators in 10 states, including Maryland, to promote competitive markets and strong consumer safeguards through discussions, forums, and proactive engagement.

For media inquiries, please contact

Max Lifton

lifton@retailenergychoice.org

Categories
Energy News

Connecticut Office of Consumer Counsel Data Confirms Customers that Shopped for their Energy Supplier Saved $107.6 Million in 2023

Analysis reveals substantial benefits for consumers in electric supplier market

HARTFORD, March 1, 2024 – The monthly Electric Supplier market reports published by Connecticut Office of Consumers Counsel (OCC), an independent agency that advocates for utility ratepayers on issues decided by the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, showed customers who shopped for their energy supplier and enrolled with a competitive energy supplier instead of their utility saved an aggregate of $107 million in 2023. 

According to the Connecticut Office of Consumer Counsel, “In the month November 2023, residential Eversource customers who chose suppliers saved in aggregate $874,072 more than the Standard Offer for their electric generation, and residential UI customers who chose suppliers saved in aggregate $334,166 more than the Standard Offer.”

Notably, residential customers who chose a retail supplier collectively saved $107,623,927 more than those on the standard offer throughout 2023. 

Source: OCC Fact Sheet – Electric Supplier Market, December 2022 Through November 2023

However, the report does not differentiate between customers enrolled in value-add products such as flat monthly bills, long-term contracts, 100% renewable energy plans and programs like free electric vehicle charging which may sometimes show a higher price to account for the value-added savings customers choose. Even with this value-add grouped into the total compared to customers on basic 6-month utility service, retail energy customers are saving significantly in Connecticut thanks to the competitive energy market.

“Retail suppliers serve 22.9% of Eversource Energy (Eversource) residential customers and 16.9% of United Illuminating (UI) residential customers, in November 2023,” as per the OCC’s fact sheet, which is based on data submitted in compliance filings within the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority’s Docket Number 06-10-22.

According to the most recent data from the U.S Energy Information Administration (EIA) as of 2022, a total of 163,576 residential customers in Connecticut actively shopped for their electricity.

Standard Offer Rate Charged by Eversource Energy and United Illuminating
01/01/23 – 06/30/2307/01/23 – 12/31/2301/01/24 – 06/30/24*
Eversource24.17 c/kWh13.82 c/kWh14.71 c/kWh
United Illuminating21.94 c/kWh14.33 c/kWh17.06 c/kWh
*Predicted Standard Service price based on historical data
Source: OCC Fact Sheet – Electric Supplier Market, December 2022 Through November 2023

To further empower customers to make informed decisions and capitalize on potential savings the Retail Energy Advancement League (‘REAL’) offers a comprehensive suite of resources:

  • Connecticut Energy Shopping Guide: This resource covers topics such as understanding energy plans, deciphering pricing structures, and identifying opportunities for savings. 
  • Monthly Energy Shopping Summary: Providing essential information such as the utility supply rate, the cheapest fixed-rate offer, the cheapest 100% renewable offer in each utility service territory, and an overview of value-added products available to customers in the state. 
  • Subscribe to My Energy Choice alerts: Stay informed by receiving these resources directly in your inbox. By filling out the form at the bottom of our website, subscribers will receive updates, reminders when utility rates are about to change, monthly shopping summaries, and more.

Fore more information and to access these valuable resources, visit our website, www.retailenergychoice.org

Connecticut OCC 2023 Electric Market Supplier Reports:
About Retail Energy Advancement League (‘REAL’)

REAL is a national advocacy organization dedicated to the expansion and modernization of American retail energy markets. In many states, utility monopolies still control the electric market and customers can’t choose where they buy their electricity and gas. States with restructured markets enable companies to compete with utilities and they create access for customers to choose from a variety of products available on the electric grid, such as 100% renewable energy, free home charging for electric vehicles, carbon offsets for gas products and fixed-rate products.

For media inquiries, please contact:

Max Lifton

lifton@retailenergychoice.org