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NStar Green Rate Hike

I got a notice this week that NStar has applied for a rate hike for NStar Green, the optional program where people pay extra to support energy generation by renewable sources. If the hike is approved, starting in April the average NStar Green customer’s monthly bill would go up $15.

We’re definitely not the average customer, since $15 is roughly half our bill (average=$77-$93). And even if it were that much, $15 isn’t really that big a deal. But the rate hike makes me wonder if supporting NStar Green actually makes a difference. Obviously other people are wondering that, too, since only about 1% of the company’s customers are enrolled (who collectively use about .5% of the electricity NStar delivers).

NStar markets the program as if 100% of your electricity will be from renewable sources, and I think it’s this approach that turns people off. It all goes into the same grid, so no electricity is “my” electricity. The premium that I pay only makes a difference if NStar is actually buying more renewable energy because of it. Is that the case?

From what I can tell, yes. By Massachusetts law, NStar is required to purchase 5% of its electricity from renewable sources in 2010, increasing by 1% each year until it reaches 15% in 2020. The NStar Green program currently increases that number by .5%. To produce this electricity, NStar has ten-year contracts with two wind farms (in Maple Ridge, NY and Kibbey Mountain, ME) to generate a total of 60MWh, or 1.5% of NStar’s Basic Service Load. The other 4% is made up with the purchase of Renewable Energy Certificates and payments to the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust. The company’s energy purchases are audited by Green-e Energy.

It seems like NStar Green-designated electricity is required to be from direct generation, like the wind farm, rather than certificates or trust payments. So our participation in the program actually does make a difference. But Massachusetts’s regulations have a larger impact. To me, this really underscores the need for us all to be engaged with our government and let our elected officials know that this is important to us. In the meantime, though, I’m sticking with NStar Green.

Comments

Comment from Elizabeth
Time July 30, 2012 at 7:59 pm

If you’re one of the lucky ones with a good house for solar, you can actually save money rather than paying NSTAR more. I’m a representative from SunRun and we can offset your NSTAR electricity with clean solar electricity and you can know that you’re making a direct impact on helping MA go green. It’s an awesome program and you should check it out. Ask for me if you like.
Elizabeth

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