PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Providence is one of seven Rhode Island municipalities launching a community electricity program, which program advocates are hopeful will save ratepayers money and increase the state’s use of renewable energy.
The new program, dubbed Providence Community Electricity Program, is slated to begin in May. Providence ratepayers started receiving notices about the new program in recent weeks and will be automatically enrolled unless they proactively opt-out.
“It’s competitive pricing, lowering electricity rates as well as increasing renewables,” said Jamie Rhodes, an attorney for the consulting group Good Energy, which helped negotiate the new programs.
The other communities joining the program are Barrington, Central Falls, Narragansett, Newport, Portsmouth and South Kingstown. Bristol and Middletown are also in the process of developing plans for their own community electricity program, according to Rhodes.
“Customers can opt out at any time same way they can either send in mail send it in through our website they can do it by phone call and it will go into effect in the next month — there is no penalty, there is no cost opt out,” he explained.
Program advocates highlight the standard rate of 9.4 cents per kilowatt hour is about 12% less expensive than what Rhode Island Energy could offer — 10.7 cents per kilowatt hour — pending regulatory approval for the six-month period beginning in April.
It would also mean that program participants would be buying about 5% more renewable energy at the billing level, and they have the option to buy more or less, although that would change the billing amount.
And while people will be allowed to opt out, Rhodes acknowledged that there’s no guarantee that the community program will remain less expensive after the initial six-month billing period.
“We can’t guarantee that the rate will always be lower than Rhode Island Energy,” he said, although he pointed to their previous effort in Massachusetts as a possible roadmap. “Our experience in Massachusetts was that over the life of a contract we have secured savings for every one of our municipal clients.”
Correction: Providence officials initially sent out incorrect estimates of what Rhode Island Energy has proposed for a six-month period beginning in April. The data and schedule in this story have been updated.
Sarah Guernelli (email@example.com) is the consumer investigative reporter for 12 News. Connect with her on Twitter and on Facebook.