Power Supply is one of Cape Light Compact’s three core service areas, but what is power supply? It can be a bit complex. Austin Brandt, Senior Power Supply Planner at Cape Light Compact, helps explain the program’s history and breaks down how it’s set up to work toward providing an option that looks out for the interests of Cape and Vineyard electric customers.
Power supply is about who supplies your electricity. If you think of ordering a pair of shoes online, you might order a pair of New Balance sneakers from Zappos and have them delivered by UPS. In this case, New Balance is the manufacturer, Zappos is the supplier, and UPS is the distributor. Similarly, with electricity, you have manufacturers – or generators –, suppliers, and distributors.
The Cape Light Compact Power Supply program began in 2002 as a pilot program. By 2005 it had expanded everywhere the Compact serves.
“It was one of the primary drivers for the formation of the Compact,” Brandt explains. “That and being able to implement the energy efficiency programs for the Cape and Vineyard. But, on the power supply side we wanted to make sure that the Compact was there as a safe and worry-free option.”
Offering an alternative supply from what is available directly from the utility for electricity, the Compact’s power supply program allows for residents of Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard to buy their power from a source that’s competitively priced and locally administered.
You may be thinking, “Well, I get an Eversource bill, so I’m getting my electricity from Eversource,” but that may not be entirely true for customers in the Compact’s service territory. While Eversource “delivers” the electricity to homes and businesses over their utility lines, the Compact is the region’s default power supply provider for electricity customers. The Compact aggregates the electricity load of power supply program participants and puts it out to bid to power suppliers to obtain competitive pricing and the best terms and conditions for customers. Often, the Compact’s power supply rate is lower than what’s available through the utility.
So, how is this supply competitive with the large utility’s basic service? This is where Brandt and his team at the Compact come in.
The Compact has a different type of contract with its supplier than other aggregations; it works with its supplier to schedule pricing and hedging to remain competitive with basic service. With basic service, pricing changes for residential and small commercial customers every six months, so the Compact has set up its power supply program to mirror those terms with its own new pricing every six months.
Maintaining the fixed price over a six-month period provides stability to customers. Rather than having different prices every month, the customer is locked into one, fair price over the six-month term and the Compact remains in sync with the market since it doesn’t lock into contracts that are 1, 2, or 3 years long – which is quite common for third party supplier contracts and other aggregations.
“We try to buy smart and get every little advantage that we can, but there are no guarantees that we can always beat the basic service price, since electricity is a market commodity; the prices fluctuate constantly.”
Even with there being no guarantees, the team is doing something right as they’re regularly under the basic service price, and always close.
“Since we started in 2002, we’ve been lower than basic service about 65% of the time.”
This win rate is exceptionally impressive considering that the Compact’s electricity supply has been 100% renewable since 2017. Up until that point, the Compact offered an opt-in green program within the power supply program, where customers could choose to participate. If you weren’t participating with the green program, you were supplied electricity that was still competitively priced with the local utility but could be sourced from anywhere or anything – such as coal, nuclear, natural gas, or renewables.
After conducting board discussions and receiving public input in 2016, the Compact voted that beginning in 2017 the power supply it offers would be renewable by default. By doing this, the Compact is doing more to support renewable energy and doing so at an affordable rate.
“We have had lower residential pricing than Eversource over each pricing term since we started doing our green aggregation in 2017,” says Brandt. “We’ve always been competitive with basic service, even before we were green.”
How well are they doing right now? The current term has the Compact at about $0.008 (eight-tenths of a cent) per kWh lower than basic service for residential customers.
“That’s a pretty good spread in terms of power supply pricing – it’s usually a matter of 1-2 mils, a mil being a tenth of a cent.”
If you’re unsure whether you’re a participating customer in the power supply program, Brandt encourages residents and business owners to first check the supplier listed on their Eversource bill. If your supplier reads as “NextEra Energy Services MA” – the current supplier the Compact has a contract with – and below that, in smaller print it reads, “Billing for Cape Light Compact,” then you’re already a participant.
If you aren’t a participant but you’re interested in signing up, the best way to do so is by calling the Power Supply number at 1-800-381-9192, which will put you in touch directly with the Compact’s supplier, NextEra Energy Services, who handles customer enrollments, or you can sign up online. Be sure to have your latest Eversource bill available so that you can offer customer support all the correct information.