Council empowers Colonial Power to take next step

Council empowers Colonial Power to take next step

NORTH PROVIDENCE – The Town Council last week put the wheels in motion toward signing an agreement with Massachusetts-based power aggregation firm Colonial Power, signing a resolution allowing the process of creating a plan to move forward.

Councilors were careful to emphasize that the Aug. 6 vote in no way obligates them to a contract with Colonial Power, which is promising reduced costs for town energy users and no changes in service.

Councilor Stephen DiLorenzo sought clarification on the actual estimated savings per customer in a proposed agreement, after previous confusion by town officials thinking the savings would add up to $15 per month per resident. Tom Aherne, of Colonial Power, clarified that the amount is more like $15 for the year, or an average of about $1.50 per month per subscriber. That said, a resident who uses 500 kilowatt hours of electricity per month could save $5, he said.

Councilors said there’s concern that all residents will automatically be opted into the program, but Councilor Ken Amoriggi said that there are many things the council does that obligate residents to something without seeking their approval first. That is a representative form of government, he said, and residents have the option to opt out of the program if they desire. A program such as trash collection was mandatory and residents couldn’t opt out, he noted.

Amoriggi emphasized that the council is maintaining control here, as there was no contract being signed last week. The resolution simply allows Colonial Power to field prices and present a plan to the Public Utilities Commission.

Aherne, former administrator for the PUC, told the council that Colonial Power will aggregate power by purchasing it when it’s low. Those residents who don’t want to participate in the program don’t have to, he said. Having people opt into the program instead of automatically including them would be a long and tedious process, he said, and the town would struggle to get people to sign on.

Councilor Manny Giusti voiced concern about the senior citizen community fully understanding what this is about, saying many might not even know they’ve been switched over and won’t know how to get out. Aherne pledged that the company, which has an extensive track record in Massachusetts, will run an all-out effort to inform the community, including sessions at the senior center.

Colonial Power bills itself as the leading aggregation consulting firm in Massachusetts. It would be listed on bills as the power distributor for the town, saving residents on distribution charges, but it wouldn’t change service.

North Providence would be the first Rhode Island community to sign on with Colonial Power. The vast majority of electric accounts in the community would be switched away from the current supplier, National Grid/Narragansett Electric.

Michael Caswell, of 46 Sherwood Ave., told the council he agrees with the idea of lower costs for electricity, as he himself has a third-party provider, but said he wants to make sure town residents are fully educated on the proposal.

Councilor Stefano Famiglietti assured Caswell that he won’t be comfortable signing onto any agreement unless he sees significant community engagement first.