Smithfield looks to lower residents’ energy bills

Smithfield looks to lower residents’ energy bills

SMITHFIELD – Lower rates on electricity could soon be coming to Smithfield, according to Finance Director Jason Parmelee, who is searching for a company to pool residents together for a lower group rate. He said providers will be more likely to offer discounts to residents that are grouped together in town as a whole.

Area towns are typically estimating about $50 in savings per year for each customer through electricity aggregation agreements.

“Ultimately, the agreement will be for anyone with a Smithfield ZIP code to get,” Parmelee said.

During the Aug. 20 Town Council meeting, Parmelee introduced a three-year contract with Direct Energy Services for natural gas that saved the town $1,500 annually. The contract offers lower fixed-rates compared to the town’s previous services.

When asked if he could do something similar for town residents, Parmelee said he’d already begun looking into hiring an energy broker to negotiate lower rates for Smithfield residents.

He expects a request for proposals for the broker to come before the council in the upcoming weeks.

The energy broker will shop energy suppliers separately from National Grid to find the lowest rates.

“You can buy your energy at a cheaper rate from Texas and have it delivered to your door,” Parmelee said.

He said an energy provider would pay the broker through a negotiated agreement.

“There will be zero cost to the town and zero cost to the residents,” Parmelee said.

Residents will receive notification of the program and may choose to opt out if the town goes ahead with the group rates. Parmelee said lower energy prices would be automatically applied to the bill.

Residents with an existing negotiated rate contract would not see the savings until their contract expires, Parmelee said. Those cases are rare, and he said more than 95 percent of the town would be eligible to receive the benefit.

Parmelee said he and town officials are looking to find costs savings for Smithfield residents and to keep “no stone unturned” leading up to the elementary school reconfiguration bond payments.

“Any potential rock we can overturn, we’re looking to do the best we can,” Parmelee said.

He said aggregation programs are relatively new to Rhode Island, and Smithfield will lead the pack. North Providence was the first to enter a similar program with Colonial Power Group in July. The change would switch the majority of the city’s accounts to Colonial Power and away from National Grid/Narragansett Electric. Expected savings in North Providence amount to approximately $15 per year.