In 4-3 vote, council approves pact with Colonial Power

In 4-3 vote, council approves pact with Colonial Power

NORTH PROVIDENCE – The town has entered a consultant agreement with power aggregator Colonial Power Group, setting up a potential agreement for North Providence to become the first community in the state to have such a third-party pact.

A 4-3 vote of the council last week added a layer of protection from a previous resolution, giving officials the right to reject a contract with the company if they don’t like the financial terms. Residents also wouldn’t be obligated to have Colonial Power be their provider if they choose to opt out after being opted in.

The mayor will be able to sign off on a deal on behalf of “end users,” or residents, with the council’s approval. Colonial Power would then become the power provider over National Grid, saving money for residents.

This agreement, said Councilor Ken Amoriggi, who did much of the legwork on it and explained it to his colleagues, will also add stability for residents in the form of protection against regular serious rate increases by National Grid. Colonial Power will go into the marketplace to secure bids from energy producers, and then present a proposed contract to the town.

Last week’s vote was not the final step, said Amoriggi, but allows Colonial Power to go to the Public Utilities Commission to seek permission to operate in Rhode Island. There would be a significant public awareness campaign to let residents know about their right to opt out and any pros and cons of the proposal, he said.

Council President Dino Autiello and Councilors Amoriggi, Stefano Famiglietti and Mario Martone voted in favor of the agreement, while Councilors Steven DiLorenzo, Manny Giusti and Ron Baccala voted against.

Giusti and DiLorenzo raised concerns about whether this deal is too intrusive, with DiLorenzo saying he’d rather see Colonial Power go door to door in the town seeking individual agreements instead of automatically opting everyone in.

“To me it’s intrusive on an elected official’s part,” he said, though he also noted that he sees the potential benefits from the agreement. He said as a resident he would want to make the decision for himself and not have someone else do it for him.

Giusti said the plan was presented differently than was done previously, particularly with the automatic enrollment, but Amoriggi rejected that assertion, saying there’s been a lot of assertions thrown around but the specifics have remained constant. He said this is a confusing topic that will require a lot of work to explain it correctly.

The Breeze previously reported that everyone in town would automatically be included unless they opted out.

Mark Cappadona, of Colonial Power, said individual contracts with customers simply don’t work in a deregulated system. By opting everyone in, the company has a very good idea how many people will take it and what the specifics are on providing the electricity, he said. Having a third-party company also protects residents from small print and such intrusions as opt-out fees, he said.

“We can look out professionally for the people who can’t do it themselves,” he said.

Amoriggi said the council will have the ability to reject the final contract with Colonial Power if members believe it would negatively impact residents. All the Oct. 1 vote did was allow the company to move forward with the process of negotiating electricity rates with suppliers.

“We’re just giving you the option to explore something that might be great for this town,” he said.

Amoriggi said third-party aggregation is considered best practice in Massachusetts, where Colonial Power has numerous municipal customers, and attorneys general in both states recommend aggregation as “the way to go.”

As Cappadona explained it, Colonial Power would start as a consultant at the beginning of this process and turn into a broker for the town. He assured councilors that no one is going to try to hold any ratepayer in the program for any reason.

Famiglietti called this a “novel idea,” saying sometimes one has to “stretch the bounds of what you’re comfortable with” to explore an initiative that could be beneficial for residents.

Officials estimate that the agreement would save about $15 per year for the average ratepayer. Depending on usage, that number could go higher.

Autiello said he’s confident that once the public is informed more, he expects residents will fully support this initiative. He commended Amoriggi for diving in and breaking down a confusing topic for the others.