A sign of the times in the Valley’s changing energy picture is the signup this winter of the town of Lancaster to the Hampshire Power energy purchasing consortium. Hampshire Power’s mission is to lower energy prices, keep the profits from energy sales local, and emphasize renewables. Lancaster’s new affiliation with Hampshire Power is especially well adapted to that mission because Lancaster has a solar farm.
Hampshire Power is paying the town $180,000 for energy credits generated by the solar farm; the money will go to help the town make bond payments on the farm. In return, Lancaster residents are now eligible for energy at the reduced rates Hampshire Power receives through bulk buying, rates that are projected to be 10 percent lower than what they would pay the area’s major electricity suppliers. Hampshire Power says it has saved its member communities more than $2.1 million in energy costs since it started up in 2006.
Hampshire Power was started up by the Hampshire Council of Governments, the successor to the Hampshire County government that ceased to exist when the state abolished counties. But by now the roster of 38 communities receiving bulk energy-buying services from the Hampshire Council of Governments includes towns outside Hampshire County, from Great Barrington in the Berkshires to Lancaster and other towns in Worcester County.
The Advocate asked Hampshire Council of Governments executive director Todd Ford how Hampshire Power achieves its goal of keeping the profits from energy sales in the Valley, since it buys much of its energy from national wholesalers. “You’re right in that Massachusetts unfortunately doesn’t produce a lot of our own energy, so no matter who you purchase energy through, [money] is going to the large wholesalers,” he said. “However, as with the Lancaster deal, we are buying all the renewable energy credits, and we buy energy credits from homeowners. Any margin we have stays within our nonprofit business structure and gets reinvested in programs and services in the community.” The Hampshire Council of Governments also engages in bulk purchasing of non-energy-related commodities for its member towns and school districts.• —SK
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