Community energy program: ‘What if everyone opts out?’

Barrington residents crowd meeting with lots of questions

By Josh Bickford
Posted 3/30/23

The double-sided flyer lists 13 questions focused squarely on the town’s new energy aggregation program. 

“When does it start?” 

“Is everyone eligible for …

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Community energy program: ‘What if everyone opts out?’

Barrington residents crowd meeting with lots of questions


The double-sided flyer lists 13 questions focused squarely on the town’s new energy aggregation program. 

“When does it start?” 

“Is everyone eligible for automatic enrollment?”

“Will I get another bill after the program starts in May and I choose to remain in the program?”

The flyer was part of an informational campaign offered by the town. Officials also organized a large community meeting in late March where a representative from Good Energy, a firm hired by the town to implement the energy aggregation program, fielded dozens of questions from Barrington residents.

“Why didn’t the town have an informational meeting before signing the contract?”

“What if everyone opts out of the program?”

“Is there a limit to how many times a resident can opt in or opt out?”

Good Energy representative Jamie Rhodes shared answers to each question. Toward the beginning of the meeting, Rhodes said the town has not paid Good Energy any money — the company makes its money through the electricity supply rate chosen by the community energy aggregation program. Rhodes said it was about .001 cent, “That’s us.”

Part of the program ensures that more renewable energy sources are used to supply electricity to local homes. Rhodes said it was difficult to identify where exactly the renewable energy was coming from, although he confirmed that it was from the New England area. 

The program, which includes Barrington, Providence, Portsmouth, Newport, Narragansett, Central Falls and South Kingstown, will use NextEra as its electricity supplier.

Mike Holtzman was one of the many people to attend the meeting. Holtzman said he spoke with a representative from Rhode Island Energy who told him that their rate was dropping to 9.125 cents per kilowatt hour — that is less than the 9.361 offered by the community aggregation program’s introductory six-month rate.

Rhodes said that 9.125 was actually the base cost of electricity and not what RI Energy will be charging. He said that RI Energy’s rate, once administration and other costs are added, will increase to 10.341.

Rhodes said he had already been in contact with RI Energy and asked that they be clear about the 9.125 rate. He said “I don’t want to get angry … but it is inaccurate information.”

Another resident asked why the informational meeting was not held before the Barrington Town Council entered into an agreement with Good Energy.

Rhodes, who has previously attended Council meetings to discuss the program, said no one would have attended a meeting held before the deal was struck. He said residents begin to pay attention once they receive a letter stating they are going to be enrolled in the program. 

Ben Greenberg told Rhodes that he had downplayed the role of NextEra. Greenberg said a subsidiary of the energy provider had been involved in a campaign that would have crippled the rooftop solar initiative in Florida. Greenberg said NextEra is not really interested in moving renewable energy forward. He told Rhodes that he might want to say a few words about the controversies NextEra is involved in.  

Greenberg also asked how long the deal was with NextEra.

Rhodes said it was a five-year deal. 

One Barrington resident asked Rhodes what would happen if a lot of people opted out of the program. Rhodes said that would force Good Energy to change how it procures the electricity for its customers — he said the company would not want to over-purchase. Later in the meeting, Rhodes said the company expects about 80 percent of the total residents for all seven communities involved to enroll in the aggregation program. He also said other communities in Rhode Island — Bristol, Middletown, North Kingstown and others — are interested in building aggregation programs. 

Rick Simms asked if there was a limit to the number of times a resident could opt out or into the program. Rhodes said there was no limit. He also said that a resident who was opting in and out repeatedly might receive a call from the company to see why the repetitive changes. 

Brock Allen asked Rhodes why someone wouldn’t want to make the switch. “What am I missing?”

Rhodes said there was no fee and no real reason not to enroll, unless a resident did not want to be affiliated with NextEra. He said there was no loss of regulatory measures or controls when switching to the program. 

Rhodes also said residents could expect an average household savings of between $5 and $7 each month.  

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