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Massachusetts Electricity Suppliers

Last Updated March 12, 2024

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Michael Jones

By Michael Jones

Michael literally wrote the book on solar (it’s called The Homeowners’ Guide to Going Solar) and has been a solar consultant for over four years.

Navigating Massachusetts electricity suppliers can be daunting

​​Massachusetts’ energy market is complicated – more so than most other states. Successfully navigating the landscape of Massachusetts electricity suppliers certainly presents an opportunity to save money, but it’s not without risk. 

Between 2015 and 2021, Massachusetts electricity customers were charged a staggering $525 million more by third party suppliers than they would have paid had they had just stuck with the traditional utility companies.

It’s a problem that has attracted the attention of politicians and media outlets who have called for better oversight, and even suggested that consumers should just avoid the Massachusetts electricity suppliers market altogether.

I don’t think that’s the best advice, nor does it tell the whole story. Electricity rates in Massachusetts are way too high, and deregulation was brought in back in the late 1990s to try and address that very real problem.

Telling customers that they shouldn’t even try to save money on their electricity rates just because of a few bad actors kinda feels like we’re letting the bad guys win. 

So rather than throw the baby out with the bathwater, I’m going to show you the right way to lower your electricity bills without falling victim to some of the dubious practices of certain unethical suppliers. 

It’s really not that complicated and I’ve been able to save some high-consuming customers hundreds, even thousands of dollars each year on their electricity bill.

So let’s get started and see if we can save you some money.

The Deregulation of Massachusetts Electricity Suppliers

The story goes all the way back to the late 1990s when the Massachusetts state legislature decided to deregulate the electricity market. This meant that consumers would have the freedom to either stick with the supplier that Eversource chose to work with or choose their own supplier based on whatever criteria were important to them – price, long-term rate protection, renewable sources, etc.

Eversource’s role was reduced to acting as a distributor of that power, rather than a supplier.

The belief at the time was that competition would apply downward pressure on electricity rates and save consumers money. While deregulation has worked quite well at lowering rates for Massachusetts businesses, it’s been a bit of a disaster for residential customers.

What Are Your Supplier Options?

Even though deregulation took place over 25 years ago, few people realize that they have several options for who supplies their electricity:

The first is a utility provider, which on Cape Cod is Eversource. This is often referred to as the basic service, and it serves as the default supply choice for most people.

Then there’s the municipal aggregator route. In this scenario, your municipality enters into an agreement with a private firm to purchase electricity on behalf of its residents. On Cape Cod, that aggregation is negotiated by Cape Light Compact on behalf of all fifteen Cape towns. They currently use Nextera as the supplier. 

Any home that has set up a utility account since 2004 has the Cape Light Compact rate as their default service. Homes that set up their service prior to that date are usually still on the Eversource Basic rate, unless they’ve switched to a competitive Massachusetts electric supplier.

And speaking of electricity suppliers, these are private companies that procure electricity from the wholesale market and sell it on to consumers, usually at a lower rate than either the utility or any municipal aggregator can offer (at least initially).

The Pitfalls of Competitive Electricity Suppliers

Third party electricity suppliers have flooded the market in the last 25 years with all manner of different plans, confusing customers and using some pretty shady marketing tactics.

Ballooning Rates

One particularly aggressive tactic has been to offer super low introductory rates followed by steep increases after the initial promotional period ends.

People who hardly ever paid attention to their electricity bill would fail to notice that their supply rate had jumped 50% and just keep on paying it for months or even years into the future. And to make matters worse, these aggressive marketing techniques were targeted disproportionately at the most vulnerable – low income households and the elderly.

As someone who sees dozens or Eversource bills a week, I can’t count the number of people I’ve met who are paying twice as much as their neighbors for electricity supply and don’t even realize it. One disabled veteran I worked with in Harwich was paying 42 cents/kWh just for the supply side of his electric bill. His recently deceased wife had joined the “promotional” plan years earlier and never told him.

Sales Reps Misrepresenting Themselves

It’s been common for the sales reps of Massachusetts electricity suppliers to mislead consumers by claiming they represent either the town or the utility company. While they may not say this outright, they’re often deliberately vague when they first introduce themselves. They’ll use terms like “we’re working alongside Eversource” or “working with your town.” 

This is always a red flag. Neither your town nor your utility company will ever call you or send out door-knockers to try and get you to switch suppliers. And while neither telemarketing nor door-knocking are necessarily bad, lying about who you represent most certainly is. Hang up or close the door on anyone who says this.

Signing People Up Without Consent

In extreme cases, some particularly unethical reps will sign people up without their permission, or even with the customers’ knowledge. All they need to do this is your account number and a complete lack of morals, so don’t give your power bill to a stranger. 

Be careful even about showing it to someone in case they serruptitiously snap a photo of it with their phone while you’re not looking.

How to Save Money With Massachusetts Electricity Suppliers

For all the abuses highlighted above, there are two points worth making here:

  • The state has done a lot to clean up the industry in the past few years, even threatening to shut it down entirely back in 2021.
  • It is possible to save a lot of money working with Massachusetts electricity suppliers, as long as you know what you’re doing and you pay attention.

Here’s how to manage the Massachusetts electricity suppliers so that the system works to your advantage rather than to theirs.

Check Out The Website

Every six months, in December and June, check out ​​the Energy Switch Massachusetts website. It’s run by the Department of Public Utilities and lists the rates and contract terms of all Massachusetts electricity suppliers. 

The Energy switch website will help if you want to change Massachusetts electricity suppliers

Why those particular months? Because those are the times that immediately precede Eversource’s semi-annual price adjustments on January 1 and July 1.

Eversource rates typically go up in January and down in July, but not always. What does always happen is that they announce the new rates in a leaflet that accompanies your bill (you know, those ones you typically throw out with even reading). 

If you have paperless billing, you’ll have to check out their website, or just pay attention to local newscasts. These announcements usually warrant at least a mention on the news, particularly if the price hikes are significant.

Understand Your Electricity Bill

Even to someone like me, who sees dozens of electricity bills each month, it seems that they’re deliberately designed to be confusing. Between supply rates, delivery fees, customer charges and taxes, it can be tricky to decipher exactly what you’re paying for, much worse to compare “apples to apples” in any meaningful way.

But it can be done and you should make the effort to figure it out. Doing so could save you thousands of dollars over time. 

Check out this article on understanding your electricity bill for help in that regard.

Pay Attention

In the same vein, it’s on you to pay attention to what’s going on with electricity prices. Shameful as the practices of Massachusetts electricity suppliers have been over the years, they wouldn’t have gotten away with them if customers had just paid closer attention. 

It boggles my mind that people have this recurring expense that can run into the hundreds of dollars per month and not even know whether the rate is trending up or down.

If the local gas station suddenly hiked prices on regular unleaded, people would surely notice right away. Yet a similar hike in electricity prices can go unnoticed for years. And electricity is the “fuel” that we’ll all be using soon enough to fill up our cars of the future.

Make a point of reading your bill at least once every six months, just so that you can know what’s going on.

Final Thoughts on Massachusetts Electricity Suppliers

There has been a lot of attention paid to the unethical practice of Massachusetts electricity suppliers in the 25 years since the energy markets were deregulated. 

Some of that has been good, and led to the cleaning up of the industry. Some has had the effect of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, with some leading media outlets suggesting that consumers should stay away from third-party suppliers entirely.

But it is possible to save money by opting for a third party electricity supplier, you just have to know what you’re doing and, above all, pay attention to your bill.

We at the Cape Cod Solar Guys work with Think Energy for all things to do with Massachusetts electricity suppliers and community solar. If you would like help switching suppliers, just contact us and set up an informative, no-pressure chat.

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