SECTION 1. Section 134 of chapter 164 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2014 Official Edition, is hereby amended by striking out subsection (a) and subsection (b) in their entirety and inserting therein the following subsections:-
(a) Any municipality or any group of municipalities acting together within the commonwealth may aggregate the electrical load of interested electricity consumers or the natural gas load of interested gas consumers within its boundaries; provided, however, that such municipality or group of municipalities shall not aggregate electrical load or natural gas load if such are served by an existing municipal lighting plant or an existing municipal gas plant. Such municipality or group of municipalities may group retail electricity customers to solicit bids, broker, and contract for electric power and energy services for such customers and may group retail gas customers to solicit bids, broker, and contract for the supply of natural gas for such customers. Such municipality or group of municipalities may enter into agreements for services to facilitate the sale and purchase of electric energy and other related services and agreements for services to facilitate the sale and purchase of natural gas. Such service agreements may be entered into by a single city, town, county, or by a group of cities, towns, or counties.
A municipality or group of municipalities which aggregates its electrical load or natural gas load and operates pursuant to the provisions of this section shall not be considered a utility engaging in the wholesale purchase and resale of electric power or natural gas. Providing electric power or energy services to aggregated electric customers or natural gas supply to aggregated gas customers within a municipality or group of municipalities shall not be considered a wholesale utility transaction. The provision of aggregated electric power and energy services as authorized by this section shall be regulated by any applicable laws or regulations which govern aggregated electric power and energy services in competitive markets. The provision of aggregated natural gas supply as authorized by this section shall be regulated by any applicable laws or regulations that govern aggregated natural gas supply in competitive markets.
A town may initiate a process to aggregate electrical load or natural gas load upon authorization by a majority vote of town meeting or town council. A city may initiate a process to authorize aggregation by a majority vote of the city council, with the approval of the mayor, or the city manager in a Plan D or Plan E city. Two or more municipalities may, as a group, initiate a process jointly to authorize aggregation by a majority vote of each particular municipality as herein required.
Upon an affirmative vote to initiate said process, a municipality or group of municipalities establishing an electric or gas load aggregation pursuant to this section shall, in consultation with the department of energy resources, pursuant to section 6 of chapter 25A, develop a plan, for review by its citizens, detailing the process and consequences of aggregation. Any municipal load aggregation plan established pursuant to this section shall provide for universal access, reliability, and equitable treatment of all classes of customers and shall meet any requirements established by law or the department of public utilities concerning aggregated electric or gas load or electric energy service. Said plan shall be filed with the department of public utilities, for its final review and approval, and shall include, without limitation, an organizational structure of the program, its operations, and its funding; rate setting and other costs to participants; the methods for entering and terminating agreements with other entities; the rights and responsibilities of program participants; and termination of the program. Prior to its decision, the department of public utilities shall conduct a public hearing.
Participation by any retail customer in a municipal or group aggregation program shall be voluntary. Within 30 days of the date the aggregated entity is fully operational, such retail customers shall be transferred to the aggregated entity according to an opt-out provision herein. Following adoption of aggregation through the votes specified above, such program shall allow any retail customer to opt-out and choose any supplier or provider such retail customer wishes. Once enrolled in the aggregated entity, any retail customer choosing to opt-out within 180 days shall do so without penalty and shall be entitled to receive their electricity supply through the local electric utility’s basic service or their gas supply through the local gas utility’s default service, as if he was originally enrolled therein. Nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing any city or town or any municipal electric or gas load aggregator to restrict the ability of retail customers to obtain or receive service from any authorized provider thereof.
It shall be the duty of the aggregated entity to fully inform participating retail customers in advance of automatic enrollment that they are to be automatically enrolled and that they have the right to opt-out of the aggregated entity without penalty. In addition, such disclosure shall prominently state all charges to be made and shall include full disclosure of the electric basic service rate and gas default service rate, how to access it, and the fact that it is available to them without penalty. The department of energy resources shall furnish, without charge, to any citizen a list of all other supply options available to them in a meaningful format that shall enable comparison of price and product.
(b) A municipality or group of municipalities establishing an electric load aggregation program pursuant to subsection (a) may, by a vote of its town meeting or legislative body, whichever is applicable, adopt an electrical energy plan which shall define the manner in which the municipality or municipalities may implement electric demand side management programs and renewable energy programs that are consistent with any state energy conservation goals developed pursuant to chapter 25A or chapter 164. After adoption of the electrical energy plan by such town meeting or other legislative body, the city or town clerk shall submit the plan to the department of public utilities to certify that it is consistent with any such state energy electrical conservation goals. If the plan is certified by the department of public utilities, the municipality or group of municipalities may apply to the Massachusetts clean energy technology center for monies from the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust Fund, established pursuant to section 9 of chapter 23J, and receive, and if approved, expend moneys from the electric demand side management system benefit charges or line charges in an amount not to exceed that contributed by electric retail customers within said municipality or group municipalities. This will not prevent said municipality or municipalities from applying to the Massachusetts clean energy technology center for additional funds. If the department of public utilities determines that the electrical energy plan is not consistent with any such state-wide goals, it shall inform the municipality or group of municipalities within six months by written notice the reasons why it is not consistent with any such state-wide goals. The municipality or group of municipalities may re-apply at anytime with an amended version of the electrical energy plan.
The municipality or group of municipalities shall not be prohibited from proposing for certification an electrical energy plan which is more specific, detailed, or comprehensive or which covers additional subject areas than any such state-wide conservation goals. This subsection shall not prohibit a municipality or group of municipalities from considering, adopting, enforcing, or in any other way administering an electrical energy plan which does not comply with any such state-wide conservation goals so long as it does not violate the laws of the commonwealth.
The municipality or group of municipalities shall, within two years of approval of its electrical energy plan or such further time as the department of public utilities may allow, provide written notice to the department of public utilities that its electrical energy plan is implemented. The department of public utilities may revoke certification of the electrical energy plan if the municipality or group of municipalities fails to substantially implement such plan or if it is determined by independent audit that the funds were misspent within the time allowed under this subsection. The department of public utilities shall promulgate regulations consistent with subsection (a) and subsection (b), allowing sufficient time for a local gas company to plan for and implement billing systems that can accommodate the requirements of this section.
SECTION 2. Section 1D of Chapter 164, as appearing in the 2014 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after the words “as approved by the department” in line 57 the following words:
For natural gas suppliers who have chosen the complete billing method, the local gas company shall make timely payments to such suppliers in accordance with this paragraph. The gas company shall: (a) bill all of the natural gas supplier's customers in a service class according to complete billing; (b) pay such suppliers the full amounts due from customers for natural gas supply in a time period consistent with the average payment period of the participating class of customer, less a percentage of such amounts that reflects the average of the uncollectible bills for the participating customer classes of the local gas company and other reasonable development, operating or carrying costs incurred, as approved by the department of public utilities. The department of public utilities shall promulgate regulations consistent with this section, allowing sufficient time for a local gas company to plan for and implement billing systems that can accommodate the requirements of this section.
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