SECTION 1. Section 134 of Chapter 164 of the general laws is hereby amended by inserting the following: “(c) The department of housing and community development shall establish a load aggregation program to aggregate the electrical load of low-income electricity consumers within the service territory boundaries of each and every distribution company within the commonwealth provided, however, that such aggregation shall not include electrical load served by an existing municipal lighting plant, nor shall such aggregation include electrical load served by an existing competitive supplier. For purposes of this subsection, “low-income electricity consumer” shall mean those customers eligible to be served pursuant to the distribution company tariff applicable to residential low-income retail delivery service. For purposes of this subsection, the department of housing and community development may group low-income electricity consumers within a distribution company service territory to solicit bids, broker, and contract for electric power and energy services for such customers and may enter into agreements for services to facilitate the sale and purchase of electric energy and other related services.
When acting in its capacity pursuant to this subsection, the department of housing and community development shall not be considered a utility engaging in the wholesale purchase and resale of electric power. Providing electric power or energy services to aggregated customers pursuant to this subsection shall not be considered a wholesale utility transaction. The provision of aggregated electric power and energy services as authorized by this subsection shall be regulated by any applicable laws or regulations which govern aggregated electric power and energy services in competitive markets.
In carrying out its obligations under this subsection, the department of housing and community development shall, in consultation with the department of energy resources, pursuant to section 6 of chapter 25A, develop a plan detailing the process and consequences of aggregation. Such load aggregation plan established pursuant to this subsection shall provide for universal access, reliability, and equitable treatment of all low-income customers and shall meet any requirements established by law or the department concerning aggregated service. Said plan shall be filed with the department, 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 shall conduct a public hearing.
Participation by any low-income customer in a load aggregation program established pursuant to this subsection shall be voluntary. Within 30 days of the date the aggregated entity is fully operational, such ratepayers shall be transferred to the aggregated entity according to an opt-out provision herein. Following approval of the aggregation plan and implementation of such plan as provided above, such program shall allow any low-income electricity consumer to opt-out and choose any supplier or provider such low-income electricity consumer wishes. Once enrolled in the aggregated entity, any low-income electricity consumer choosing to opt-out within 180 days shall do so without penalty and shall be entitled to receive basic service as if he was originally enrolled therein. Nothing in this section shall be construed as restricting the ability of a low-income electricity consumer to obtain or receive service from any authorized provider thereof.
It shall be the duty of the aggregated entity to fully inform participating low-income electricity consumers 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 basic 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 low-income electricity consumer a list of all other supply options available to them in a meaningful format that shall enable comparison of price and product.
The department of housing and community development shall, within two years of approval of its plan or such further time as the department may allow, provide written notice to the department that its plan is implemented.
SECTION 2. Section 1D of Chapter 164 of the general laws is hereby amended by striking the words “(1) single bill from the distribution company that shows such charges; or (2) two bills: one from the non-utility supplier that shows energy-related charges, and one from the distribution company that shows distribution-related charges;” and inserting in place thereof the following: “(1) single bill from the distribution company that shows such charges; (2) single bill from the non-utility supplier that shows such charges; or (3) two bills: one from the non-utility supplier that shows energy-related charges, and one from the distribution company that shows distribution-related charges. The department shall direct each distribution company to implement such changes as are necessary to enable non-utility suppliers to begin issuing a single bill as provided above no later than December 31, 2020. Costs incurred by a distribution company to implement and maintain the three billing options as provided above may be recovered by such distribution company in a base rate case following the incursion of such costs.”
SECTION 3. Section 1D of Chapter 164 of the general laws is hereby further amended by striking the words “Residential or small commercial customers: (a) initiating new utility service; (b) reinstating service following a change of residence or business location; (c) making an inquiry regarding their rates; or (d) seeking information regarding energy efficiency shall be offered the option to learn about their ability to enroll with a participating non-utility competitive supplier of energy. Customers expressing an interest in learning about their electric supply options shall be informed of offers available by participating non-utility competitive suppliers. The electric distribution company shall describe then available offers available through a method approved by the department;” and inserting in place thereof the following: “Residential or small commercial customers: (a) initiating new utility service; or (b) reinstating service following a change of residence or business location shall be enrolled for electricity service with the supplier of his choice among qualifying offers from competitive suppliers presented to the customer at the time of enrollment. Such qualifying offers shall be designated by the department based on the following criteria: (1) likely value to the customer over the course of the contract; (2) additional benefits, other than price, provided to the customer during the term of the contract; and (3) the managerial, operational and financial strength of the supplier making the offer. Basic service shall not be considered a qualifying offer for purposes of this section, provided that customers enrolled with a supplier pursuant to this section may switch to basic service or to service provided by another supplier at any time during the term of the contract with the supplier with whom the customer is initially enrolled without penalty. Any customer reinstating service following a change of residence or business address who was being served by a competitive supplier at his previous address shall continue to be served by such supplier provided that the customer’s contract with such supplier would otherwise have continued in force but for the change in address. A residential customer terminating service with a competitive supplier solely as a result of a change in residence shall not be assessed an early termination fee or penalty by such competitive supplier.
SECTION 4. Subsection 1F(8)(a) of Chapter 164 of the general laws is hereby amended by adding the following: “(x) A residential customer who affirmatively chooses a generation company or its affiliate, subsidiary, or parent company, or a supplier or aggregator as provided in this section shall have the right to have such affirmative choice executed by the customer’s distribution company by providing a valid government-issued or alternate form of identification, both of which shall include a photograph, to a competitive supplier if the consent to the change in supplier is provided by the residential customer at a location other than said customer’s service address. The competitive supplier shall attest to the distribution company that a valid government-issued or alternate form of identification was provided along with the residential customer’s service address. A residential customer shall not be required to provide a distribution company account number or point of delivery identification number where a valid government-issued or alternate form of identification was provided, provided that consent to the change in supplier is provided by the residential customer at a location other than the residential customer’s service address; (xi) the provisions of the preceding subsection (x) shall apply with equal force to changes in the choice of supplier consented to by a residential natural gas customer.”
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