Bulking up: 50 firms join to save on energy
August 6, 2015
Amanda Roberge | July 20, 2014 | Worcester Telegram
The Massachusetts Manufacturing Energy Collaborative, or MassMEC, has now recruited 50 companies — including RH White Construction Services in Auburn and Rocheleau Tool & Die Company in Fitchburg — to buy energy in bulk and access a savings to their bottom line.
MassMEC, an initiative that was announced in April of 2014 by Governor Patrick, will be providing participating companies with energy audits as well as the opportunity to access better pricing on their gas, electric and solar energy.
Those figures will be released to clients in the fall, but there is no obligation to buy — just opportunity.
“We are never working for the supplier,” said Shaun Pandit, President of EarlyBird Power and manager of MassMEC. “We are always working for our clients.”
MassDevelopment, the state’s finance and development agency that created MassMEC, selected EarlyBird Power to manage the collaborative following a competitive bidding process.
EarlyBird Power is a Milton-based energy market expert that provides energy management and sustainability solutions to commercial, municipal and industrial clients, helping them to save money and “go green.”
At the root of the program is a desire to revive the manufacturing industry, with a belief that cutting their energy costs in coming years will translate into the creation of more jobs.
“The energy costs in the Northeast are higher certainly than the rest of the country and represent a huge percentage of our expenses,” said Lisa Rocheleau, treasurer of Rocheleau Tool & Die in Fitchburg. “What we save there will allow us to put back into the company and invest in machinery and infrastructure. And certainly we would hire more people as we grow.”
She added that her company is participating not only in the MassMEC initiative but also a North Central Chamber of Commerce collaboration with a Solar Farm in Lunenburg, allowing the company to access billing credits along with a handful of other North Central Companies.
“It’s important for us to be doing everything we can to keep our energy costs down,” she added.
For the MassMEC effort, finding companies to get on board has been challenging because of the trust issues surrounding the energy industry. Following the 1997 de-regulation of power companies, said Mr. Pandit, it has been the goal of the commonwealth to create a competitive power market. Navigating that market, however, has been a gray area for businesses.
“People have been able to access the competitive power market, but many people got burned in the process,” he explained, adding that people were entering into agreements where the price was not fixed, and the increases tended to be at the supplier’s discretion. There was also a tendency for people to err in estimating their energy consumption, he said, therefore locking in a rate for a volume that they would later exceed at a much higher rate. “Especially for the smaller players, it’s been difficult for them to avail themselves of the options that are out there,” he said.
The goal of the collaborative is to cut out “the middlemen” — utilities like Unitil, National Grid and NSTAR Electric — and purchase energy directly from suppliers like TransCanada and Constellation. The other way that MassMEC helps companies is to audit their usage and help them negotiate existing agreements.
MassMEC helped Rockland company Airxchange successfully avoid an automatic fee increase on electric charges, saving the company $2,800 to $3,600 per year over the next three years.
In addition, MassMEC secured an extended long-term contract saving 11 percent over the next best quote.
The audit practice alone, said Mr. Pandit, comes at no cost to the client and has resulted in simple savings for many of the MassMEC clients. Priding itself on its transparency and trustworthiness, MassMEC earns a 2-percent commission on energy savings but more importantly to the commonwealth, helps the struggling manufacturing industry to re-invest in itself and turn over a new leaf.
“In general, Massachusetts leaders have been concerned about the manufacture ring companies in this state,” said Mr. Pandit. “One of the ways to help them is to create some savings in the realm of energy costs.”
He added that other industries — including automotive and hospitality — have banded together in recent years for the same type of arrangement.
“What we are helping these companies to save goes directly back to their bottom line,” he said. “We hope this will help these companies to grow in different ways and hire more people.”
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