As energy costs rise, small businesses are feeling the impact. After three small businesses closed in New Hampshire’s North Country, what can be done moving forward to support local businesses? The solution may be in Community Aggregation.
Challenges for small businesses with increasing energy costs
As Executive Director of the Coos Economic Development Corporation (CEDC), Ericka Canales regularly speaks with businesses to discuss challenges that disrupt growth. As a result, she understands what contributes to their health, well-being, and challenges throughout NH North Country. For example, the cost of electricity escalated from simply a concern to an actual viability threat. “We knew we must take action.”
Ericka needed solutions. She first gained support from the board of directors at the CEDC (Coos Economic Development Corporation), a nonprofit that promotes economic growth and business development. Then, after getting up to speed on the state’s energy landscape, Ericka began a search for an industry partner with practical solutions and experience in navigating challenges. The partner she found was Freedom Energy Logistics, an energy advisory headquartered in New Hampshire.
Exploring Community Aggregation as a Solution
Our team has a history of serving aggregation groups, managing buying groups for large associations, and now leading NH in adopting Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) programs. As a result, freedom Energy understands how to leverage group purchasing power. Community Choice will help alleviate this need soon, but who will help the businesses survive until then?
This group purchasing capability led Ericka to ask the right questions. Which common denominators must be present to constitute a ‘group’? Can we independently benefit from an opt-in group purchase if we organize enough small and micro businesses on the same page in the same timeframe?
Motivated by the passion for saving small businesses and now energized by this industry partner and thought leader, Ericka designed an open enrollment. A brief assessment was sent out to gauge initial business interest; over 50 businesses responded. The results confirmed that the energy cost had become a significant financial hardship.
Local response to Community Choice Aggregation
On Monday, February 27, 2023, the rollout began. Coos County businesses had five days to enroll for a utility supply rate far below the $0.23/kWh most had been paying. Organizing the supplier RFP (Request for Proposal) with Freedom Energy, a goal had been set to obtain a rate as close to $0.10/kWh as possible. With a final rate of just over $0.11 kWh, businesses and respondents were pleased with the results.
A handful of enrollments came in on day one: a pizza restaurant, a small café, a group of insurance offices, and a dentist’s office. After that, word began to spread, and outreach efforts of the CEDC started to take effect. By the end of the period, over 120 accounts had been enrolled with nearly 4 million kWh of estimated annual energy usage, almost half a million dollars in savings, for the Coos County region.
Such a remarkable program was formulated and executed in a matter of weeks. Thanks to the action of Ericka Canales and the Coos Economic Development Corporation, our Coos businesses can continue making pizzas, hosting visitors, and scooping ice cream without handing away all their hard-earned profits.
Ericka agrees, “We’re thrilled at Freedom Energy’s willingness to create a new partnership with Coos Economic Development Corporation. This has enabled us to help save participating Coos County businesses almost a half million dollars in 2023 alone. These savings help ensure we keep our businesses open.”
Published: March 17, 2023