boston globe City Weekly

Cheaper and more efficient, 'munis' are viable alternative
February 26, 2006

In ''Electric power to the people?" (Feb. 12, City Weekly), an NStar spokeswoman acknowledged that ''existing municipal electric departments [or 'munis'] generally do have lower rates."

Last year, munis charged about 24 percent less than NStar. A typical Cambridge household using 500 kilowatt hours per month in 2005 paid NStar $70.71. For the same electricity, muni bills were: Peabody $50.02, Braintree $51.04, Concord $54.52, Reading $54.61, Hudson $57.15 (source: MMWEC).

NStar charges a typical household $1.50 per month in renewable energy and energy conservation charges. Existing munis don't, but under the legislation to allow new munis (see, future munis will. $1.50 is a very small part of the 24 percent rate difference between NStar and munis.

The NStar spokeswoman misled your readers by claiming that munis ''don't have renewable energy surcharges, energy efficiency programs to pay into, low-income discounts, or property taxes to pay for."

Munis make annual payments in lieu of taxes to their communities in amounts equivalent to NStar's property tax payments. Munis charge 24 percent less than NStar because they operate more efficiently.

A muni may not be the right choice for every Massachusetts community, but that option should be available and the decision should be based on facts rather than industry spin.

Robert Winters, Cambridge