boston globe

An answer to high electric rates

April 15, 2007

THE AUTHORS of "Deregulation burns out" (Op-ed, April 8) propose re-regulation as the answer to exorbitant electricity prices in Massachusetts. There is another, complementary option: new municipal electric utilities, or munis, besides the 41 that already operate successfully under local regulation, for example in Braintree, Peabody, Concord, and Shrewsbury.

Last year, for typical electricity use, customers paid $103 to NStar, $80 to National Grid, and $62 to the average muni. Besides charging, respectively, 67 percent and 29 percent more than munis, NStar and National Grid offer poor service: JD Power's 2006 customer satisfaction surveys of households and businesses served by 49 utilities nationwide ranked NStar 48th -- next to last -- and National Grid 45th.

A total of 115 municipalities and organizations endorse legislation to allow new munis in Massachusetts. Representative Jay Kaufman (D-Lexington) filed a bill, cosponsored by 53 state legislators, to make the governor's vision a reality. (Deval Patrick's platform said, "I see . . . municipal electric utility companies adding competition and lowering consumer prices.")

Because new munis would put pressure on NStar and National Grid to reduce rates and improve service, the Kaufman bill could prevent what the op-ed authors termed "astronomical" electricity prices from increasing even more.

Lexington Electric Utility Committee