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Letter: 'Muni' could save residents money

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Cambridge residents who would like to reduce their electricity bill a lot should press their state legislators and city councilors into action. A bill now before the State House would enable cities to replace our electricity supplier NStar with a municipal electricity company (a "muni"). I just learned my 2004 electricity bill could have been 25 percent lower if Cambridge had its own muni charging the average price of existing munis, and it might have been almost 40 percent lower. With energy prices even higher in 2005, this translates into hundreds of dollars a year savings for each of us.

     First, we should urge our state reps and senators to work hard to pass H3294, now before the legislature's Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. The bill will make it much easier to establish munis. It is ridiculous that the last muni was set up in the 1920s. Cambridge state Reps. Tim Toomey, Alice Wolf, Rachel Kaprielian, Anne Paulsen and state Sen. Steve Tolman said they support the bill. Let's get it passed.

     Next, our City Council should launch a feasibility study. Even if the study costs $500,000, the price is trivial compared to citywide savings for all of us electricity users. At the risk of scooping the study, let's assume it confirms the value of a Cambridge muni. Our officials should move fast to set it up.

     Big savings are not the only benefit. For people who care about how Cambridge looks, a Cambridge muni is much more likely than NStar to put miles of electricity lines under ground, to judge from the experience of other towns. Concord's muni has now buried 40 percent of its wires. Imagine the autumn leaves without powerlines blocking them.

     Green Street