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Bill H869 - Establishment of municipal lighting authorities ("Munis")

  • Munis save residential consumers money because their rates are lower than what IOUs charge
  • Munis offer better electric service with improved reliability
  • Munis respond to local priorities (e.g. clean energy, place wires underground)

The 41 Munis that already exist in Massachusetts (including Concord, Shrewsbury, Wellesley, Braintree, Norwood, Peabody, Ipswich or Taunton) serve 15% of our population. Compared with investor-owned utilities ("IOUs"), Munis generally offer better reliability (fewer outages) and favorable rates (lower than NStar by 24% for residential customers and by 10% for businesses in 1992-2003 in the greater Boston area).

In 2010 for 500 kWh, Munis charged $70 per month, National Grid charged $73, WMECO charged $78, NStar charged $86 and Unitil charged $98 (respectively 4%, 11%, 22% and 40% more than Munis). About 2,000 Munis operate nationwide, including in Los Angeles, Seattle, Cleveland, Austin, Sacramento and Orlando.

MGL Chapter 164 outlines the process a city or town must follow to acquire the distribution infrastructure from the incumbent IOU and operate it as a Muni. But no new Muni has been formed in Massachusetts since 1926 because Chapter 164, written a century ago, makes the process impractical.

Bill H869 clarifies Chapter 164 by explicitly stating that once the fair value of the IOU's infrastructure has been established, the sale must occur. The bills also adjust certain time lines, create a review process for the economics of new Munis and limit at 3 per year the number of new Munis that can be formed.

By making the formation of new Munis practically feasible, bills H3087 and S1527 introduce a form of competition, which will lead IOUs to reduce rates and improve service even if very few new Munis are formed. In the case of Lexington, a Muni would address local priorities while charging less than NStar, saving residents, businesses and the Town $6-8 million annually.

Bill H869, filed by Representatives Jay Kaufman and Stephen DiNatale is co-sponsored by 20 legislators.

115 cities, towns and organizations (including MMA, Environment Massachusetts, MASSPIRG, Mass Energy Consumers Alliance, Mass Climate Action Network, Cape Light Compact) endorse Bill H869 or their predecessors (H3087 & S1527 in 2009-10, H3319 in 2007-08, H3294 in 2005-06, H1468 in 2003-04). The Boston Globe called this legislation "A promising bill […that] would restore some power to the consumer".

Prepared by the Lexington Electric Utility Committee (2/16/11)