Westfield Gas and Electric Department customers can expect to see lower bills
Published: Thursday, February 09, 2012
By Ted LaBorde, The Republican
WESTFIELD – A combination of supply management, reduced wholesale prices and a new state energy grant spells relief for customers of the city’s Gas and Electric Department.
Department officials recently announced that supply and wholesale price reductions will lead to an average gas heat savings for homeowners of more than $9 this month and, along with electricity savings, the customers can expect to pay around $12.50 less, for combined natural gas and electricity, in his or her utility bill for February.
Department manager Daniel Howard said this week that savings in anticipated through June. “The price of natural gas has and continues to remain stable and unless that price goes haywire in the near future we anticipate the savings to continue for the next several months,” Howard said.
Howard said Westfield utility costs have, for years, been among the lowest in the state and the current reduced supply rates are “significantly lower than last February and even lower than last month.”
He said electric and gas supply rates are 9.7 percent and 10.1 percent respectively lower than this time last year.
The department currently serves 9,509 natural gas and 17,500 electric customers.
The department last week became the first municipal utility in Massachusetts to receive a state Department of Energy Resources grant to expand its local energy efficiency programs.
The $92,611 grant will be used to continue energy audits and rebates to customers, primarily the department’s commercial and industrial customers, Howard said.
“We will use the grant to continue all our energy conservation programs for both the residential as well as business customer but this grant allows us to expand the effort for commercial and industrial users,” the manager said.
That involves funds to assist in energy audits, energy conservation, energy efficiency and replacement of equipment such as motors.
Howard said depending on the type of business and its size, commercial and industrial energy audits can range in cost from $200 to $15,000.
“We can provide half the cost of an audit, which is done by a third party and then assist with up to 50-percent of the cost towards implementation of the audit’s recommendations,” he said.
Former Mayor Richard K. Sullivan Jr., now state secretary of energy and conservation, said Westfield and Chicopee Electric Light Department are the first municipal utility department’s to share state funding for energy conservation. Chicopee received $32,479 last week.
“These grants can be used for rebates to customers who install or upgrade energy efficient systems,” Sullivan said.
Westfield Gas and Electric Department is launching a $3.3 million project that will replace its 18,000 customer electric meters later this spring.
Howard said the project is expected to take three years to complete and is aimed at efficiency that ultimately benefits customers.
Installation of new meters will allow the department to launch an automated meter reading project with customer usage reported to the department through wireless and fiber optic systems already in place.
Customer gas meters will be upgraded to allow the same automated meter reading, Howard said.