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Holyokers tied to municipal utility, whose rates are lower, despite mailing from Connecticut company: James Lavelle

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A copy of the Viridian mailer, received recently by Holyoke residents. (Greg Saulmon / The Republican)

By Mike Plaisance | on February 26, 2015

HOLYOKE - Some households here received a flier in the mail this week from a company called Viridian Energy promising rate-savings, but residents are locked into getting electricity from the Holyoke Gas and Electric Department.

The ability to choose electricity providers is prohibited under the state law (
Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 16A, Section 47A) that makes municipal utilities exempt from "competitive choice of generation supply."

In any case, said James M. Lavelle, manager of the Holyoke Gas and Electric Department (HGE), the average monthly electricity bills of households in cities and towns with municipal utilities generally are lower than those who get power from investor-owned utilities like Eversource, formerly Western Massachusetts Electric Co. (WMECo).

"We're not getting too many people asking us to open the borders, to open up the competition with retail providers that will charge more," Lavelle said.

The flier from Viridian of Stamford, Connecticut was aimed at WMECo (now Eversource) customers and apparently part of a mass mailing received by residents here and in Easthampton and other communities.

The average household's electricity bill in December here was $88.08. That's based on a household using 750 kilowatt hours a month at 11.74 cents an hour; or, to do the math, divide $88.08 by 750, arriving at 0.11744 and moving the decimal point two spaces to the right, Lavelle said.

The average for an Eversource household was $134.10 and for National Grid $180.78, according to a comparison of utility providers around the state. Lavelle provided the comparison, which was compiled by the Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Company. That Ludlow-based company is a nonprofit public corporation consisting of 21 member municipal utilities, including HGE.

On the comparison list,
of the 42 utilities' average household bills for December, only Littleton at $86.18 and Shrewsbury at $87.44 were lower than Holyoke's.

Chicopee's was $94.96, Westfield's $106, South Hadley's $119.27, Russell's $127.85 and Boston Edison's $138.93
, according to the comparison.

Mayor Alex B. Morse, the Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce and other officials use the comparatively less expensive energy costs in trying to get businesses to locate here, offering the plentiful energy of the HGE-owned hydroelectric dam powered by the Connecticut River.

The local energy was a
key reason why the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center came here. The academic research facility opened in November 2012 on Bigelow Street downtown.

The computing center is operated by Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Massachusetts, Northeastern University and Boston University, as well as EMC Corp., of Hopkinton, an information storage, backup and recovery firm, and Cisco Systems Inc., a California-based Internet network equipment maker.