Shrewsbury Chronicle

Note: bold by the Lexington Electric Utility Committee

Electric rates to increase 10 percent
By Kevin Doherty/Correspondent Thu Aug 28, 2008

Prepare to dig a little deeper in those pockets this winter, thanks again to those rising gas and oil prices.

Shrewsbury Electric, Light and Cable Operations (SELCO) will be increasing the rates for residential electricity by 10 percent as of Sept. 1. For instance, a household using 500 kilowatt hours per month will see its bill rise from $56.20 to $61.75 – an additional $5.55 per month.

"The increases are due primarily to the cost of fuel,"" said SELCO General Manager Thomas Josie. "Electricity is powered by natural gas and oil, and we all know what is happening with gas."

Josie added, that oil prices have significantly increased in the past year too. Also, the cost to move the electricity from the generation source to Shrewsbury was increased in June by approximately 38 percent. SELCO pays the owners of the transmission lines to move the electricity.

Josie said he was not surprised in the increasing electricity rates, as it is occurring in towns and cities all across Massachusetts and New England. Despite the increases, Shrewsbury electricity rates are about 28 percent less per month than neighboring communities.

In 2009, Josie said there are likely to be additional increases in the electricity rates. The low-cost power supply contract that SELCO signed in 2002 will be expiring next year. The new power supply contract will be at a significantly higher cost, said Josie. The cost of electricity is expected to increase by an additional 20 percent over the coming year.

"There will need to be additional increases to the electricity rate next March and then again in September," said Josie. "However, that can all change with the prices of oil and gas too."
SELCO does offer programs for low-income families and the elderly during times of need.

Josie said SELCO works closely with the South Middlesex Opportunity Council (SMOC) for fuel assistance, which in turn, helps cover the cost of electricity and heating. SELCO also runs a program entitled Share the Warmth.

The Share the Warmth Program is an annual program each winter that helps low-income families in Shrewsbury during the cold-winter months. Josie said the program runs off donations given by residents. An envelope is enclosed in every customer’s electricity bill and they are encouraged to donate for those who may be unable to afford their electric and heating bills.

SELCO along with other municipal plants in Massachusetts are involved in a wind turbine project in the Berkshires. The project is a small step towards protecting against future power supply cost increases. The project will be operational by 2010, said Josie.

"Three percent of our electricity will come from the project, which isn’t much, but it is a step in the right direction."

Some ways to help reduce the impact of the rising rates is to clearly be conservative, said Josie. Simple things like turning off the lights when you’re not using them, and turning down the air conditioner a little. Also, buying compact fluorescent light bulbs and energy star appliances will help save electricity.