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Utility to cut rates for power

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

CHICOPEE - Beginning in January, Chicopee Electric Light customers will see a slight reduction in their utility bills.

Chicopee Electric Light Manager Jeffrey R. Cady said a residential customer with normal usage will see a decrease of just over $3 a month.

The Purchase Power Adjustment will be reduced due to lower fuel costs and fixed energy contracts that have expired, he said.

While the reduction is scheduled to last throughout the year, Cady said, "It's going to depend on what happens with fuel prices. A lot has to do with natural gas prices and these have been down," said Cady.

The bills will reflect an increase in transmission charges due to significant increases in transmission costs related to transmission upgrades throughout New England but despite this, the overall bills will be reduced because fuel costs have gone down.

In the past three years, the municipal utility's transmission costs have doubled.

Cady said the cost of transmission is beyond CEL's control and is dicated by ISO-New England, the operator of the electric grid, to enhance system reliability.

In this area, the Greater Springfield Reliability Project is a $714 million plan to upgrade aging power lines in Western Massachusetts and northern Connecticut.

Last November, the utility reduced bills by 5 percent for the month of December, 2008.

This was due to several fixed price contracts entered into to help reduce the votality of wholesale electric prices.

Cady said the Chicopee Electric Light Commission consisting of members Carl Sittard, Thomas Collins and Chester Gazda approved the latest bill reductions.

Meanwhile, Cady announced the utility will begin upgrades at Westover Air Reserve Base in the spring of 2010.

Last June, Mayor Michael D. Bissonnette announced a partnership between the city and the base calling for millions of dollars in upgrades to electric distribution systems.

Cady said it is a five-year project. While Chicopee Electric Light already provides electrical service, it is more cost effective for the utility to handle the distribution system.

The upgrade calls for reconstruction and conversion of the old 4800-volt system to a 13,800-volt distribution system.

A 50-year contract has been signed with the U.S. government and Chicopee Electric Light to own, operate and maintain the base's electrical distribution system.

Earlier this year, Chicopee Electrical Light crews began inspecting more than 100 manholes and underground cable and checked on needed meter replacement in preparation for next year's construction.

The utility has undertaken a number of projects to improve the reliability of the electrical system on base including conducting an infra-red study of the overhead system to identify possible failure points.