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Holden electricity rates to go down as Seabrook debt is paid off

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By George Barnes
Telegram & Gazette Staff

Dec. 22, 2015

HOLDEN - At the start of the new year, customers of Holden Municipal Light Co. will find some pleasant news in their light bills, and that trend may continue into the near future.

As of Jan. 1, electric rates for all of the utility's customers will be reduced by three-quarters of a cent per kilowatt-hour. For residential customers who use 600 kilowatt-hours per month, the savings would be $4.50 per month on their bills. The rate reduction for non-residential customers who use 10,000 kilowatt-hours per month, the monthly savings would be $75.

Light company General Manager James S. Robinson said the reduction is partly because of lower fossil fuel costs, but mainly from the retiring of debt owed for the building of the Seabrook nuclear power plant.

"We're finally paying it off," he said.

Mr. Robinson said Holden, as a member of the Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Co., owns a piece of both the Seabrook Station nuclear plant in Seabrook, New Hampshire, and the Millstone Unit 3 nuclear plant in Waterford, Connecticut. He said Seabrook began generating power in 1990, but Holden has been invested in the plant since the 1970s when it was first being built. MMWEC as a whole owns 11.59 percent of Seabrook, or 144 of the 1,244 megawatts the plant produces.

"We've been involved from the beginning," he said.

Mr. Robinson said paying off the Seabrook debt should mean significant decreases in costs for the Holden utility in 2016 and 2017. He said he is not ready to suggest the possibility of future rate decreases, but this coming year ratepayers will benefit.

The reduction amounts to about a 5 percent decrease in electric rates. Mr. Robinson said the current rate for the average rate payer is $13.75 per kilowatt-hour. It would drop to $13. The reduced rate will cut revenues for the light company, but still pay expenses through fiscal 2019. The top 20 customers served by the Holden Municipal Light Co. will save about $200,000 per year, according to Mr. Robinson.

At $67.27 per month for 500 kilowatt-hours, Holden is on the lower end of the rates for utilities serving communities in Central Massachusetts. The highest rate of the 12 utilities in Central Massachusetts, according to a chart provided by the light company to the Holden Board of Selectmen, is Princeton at $121.48 and the lowest is Boylston at $59. Other communities with rates lower than Holden are Shrewsbury, at $62.98 and West Boylston at $62.64.

The Holden rates last changed in July 2014 to recover high power costs from the previous winter, but have remained stable in 2015. In the light company's 2016 operating budget, revenues are set at $14,052,627, with expenses slightly lower at $14,036,204, for net income of $16,423.