Ayer mulls starting local utility

AYER, MASSACHUSSETTS - Selectmen recently agreed to spend $30,000 in grant money to start researching potential benefits of creating a municipal electric company.

If nothing else, the town could save about $30,000 annually by buying the streetlights in town from National Grid, said Roger Beeltje, former chief executive for Groton Municipal Power Corp. The town pays National Grid about $60,000 a year for the lights, said Selectman Connie Sullivan. The town would save money by changing its own fixtures and installing more efficient equipment, Beeltje said during a recent board meeting. "Do the street lights now," he said. "I know there are... substantial savings there."

The town will use money from the Urban Development Action Grant to hire a consultant.

Beeltje said he's retired and not interested in the job. Owning a municipal department is a huge value for a community but there hasn't been a new municipal light department created in the state in about 80 years, Beeltje said. "It's also the highest financial risk and least chance of happening," he said.

If the town were to create its own electricity, it would need to use diesel, biomass, wind or some other form of fuel. Cooperative electric plants around the country are able to negotiate rates in order to attract businesses to their communities, Beeltje said. If the town were to create its own electric department, it would still need to pay for transportation and distribution costs unless it were to buy the power lines used to send the electricity to homes and businesses in town.

The town is part of the Constellation New Energy consortium paying 7 1/2 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity compared to about 11 or 11 1/2 cents for electricity from National Grid, said Town Administrator Shaun Suhoski.


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