DPU Commissioner discusses energy

DPU Commissioner David Cash

HADLEY – Massachusetts is getting cleaner when it comes to energy, said Massachusetts Public Utilities Commissioner David W. Cash.
Cash presented a report in Hadley earlier this month outlining an economic view of the clean energy agenda, including benefits, costs and rates that he foresees for the future.
Cash said Massachusetts spends $22 billion a year on energy, 80 percent of which leaves the state. Most of that $22 billion – $9.2 billion- is spent on gasoline. Another $5.2 billion is spent on natural gas, $5 billion is spent on fuel oil, such as for heating and diesel, $1.4 billion is spent on jet fuel, and $0.3 billion is spent on coal. Cash added that Massachusetts is at the end of the energy pipeline.
Cash’s presentation showed that energy costs are going down overall. He said while there may be a low now, energy costs will inevitably rise and remain volatile.
When it comes to electricity, Cash compared the rates of NSTAR, Western Massachusetts Electric and National Grid and said the average monthly residential bill for all three has dropped since 2006. Natural gas prices have also declined and Cash cited the natural gas commodity price dropped in April, 2012 to $1.95 and increased to $2.82 in September of this year.
Sean Fitzgerald, energy specialist for Westfield Gas and Electric, offered a residential electric and gas rate comparison of WG&E from January to December, 2012.
WG&E had an average yearly rate of $730.54 per residential user for electricity, compared to National Grid’s $833.94 and Western Mass Electric’s $966.72. The data, provided by the Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Co., was based on average residential use of 500KWH per month. Westfield residents paid 14 percent below the state average.
WG&E’s average residential user paid $924.21, while Columbia Gas customers paid $936.65 and Berkshire Gas users paid $1,019.52. The cost was based on average residential customer use of 756Cd during this time period. Fitzgerald said Westfield residents paid 11.50 percent below the state average.
Fitzgerald said WG&E is able to maintain lower rates because it is not investor-owned.
“We don’t have the overhead that a large investor-owned company has and we don’t have to pay shareholders,” said Fitzgerald.
The benefits of program investments is rising, Cash said. In 2012, a cost of just under $1,000 yieled a benefit worth nearly $2,500.
“For every billion we invest (in energy efficiency) we get 2.5 billion back,” said Cash. “Energy efficiency provides benefits for every dollar of program costs invested, and over $5 per dollar invested for businesses.”
Fitzgerald said much of Cash’s presentation revolved around cost benefits.
“He said that the distribution cost remain relatively consistent and the transmission cost are fixed by the federal government so the major control we can have on our costs is the commodity portion. He went on to say having renewable and demand response can help reduce those cost,” said Fitzgerald.
Since 2007, Cash said there has been a clean energy revolution that includes lower energy costs, clean energy sector growth, and environmental improvements.
Cumulative wind capacity and solar installations have risen dramatically in the past few years, and clean energy job growth has also risen steadily. Cash predicted there would be 80,405 clean energy jobs in 2013, an increase of 12.4 percent.  Clean energy job growth was 11.2  percent this year.
Cash said “the clean energy future is now” and cited improvements to local buildings, such as Middlefield Town Hall and Belchertown schools, as examples of how clean energy is being incorporated into projects.
“In western Mass., towns have been very progressive,” said Cash. “There were green communities out here well before the green energy act was passed.”

To read the report, click here.

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