Opportune time to invest in clean energy for the future
Monthly MA Residential Electric Bills: 2006 to 2012
BOSTON – Thursday, May 17, 2012 – The Department of Public Utilities (DPU) yesterday approved NSTAR’s lowest electric rates since 2004, the latest example of how falling natural gas prices have benefited Massachusetts ratepayers. Driven by lower prices for natural gas used to fuel power plants, electricity prices have dropped significantly from their peak in 2008 and 2009, resulting in total household bills reduced by almost 25 percent. Average bills for residential customers have dropped from about $150 per month to about $112 today.
Even though current commodity prices for energy are low, U.S. Department of Energy officials say energy prices are volatile and, over the long-term, likely to increase.
“While lower rates are great news for consumers, we should not break from our commitment to support renewable sources of energy and investing in energy efficiency because Massachusetts sits at the end of the energy pipeline,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Rick Sullivan. “It is imperative we take advantage of this breather in energy cost increases to redouble our efforts to bring on line new clean energy sources that do not rely on dirty fossil fuels.”
In March, DPU approved rate cuts of 19 percent in electric charges for residential customers of National Grid, and yesterday the DPU approved a 16 percent decrease in rates for residential customers of NSTAR. NSTAR’s newly approved rates translate into that company’s lowest electricity prices since 2004.
“As the state moves out of recession, this is welcome news for residential, commercial and industrial electricity customers,” said DPU Chair Ann Berwick. “As the price of the energy commodity continues to drop, we will make sure that utility companies pass these savings on to customers.”
The DPU is charged with ensuring that the utilities procure reliable power for their basic service customers through open and competitive bidding, which results in prices that are set for several months at a time and reviews these contracts to ensure that they are in line with market conditions.
“This is welcome news for Massachusetts ratepayers, but there is more work to be done,” said State Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee. “We must continue the work of meeting our clean energy and energy efficiency goals in the most cost effective way possible, so this news is not the exception, but the norm.”
Demand for energy in expanding economies like China and India, turmoil in the Middle East, and the shift from nuclear energy to natural gas in Japan following the nuclear accident there in 2011 all provide upward pressure on energy prices in the future. The Green Communities Act, signed by Governor Deval Patrick in 2008, sets out the state’s ambitious policy to reduce energy costs, diversify sources of power generation away from fossil fuels and promote new clean energy technologies.
Massachusetts lacks indigenous fossil fuel sources and spends $22 billion each year to run power plants, fuel vehicles and businesses, and heat buildings. Of that sum, Massachusetts spends 80 percent on foreign energy sources such as those in other states, Canada, South America, and the Middle East. That’s nearly $18 billion in lost economic opportunity that Massachusetts stands poised to reclaim through investments in home-grown renewable energy and energy efficiency such as those supported by Green Communities grants.