How to pay for potential temporary or permanent generators to ensure that Hull homeowners, tenants, and businesses do not find themselves without power in the event of a National Grid outage is an ongoing conversation among Hull Municipal Light Board members.
The Hull Municipal Light Plant paid $850,000 from its emergency reserve fund to lease and operate five diesel fuel-powered temporary generators to avert the possibility that residents could lose electricity this winter should a power outage occur.
While the generators, which are in trailers located near the traffic lights on George Washington Boulevard, have not been activated yet except during a test run at the beginning of the season, more than a month remains before March 31 when the contract expires.
While there was no “hard discussion” at the board’s Feb. 18 meeting about how the light plant could manage the cost of renting/purchasing temporary or permanent generators for future use, the issue will be on the board’s March 18 agenda, Light Board Chairman Patrick Cannon told The Hull Times.
At that time, representatives from the Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Co. (MMWEC), which Cannon said represents and advises several of the state’s 43 municipal light departments, including Hull’s, will participate in the remote meeting.
The nonprofit MMWEC, through a public energy partnership established in 1969, provides services, expertise, and strategic planning to help municipal utilities optimize their energy resources and find value in the shifting structure of New England’s wholesale power markets.
“MMWEC is in the position to explain our power portfolio and to do the math” related to the costs involved with possibly installing generators in the future, to explain the financial impacts of doing so, and to make recommendations on how best to pay for them if the decision is made to do so, Cannon said. “They are the experts.”
National Grid-related power losses are often of long duration and are more difficult to resolve than outages for which the light plant is responsible because many of the feeder lines are located in Hingham in a wooded area that can be difficult to access, especially at nighttime, town officials have noted in the past.
The frequency of lengthy National Grid power outages led to the decision to rent the generators this year. “There was also the need to ensure that people would remain safe, dry, and warm in their homes because, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the town would not have been able to open its usual warming centers should an outage occur,” Cannon explained. “Fortunately, we could accomplish that with the use of temporary generators.”
If the town were to decide to rent or purchase temporary or permanent generators, a suitable location would need to be found.
“We had been looking at the landfill as a possible location, but the capping project makes that look less and less likely,” Cannon said. “We would have to find the next-best location – town land we could use or other property that is available that coincides with the main overhead feeder lines.”
The current location works well, Cannon acknowledged, “but it’s on state land, and we only have temporary permission to use the property.”