Monthly rate to increase 8.4% in Sept.
The Hull Municipal Light Board last week decided to move forward with a rate increase to cover the cost of renting backup generators again next winter to ensure that residents maintain their electric power and are kept warm in the event of a prolonged power outage. About 17 residents attended the two-hour, in-person public hearing.
The average residential electric bill will rise by $6.97 a month for one year starting Sept. 1, based on an 8.4 percent increase. The generators will be available, as needed, from Dec. 1 through March 31.
“This will be an annual decision,” Light Board Chair Patrick Cannon told The Hull Times after the meeting. “If in a future year the decision is made not to lease generators, this charge would come off customers’ bills.”
Some ratepayers at the meeting were of the opinion that National Grid should be held responsible for addressing and resolving the issue of numerous lengthy and stressful power outages that have occurred in the past.
Other residents with generators of their own believe they should be exempted from the increase. But doing so “would be too difficult,” Cannon explained. “The generators are for the overall good of the community” as other town government expenditures, “and if the generators are used, those with their own won’t have to use theirs or pay the cost of the fuel to run them during that time.” About 400 ratepayers have already installed generators of their own, while roughly 3,800 do not have them.
Cannon also gave assurances during the meeting that the Light Board continues to address the outage issue with National Grid. “However, these things take time, and we’re trying to keep people as comfortable as possible [in the meantime],” he said.
The amount of the increase “is a great deal for four months of insurance that residents and business owners won’t lose their heat, hot water, and a freezer-load of food in the event of a [lengthy National Grid] outage this coming winter,” he said.
“I got a sense at the end of the hearing,” he added, “that most of those in attendance were in agreement” to move forward with leasing generators again this year.
While others participating in the meeting wondered why the Light Plant was not paying to lease the generators out of its savings this time around, as was the case last winter, Cannon explained that is not an expense the plant can continue to absorb.
Even though the temporary generators installed in December, at a cost of $850,000, were not put into use because there were no significant power outages, residents and other customers had the benefit of knowing that they would not be without power during a prolonged outage.
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 night, according to town officials.
Of Hull light plant’s 6,200 customers, about 4,200 are residential. The plant also provides power to all the town’s municipal buildings, the Coast Guard (including the two lighthouses), and restaurants and other businesses in town. The average dollar amount increase for commercial customers will vary from the amount that will be paid by residential customers, according to Cannon.