The Hull Light Board will hold a public hearing next month about a proposed rate increase to cover the cost of leasing generators again next winter. The additional charge would represent about an 8.4 percent increase on the average bill, according to Light Board Chair Patrick Cannon.
The remote meeting is scheduled for Thursday, July 22, at 6:30 p.m. to provide an opportunity for ratepayers make their opinions known. Details on how to join the meeting will be posted on the town website closer to that time.
“We’re hoping to make a decision at that meeting to move forward with the generation process,” Cannon said.
The temporary generators installed last December at the Light Plant’s expense at a cost of $850,000 were not put into use because there were no significant power outages. But Cannon told The Hull Times that residents and other customers at least had the benefit of knowing they were available if necessary, providing a measure of comfort following numerous lengthy and stressful power outages in the past.
“People knew that in the event of a 24- to 48-hour outage that was beyond our control, they wouldn’t [lose their heat] or a refrigerator-full of food due [to long-standing] National Grid infrastructure issues,” he said.
At the board’s June 10 meeting, representatives from the Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Co., which Cannon said represents and advises a large number of the state’s 43 municipal light departments, including Hull’s, participated in a continuation of an ongoing discussion of a proposal to install five leased generators again next winter – from Dec. 1 through April 1, the same time frame as last year.
“This would be a small increase in exchange for four months of protection provided by generators in the event of a major outage,” he said. The decision of whether or not to lease generators for the upcoming winter will be made on an annual basis.
Of Hull Light Plant’s 6,200 customers, about 4,200 are residential, according to Cannon. 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.
While acknowledging that about 400 ratepayers have already installed generators of their own, Cannon said the Light Board’s charge is to watch out for the best interests of all its customers, including the approximately 3,800 who do not have their own generators.
“Those who do have them would at least benefit from not having to run them during the four months the leased generators will be in place in the event of a [significant] outage,” he said.
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, according to town officials.