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April 22, 2013

Peabody plant lowers cost of electricity

PEABODY — If the warm weather ever comes, feel a bit freer about turning on the air conditioning.

The Peabody Municipal Light Plant has lowered the cost of electricity, at least until the end of June. The second-quarter reduction would reduce the average bill from $58.98 to $57.68 a month, a 2.2 percent drop from the winter rate.

That’s about a buck, and it might not seem like much, but officials at the plant declare that you’re getting the cheapest energy around.

“Ratepayers in Peabody are fortunate,” Light Commissioner Thomas D’Amato said. “Our residential rates are always among the lowest ... in the state. ... We’re dropping it because the price is where we can do that.”

To enjoy the low rate, however, you have to get your payment in on time. There’s a 20 percent discount for those that pay promptly, and 85 percent of customers get their money in ahead of the deadline, D’Amato said.

The system encourages prompt payments, but he also acknowledges that it makes life more expensive for precisely the people who are having financial difficulties, who might be out of work or on fixed incomes.

“We work with people,” D’Amato said in response.

The latest price drop reflects the general fluctuation in energy costs that can be seen at the gas station, according to spokeswoman Kristina Frizzell. The plant produces energy, but most of Peabody’s electricity is purchased from other companies, and it’s generated from oil, nuclear reactions and natural gas. Those costs have declined.

Prices typically retreat at this time of year. Payments are kept low by buying fuel in advance, according to Frizzell.

The Light Plant is a quasi-public entity, D’Amato explains, with its commissioners elected and paid a stipend. Profits are returned to the ratepayers, and $40,000 per month is paid to the city in lieu of taxes.

Commercial rates have also dropped about 1.3 percent, and industrial users are saving 4 percent in their monthly bills.

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