Kevin Kelly

Jul 052015
 

I am excited that we have finally moved into our new facilities. During the moving process, I have received many comments. Most of them have been positive, but some of them have indicated a concern that our new facilities are going to result in higher rates for our customers. I am happy to declare that the new facilities will not cause a change in your rates.

To fully understand why the completion of a $4 million dollar facility will not cause a change in your rates you need some historical information. The old GELD facilities had been inadequate for our needs for a long time. Because the need for new facilities was apparent to previous management, the plan for new office and garage facilities began about 20 years ago. At that time, a building fund was initiated and an average of $100,000 per year was deposited into that fund for 20 years — this resulted in a $2 million pool of money that was used as the down payment for the new facilities. GELD borrowed the other $2 million and the bond payments will be paid over the next 20 years at a cost of approximately $140,000 per year. So, in rough terms we paid for half of the building over the last 20 years and will pay for the other half over the next 20 years, with a minimal change in cash flow.
Over the last two years, the rest of Massachusetts has seen huge increases in electric rates while GELD added a temporary power cost adjustment to offset the high power costs in the winter months. Our neighbors have seen their electric rates increase 40 percent over the last two years. I am thrilled to report the rates in Groton for the previous 12 months are 84.4 percent below Unitil and 55.2 percent below National Grid.

GELD’s long-term outlook is very favorable compared to our neighbors, since our nuclear debt will drop substantially at the end of 2016 and disappear in 2017. As this occurs there will be an even greater discrepancy in rates between us and the surrounding towns.

Unfortunately the long term outlook for all of New England is not so good. The inability to transport natural gas into the region during the winter months will make us dependent on the world oil and LNG markets to determine our cost of power during the colder part of the year. While the rest of the United States is seeing an energy renaissance, electric costs in New England will be determined by the world oil market prices.

Some components of GELD’s costs (which are also built into customer rates) are expected to rise over the next several years. Transmission costs, which are the costs to transport electricity from the generators to our substation, are expected to continue their steady rise. They have increased fourfold over the last ten years going from approximately ½ cent to over 2 cents per kilowatt-hour and are expected to increase over the next five years. Capacity costs, which are the costs associated with our contribution to New England’s one peak hour each year, are expected to increase three fold over the next four years which will result in an additional $1 million per year in costs for the GELD ratepayers (about a 12 percent increase in total costs).

In conclusion, you will probably see your electric rates increase slightly over the next five years, but due to many prudent decisions that have been made over the last decade, that rate of increase will be substantially lower than our neighbors.
Sincerely,

Kevin P. Kelly
GELD Manager


Jun 062014
 

I have received many comments from our ratepayers over the last week, similar to: “I am sure the people of Groton would prefer to pay a little more money on their bill rather than have a new pipeline built.”

First let me say, a new pipeline is not an option, it is a necessity, as you will see below. As a resident of Groton, you have an ownership interest in the Stony Brook Energy Center, Ludlow, Massachusetts. The Stony Brook power plant is a dual-fueled facility meaning it can burn natural gas or diesel fuel. The preference is to burn natural gas, but when natural gas is not available, the power plant has to burn diesel fuel (which is roughly the same as heating oil).

Last winter, Stony Brook burned 7.6 million gallons of oil during times when natural gas was unavailable. By law, residential natural gas customers’ needs must be met before electric generators can access natural gas. Because the natural gas transportation system could not meet the electrical generation needs of New England, Stony Brook had to burn diesel fuel. To meet last winter’s electricity needs, almost every oil and diesel generator in New England was running, causing higher electricity and heating oil prices.

We have a math problem for the future. The phasing out of coal in New England is now nearly complete In addition, there are serious and successful efforts to close nuclear plants in the region as well. With the recent closure and soon-to-close coal and nuclear plants, our region is in need of an additional 600,000 Mcf (1,000 cubic feet) or 0.6 bcf (billion cubic feet) natural gas supply that does not currently exist.

The information below shows the number of megawatts per hour that retiring plants are able to generate.

  • Last week Salem Harbor coal plant closed (720 MW)
  • This year Vermont Yankee nuclear facility is closing (605 MW)
  • In 2017 Brayton Point coal plant is closing (1535 MW)

Just these three closings = 2,860 MW = 2,860,000 kW

To put the size of these closings in perspective, the all time New England peak electric load is 28,130 MW. Closing these three plants retires 10% of our electric generating capacity and the worst part is these plants ran 24 hours a day, 7 days a week last winter so the effect of these retirements is larger than 10%.

Another way to put this into perspective: If it were possible to replace these plants with wind or solar it would be equivalent to about 1,900 new wind turbines running at capacity 24/7 (there were fewer than 400 in New England last year) or 14,300 acres of solar farms (an area equal to 70 percent the area of Groton) with the sun shining full force 24/7. In practice, a wind turbine only generates about 30 percent of its capacity and solar only 14 percent. As a result, natural gas-fired power generation is needed when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining.

Just to make up for these three closings we need 538,338 Mcf of natural gas per day. If you would like to see the math detail, it is at the end.

Building gas transportation that can deliver 600 million cubic feet of natural gas per day just keeps us where we are today with the three plant closings. Stony Brook would still be burning 7.6 million gallons of diesel fuel during a winter comparable to last winter and there would not be natural gas available for economic growth or new residential and commercial natural gas customers.

New energy supplies are critical for future economic growth in New England and to meet additional residential and commercial customers. It is likely the needfor new natural gas supplies will require at least 2 Billion cubic feet of natural gas pipe line.

The path for the pipe is the debate. Neither GELD nor I are invested in the path. The need for the pipeline(s) is a reality.

Sincerely,

Kevin P. Kelly

Highly technical math below.
The New England average heat rate for natural gas generating facilities is 8039 Btu/kWhr
1 Mcf of natural gas will yield 1.025 MMBtu (Million Btu) of energy
Plant closings for coal and nuclear in 2014 and announced are 2,860 MW
2,860,000 kW multiplied by 8039 Btu/kW = 22,991 MMBtu/hr
22,991 MMBtu/hr divided by 1.025 MMBtu/Mcf = 22,430 Mcf/hr
Multiplied by 24 hours in a day = 538,338 Mcf/day or 0.538 bcf/day


Sep 142012
 

Over the past several years there have been multiple political mandates on utility companies to increase the percentage of renewable power in their portfolios. GELD is currently analyzing options to meet the spirit of these mandates and save our ratepayers money by considering the addition of carbon-free solar power to our diversified energy portfolio. The flat land on our Nate Nutting parcel just west of the transmission line is large enough for a 1 MW solar farm. GELD has filed an ENF (Environmental Notification Form) with the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs to begin the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) review of this option.

The Nate Nutting parcel was generously donated to the Light Department by Bob Lacombe and Dave Moulton in July of 2002. There was no cost to the ratepayers for this land. This land is bordered on the north side by our three phase line that travels along the old Nate Nutting Road which is no longer a through street. The high tension easement bisects this property. This location on a transmission line is a strategic location for a future substation which GELD will need if town electric usage grows.

To be able to make an informed decision regarding a 1 MW solar farm on this land, we need to analyze the costs to permit and develop this project. That is only one part of the analysis. The second part is the economics for this project would also have to be financially favorable before we would begin construction. The availability of relatively inexpensive natural gas in the US makes economical solar power particularly challenging. If this project were to go forward, it would represent about 6% of our peak power when the sun is shining. GELD will keep you informed as the analysis proceeds. At the present time we are expecting to receive the results of our ENF filing under the MEPA by September 21.

GELD is far from a decision point regarding this solar farm and we are analyzing it like any other option in our portfolio. We are announcing a public meeting on Tuesday September 25th at 7:00 p.m., on the potential solar farm, to inform our ratepayers during this early stage in the process and to hear what you think. The meeting will be held in our lineman’s facility on Station Avenue. If you plan on attending, please send an email to kpkelly@grotonelectric.org or give us a call at 978-448-1150 so we can consider a larger location if the interest level is high.

Sincerely,

Kevin Kelly
Manager


Dec 282011
 

Our customers are well aware that when Mother Nature shows her full force and wreaks havoc with our distribution system, the staff of the Groton Electric Light Department will work tirelessly to restore power to all of our customers. In severe cases, we call in mutual aid from other municipal light departments to help restore power as quickly as possible.

What customers may not know, however, is that the restoration process can be greatly enhanced by the assistance of local highway, public works and safety personnel. We would like to take this opportunity to thank these Groton town employees, whose help was invaluable during Tropical Storm Irene and the Halloween Storm in October.

Both storms, particularly the freak October blizzard, caused immense tree damage. Mutual aid utility crews from Concord, Mansfield, Paxton, Princeton and Rowley, came to our aid after the snowstorm destroyed parts of the system. Roads were impassable and access to damaged utility equipment was blocked by a tangled mess of trees, limbs and wires.

This did not deter the Highway, Water, Fire and Police departments in Groton, however. It did not matter what, where or when we needed them; their crews were ready to help. They cleared roads, moved whole trees, and did whatever was asked of them. They were always just a call away. Without the help in clearing the way and keeping the roads safe, the Groton Electric Light Department and the mutual aid crews would have been severely hampered in their efforts to restore power to our customers.

We would like all of our customers to know just how admirably their local departments performed during these recent storms and how vital their assistance was in power restoration. On behalf of the employees of the Groton Electric Light Department, we sincerely thank our local Highway, Water, Fire and Police Departments and the mutual aid crews who helped us to restore power as quickly and safely as possible.

Sincerely,
Kevin Kelly,
Manager GELD


Oct 292011
 

As the Halloween nor’easter blows into town with a load of snow that is now forecast to be a foot, give or take an inch or two, some power outages are already being reported as this is posted, with 12 hours of storm left to go. In anticipation of the storm, Groton Electric Light Department’s manager, Kevin Kelly, has emailed GELD’s winter storm tips.

It is very hard to predict Saturday evening”s weather at this point in time, but it looks like we will be receiving a large amount of wet snow, there most likely will be power outages.
Since the leaves are still on the trees, heavy wet snow could cause a number of trees to fall.
If it looks like we will receive a large amount of wet snow, I recommend that our customers with well pumps fill up their bathtubs at the start of the storm.
An article from our January 2010 newsletter is below.
The link to the newsletter is http://grotonelectric.org/pdf/Groton%2001-01-10.pdf

Be prepared for winter storms

  • Now is the time to prepare for unexpected power outages and other emergencies that can happen during winter storms.
  • Even with the best engineering and construction, no electric system is immune from the power of Mother Nature, especially during severe winter storms. And electricity is just one of the services that can be lost during an emergency.
  • That”s why experts recommend that you consider what your family would need to survive at least 72 hours without any outside help, and make plans to meet those needs. Here are some ideas to get you started:
  • Ensure that each member of your household has a warm coat, gloves and mittens, hat, and water-resistant boots.
  • Make sure your home has flashlights or other non-electric light sources, a battery-operated radio, and extra batteries.
  • Keep a well-stocked first-aid kit on hand, along with at least one week of essential prescription medications.
  • Assemble at least a three-day supply of nonperishable food and bottled water. Remember to include a non-electric can opener.
  • Have extra blankets and sleeping bags on hand.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher handy (A-B-C type).
  • If your household includes babies or pets, don”t forget things like baby formula, diapers, and pet food.
  • Assemble a 72-hour supplies kit that can fit in the trunk of a car if you need to evacuate quickly.
  • Make an emergency communications plan and a plan for getting back together if family members are separated – a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school.

Hope we all have an uneventful weekend,
Kevin Kelly


Mar 092011
 
Groton Electric Light Crews and Contractors Remove Tree on Route 40

Groton Electric Light Crews and Contractors Remove Tree on Route 40

Groton Electric Light Department Manager Kevin Kelly sent in this photo of GELD crews and contractors removing this tall and potentially troublesome pine along S. R. 40 on Tuesday, March 8.

“Groton Electric Light has been watching this tree for years,” he said in an e-mail. “Over the last decade as the tree has grown taller, the center of mass has moved out closer to Rt. 40. Because of its location, if this tree fell, it would take out the electricity to the entire town of Groton so GELD chose to eliminate this risk on the morning of March 8, 2011. GELD would like to thank its staff and contractors, Mead Tree and Astro Crane for their professional work done in a dangerous area.”