Did you know that Sterling has one of the lowest rates for electricity in Massachusetts?
Our twelve month (ending June 2019) average rate for residential power is13.7¢ per kWh (kilowatt hour). The price changes from month to month, depending on what power generating companies charge us. In Boston, the average rate for the year is 24.25¢. Nearby, Worcester and Leominster pay 24.2¢, and in Fitchburg the cost is 26.6¢, almost twice what we pay here in Sterling.
How are we so fortunate?
It wasn’t always so. Back in the ‘90s, Sterling had one of the highest rates in the state. A proposal to sell our electrical department came before the town meeting. People were pretty frustrated at the cost situation, but voted to keep our municipal light department because of the reliable service. With a big supplier like National Grid, our problems probably would not be a priority, compared with Boston or Worcester or Newton.
SMLC has undergone a transformation since those days. The infrastructure has been rebuilt and expanded to support the growing number of homes — an additional 350 in the 1990’s alone. And rebuilt again after the devastating storm in 2008. Staffing has been trimmed from 19 back in the 90’s to 12 today, a substantial savings. The debts allocated to Sterling for building Seabrook (yes, a long time ago) and a substation have finally expired. You’ve probably read about Sterling’s solar power farm and our battery storage. With our solar, and careful sourcing, 72% of our power is carbon free, from renewables, which are less subject to price shocks from international events. Those batteries, an award-winning innovation, saved us $1.3 Million in transmission costs in the last three years. As a result of 2 decades of improvements, costs dropped to about 18¢ per kWh in 2010 and down to 13.7¢ per kWh today.
How does this affect your household budget?
Residential electricity consumption in Massachusetts averages 627 kWh/month. If you happened to be an average household, you’d pay $86 in Sterling vs. $167 in Fitchburg. Most households do not use electric heat, because at one time it was the most expensive option. Technology has vastly improved efficiency of electric heat, making it a better deal than oil or gas. It’s time to reset our assumptions on costs.
Projected heating costs (according to mass.gov) for ‘average’ Massachusetts household this year are $2,500 for 712 gallons of heating oil, and $1800 for 595 gallons of propane. But the 3,164 kWh an average household used for electric heat only costs $433 in Sterling. I’m sorry I couldn’t get any reliable numbers for pellets, which are typically more efficient (and less costly) than oil or gas.
So when your uncle in Fitchburg tells you electric heat costs a fortune, tell him “Not in Sterling it doesn’t.”
If you are half-way considering replacing your burner, check out grants and rebates. You might save $2,000 in fuel costs per year by ditching your oil burner — and live in much, much healthier indoor air.
Mitsubishi mini-split HVAC units are a great technology that both cools and heats. I love mine. Rebates for Sterling residents are listed at http://www.munihelps.org.