The lack of planning has threatened blackouts, made rates more volatile, and raised low-income rates. Remedies include long-term contracting for resources and improved low-income programs.
The Boston Globe
Saturday, February 26, 2005, page A10
Letters to the Editor
Dont leave energy issue to the marketplace
AS COSTLY AS electricity deregulation appears in the Globe ( Ratepayers face electric-bill jolt, Page A1, Feb. 22), the reality is much worse. World energy prices have little to do with skyrocketing electricity prices. The biggest cause is over-reliance on scarce, domestic natural gas.
Because planning is now left to the marketplace, we nearly ran out of natural gas to generate electricity last winter. Because utilities are allowed to contract for our electricity needs only one year in advance, prices bounce around as much as 80%, turning household budgets into a shambles. And because of anomalous rate discount rules, our lowest-income neighbors suffer from the highest price hikes, with heating bills that have doubled.
Utilities should acquire resources far enough in advance that we dont run out of electricity. And the companies should contract for periods long enough to stabilize prices and encourage financing of cheaper long-term resources, such as renewables. And we need to take better care of our least fortunate neighbors, who often struggle to pay as much as a quarter of their incomes for electricity and heat. Last winter a South Shore woman froze to death in her own home. When she was found, her thermostat was off.
Electricity is too important to leave to the risks of the marketplace.
The writer is counsel to the Massachusetts Association for Community Action.