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Innovation drives success in Braintree, Mass.


From the September 12, 2013 issue of Public Power Daily

Originally published September 12, 2013

The Braintree Electric Light Department was a product of and continues to draw its success from innovation.

The Braintree, Mass., utility  was founded in 1891 by the lobbying of Thomas A. Watson, an innovator himself. Watson had worked with Alexander Graham Bell on the development of the telephone. Thanks to Watson’s persistence, Braintree was one of the first public power utilities in the state, writes David L. Blaylock in an article for Public Power magazine.

Since then, the town located eight miles from Boston along the Massachusetts Bay has provided innovative solutions for its growing customer base. 

As fuel prices skyrocketed in the 1970s, some citizens called for selling the utility to Boston Edison—now NSTAR. A study of this idea helped strengthen Braintree’s argument to remain a municipal utility: $13 million of no-cost assets to the taxpayers and a geographic state that allowed the department to run more efficiently than if it was centralized elsewhere. Upon learning this, rather than selling off the utility, the Braintree Town Meeting voted to issue $22 million in bonds to help the municipal utility run even better, money that would be used to build Potter II, one of the first combined-cycle plants in the country.

In 2004, the utility’s generation fleet grew again with the construction of two 58-MW single-cycle gas turbines. Mixed with some nuclear contracts, all the new plants, and a few additional units, the utility’s generation is 215 MW against a peak load of 93.5, said Energy Services and Accounting Manager Ken Stone. The utility also has a demonstration solar array on the roof of its main building.

The profile of Braintree Electric Light Department, "Founded by, Driven by Innovators," is posted on publicpower.org.

Subscriptions to the electronic and print editions of Public Power and all other APPA periodicals are free to all employees and governing board members of APPA member utilities and associate members. An online subscription signup form is on publicpower.org.

 

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Jeanne Wickline LaBella
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