WMECO

Facebook: Western Massachusetts Electric Company

Utility workers from Western Massachusetts are heading to Vermont to help crews there restore power to more than 22,000 customers after a Nor’easter blanketed the area with heavy, wet snow.

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Massachusetts’ highest court has reduced penalties imposed against two electric utilities by state regulators for their poor responses to a pair of 2011 storms that left hundreds of thousands of customers without power for days.

One of the biggest users of electricity in western Massachusetts is partnering with the region’s largest public utility company on a three-year action plan to increase energy efficiency.

Representatives of UMass Amherst and Western Massachusetts Electric Company signed an agreement Thursday to develop plans to reduce campus energy use by at least 2 percent annually for the next three years.

James Sheehan, UMass Vice Chancellor of Administration and Finance said if the electricity use reduction goals are met, it will save the university $1 million.

WAMC

A major utility company has started construction on a third large solar facility in western Massachusetts.  Despite being a northeast state Massachusetts has seen a boom in solar power over the last five years.

The new solar plant for Western Massachusetts Electric Company will contain over 13,000 solar panels that will generate 3.9 megawatts of electricity-enough to power more than 600 homes.  It is being built on a capped landfill on Springfield’s east side.  Company president Craig Hallstrom says it is the utility’s largest solar project so far.

National Weather Service

The snow and wind from the weekend’s winter storm knocked out power for hundreds of thousands of Bay State residents this weekend, but the while much of the state has had their electricity restored, residents in some areas are still waiting.

As of 10 am Monday morning, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency reported that 116,000 were still without power – including 93,000 NSTAR customers, and 23,000 served by National Grid.

On Tuesday, Massachusetts Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Rick Sullivan, Chair of the Department of Public Utilities Ann Berwick, and other officials, announced that their investigation to utilities’ response to Tropical Storm Irene and the October 2011 snow storm warranted $24.8 million in penalties to be returned to ratepayers.

State energy regulators have fined three Massachusetts utilities nearly $25 million for their response to two major storms in 2011.

The penalties were announced Tuesday by the Department of Public Utilities after a yearlong investigation.

Some customers were without power for a week after Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011 and a surprise October snowstorm.

       The Massachusetts Attorney General is getting tough with the state’s three largest investor owned utility companies.  Martha Coakley is proposing hefty fines over their responses to two major storms last year. She is also calling for a change in the standards used to measure the performance of the utility companies.   WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports