TMLP: Being Adaptive and Innovative in a Changing Environment
The challenges of the past two years have required perseverance, determination and the ability to adapt to the changing environment around us. A global pandemic that started in early 2020 and lasted far beyond what we expected, made us find new ways of doing business as we worked to fulfill our mission of providing safe, reliable and cost-efficient electricity to Taunton Municipal Lighting Plant customers.
Much like the challenges we faced in 2020 and 2021, the state mandates to achieve 100% carbon-free emissions by 2050 will require TMLP to continue to adapt to a changing environment not only by being persistent and innovative, but also by being cognizant of our responsibility to fulfill our mission as well as our continued commitment to a sustainable future.
2021 marked my final full year as General Manager of the Taunton Municipal Lighting Plant after more than 32 years of service as a full-time employee, with seven-plus of those years as General Manager. Throughout the past three decades, I have seen first-hand TMLP’s ability not only to adapt to the myriad of changes within the electric utility industry and our own utility but to also succeed as well.
Although the way we do business was definitely tested by COVID-19 in 2021, it also enabled us to look within our own organization in terms of both the succession process and the organizational structure. In addition to selecting my successor as General Manager, TMLP started the process of making organizational changes that will lead us forward, and by the end of 2021 a Technology Services Department, Sustainability & Commercial Development Department and Financial Manager position were created and plans were drafted to address technology, sustainability and financial services.
It also became necessary to adapt our business model to reflect the changes in the world around us due to continued COVID restrictions and the need to keep our staff and customers safe. While a large part of our operations is conducted behind the scenes, the most recognizable faces of TMLP are those of our frontline staff who have traditionally interacted with customers in person, online, on the street or on the phone. Restrictions of the previous year naturally evolved into a decrease of in-person traffic into our business office and an increase in our online presence. Even with these restrictions our business model made a seamless transition into what had become the ‘new normal’ and a new innovative way to provide exceptional customer service.
Our commitment to exceptional customer service paralleled our commitment to cost-effective rates, reliable service and the securing of carbon-free energy which are all in the forefront of all TMLP operations. Our distributed generation project was responsible for saving more than $1 million in transmission and capacity costs for TMLP customers, the battery storage unit completed its first full year in operation and resulted in additional significant cost-savings. Our continued enhancement of energy saving programs and incentives including the 100% Go Green rate have helped reduce our peak load throughout 2021. We also continued to secure power supply contracts in 2021 that will enable us to increase our carbon-free energy sources and we received a Department of Energy Resources’ grant for a heat pump pilot program with the Taunton Housing Authority that will result in energy-savings for the City of Taunton.
TMLP was also the recipient of several prestigious APPA awards, including a Reliable Public Power Provider (RP3) award – Diamond Level, Smart Energy Provider Award (SEP) for the second consecutive time and a Certificate of Excellence in Reliability for exceeding the average for all US electric utilities for reliable electric service.
The Taunton Municipal Lighting Plant faced the challenges and opportunities in 2021 by embracing change and making innovative decisions. As I prepare to end my tenure with TMLP, I look back on my career as both an honor and a privilege to serve the ratepayers and to have worked with an extraordinary staff.
I look forward to following the remarkable progress of TMLP with my fellow ratepayers.
Incoming General Manager
In 2021, I had the honor of being selected as the new General Manager of the Taunton Municipal Lighting Plant, effective in March 2022. My 25-year career at TMLP has been both enlightening and rewarding as I have become increasingly involved in all aspects of TMLP especially in my position as Business Manager and most recently as Assistant General Manager under the leadership of Kenneth Goulart.
I am grateful for the guidance I have received from Ken as I make the transition from Assistant General Manager to General Manager. He has been an integral part of TMLP for more than three decades and I am honored to have worked with him, and alongside him, for many of those years.
I look forward to the challenges TMLP will face as we make preparations and the key decisions to become carbon free in 2050. This is an exciting time for electric utilities as we secure more sustainable and renewable energy sources and opportunities for our customers. Although the path we take has been charted by the General Managers who have preceded me, it is now our path to navigate as we head toward a bright future filled with potential and endless possibilities.
Taunton Municipal Lighting Plant’s 38,000+ ratepayers are part of a public power electric system that is locally controlled and locally owned. As TMLP Light Commissioners and ratepayers we see first-hand what TMLP means to the residents and businesses in its member-communities.
Like all businesses in our communities, TMLP continued to adapt during a second year of COVID-19 in 2021. Being adaptive also meant being reflective and seeing how – and where – TMLP could improve its already notable level of service to its customers. Exceptional customer service remains a benchmark for our local electric utility as TMLP seamlessly transitions into a more technology-driven working environment.
Frontline services and interactions are just a snapshot of who and what TMLP is and what it does on a daily basis to bring reliable and safe electric service to our homes and businesses. It takes a committed and professional workforce to accomplish this. We congratulate the employees of TMLP for being recognized by their peers as the recipient of the American Public Power Association’s RP3 Diamond Level designation, one of only 270 utilities in the United States to earn the prestigious RP3 honor, and the highest of the three levels awarded by APPA. We are proud that TMLP was also recognized with the three-year RP3 designation as a Platinum recipient just three years ago. This recognizes TMLP’s leading practices in reliability, safety, workforce development, and system improvement. In addition, for the second consecutive year TMLP was awarded a Smart Energy Provider (SEP) designation in recognition of its commitment to and proficiency in energy efficiency.
As we close out 2021, we mourn the passing of Commissioner Joe Martin as well as former Commissioners Peter Corr and David Westcoat, all of whom passed away during the year. We also extend our congratulations and well-wishes to our retiring General Manager Kenneth Goulart who has served with distinction for more than three decades. We look forward to a bright future for Taunton Municipal Lighting Plant as we welcome a new General Manager in 2022.
2021 was a year that Taunton Municipal Lighting Plant continued to make headway to reach its goal of 100% net-zero emissions by 2050. It was also a year in which TMLP saw the value of its long-term succession plan as several key members of the management team retired or prepared for retirement in early 2022.
Although COVID-19 restrictions were in place throughout the year, they did not have a significant impact on the progress of TMLP projects and implementation of programs and services. Business practices were streamlined to increase participation in online payments and paperless billing usage, and customer-centric rebate and incentive programs were enhanced and expanded in 2021 to include more energy-saving programs and services. Although stalled again by travel-related restrictions, work continued on the Cogsdale Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system in anticipation of a full rollout in 2023. When fully operational, the system will provide greater control and flexibility for all TMLP areas. Financial and human resource-related modules will be instrumental in a creating a more efficient way of doing business for both staff and customers.
TMLP’s commitment to purchasing carbon-free and cost-effective energy was enhanced with the Mayflower Wind contracts. Once finalized TMLP has committed to purchase power from the offshore wind project. Mayflower Wind’s expected 800 MW of offshore wind capacity per year will provide savings to TMLP ratepayers in addition to bolstering its green energy portfolio. The purchase and retirement of qualifying Massachusetts Class 1 Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) as part of the voluntary Go Green 100% program continued to be an option for residential and commercial customers who chose to have their electricity come from 100% renewable energy sources. TMLP continued its aggressive pursuit of contracts to solidify its future green energy supply with a focus on additional hydro, landfill, solar, and battery and nuclear power transmission.
The overhaul of Unit 9 was completed as part of the major inspection which was conducted in 2021, one of the utility’s most significant projects. In addition several of the unit’s mechanical systems were integrated into a server environment to enhance operations. Work continued on Unit 8 in preparation of the decommissioning of the 1960s-era oil-fired generator in 2023. The 3 MW / 6 MWh Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) at the Cleary-Flood station was successful in reaching 100% of all forecasted monthly hourly peak loads in its first full year of operation, resulting in significant peak savings for TMLP. The West Water Street distributed generation system was responsible for more than $1 million in transmission and capacity cost savings to ratepayers in 2021.
Residential, commercial and industrial energy audits continued to be conducted remotely because of COVID-19. Energy conservation incentive and rebate programs were expanded to include greener options including battery operated lawn mowers in addition to the traditional Energy Star appliances and thermostats. TMLP customers continued to take advantage of electric vehicle (EV) rebates and the EV Level 2 charger rebate program despite the supply chain shortage and limited number of available EVs in 2021. The 2nd Drive program which offered rebates on the purchase of a qualified used EV at participating local car dealerships was extended to 2023.
TMLP’s presence as a leader in the municipal electric utility industry’s solar connected capability remained strong in 2021 as more residential solar projects were completed during the year and solar rebates given to residential customers, resulting in a year-end total of 25,152,834 kWh produced. TMLP remained an active partner with the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) and its Municipal Light Plant (MLP) Solar rebate program for the installation of small-scale solar projects.
Construction on the new 115KV buss yard at the Cleary-Flood station began in 2021 with the clearing of land, construction of the new structure and installation of the major components and reconductoring of the existing station. The station is scheduled to be completed in mid-2022. Unlike past years when TMLP crews were part of Northeast Public Power Association (NEPPA) mutual aid response to other areas of the country, TMLP relied on mutual aid assistance provided by lineworkers from Stowe, Vermont and Norwalk, Connecticut who worked alongside TMLP crews in the aftermath of Bomb Cyclone Wanda in late October. This valuable mutual aid response from electric industry peers was instrumental in restoring power in the territory. In-house and in-person health and safety training for TMLP staff resumed in 2021 as did the practical hands-on confined/enclosed space training for TMLP line crews.
The reorganization plans included the development of a Technology Services department in late 2021 to address the everchanging and evolving technology required to enhance reliability and systems. MIS was actively involved in the final preparations of the Cogsdale implementation and the anticipated launch of the financial-related systems. ISG segued into the next phase of the feasibility study for a full rollout of the fiber optics throughout the service area. Installation of fiber optic service continued in 2021.
TMLP was honored with two prestigious industry awards in 2021. TMLP earned the Diamond Level Reliable Public Power Provider (RP3) status, the highest award by the American Public Power Association (APPA) in recognition of its dedication to operating an efficient, safe and reliable distribution system. TMLP was also recognized with a Smart Energy Provider (SEP) award for demonstrating commitment to and accomplishment in smart energy program planning, energy efficiency and distributed energy resources, environmental and sustainability programs, and communication and customer experience. The annual Public Power Week celebration was held virtually again in 2021 with many TMLP staff taking part by making educational and fun videos for customers to view during the event. TMLP staff again generously donated community organizations as well as other charitable endeavors supported by individuals and families. TMLP staff also participated in the city-wide programs for community residents with the Taunton Human Services Department. The association with the Leddy School as a business partner continued in 2021 and TMLP worked with many local organizations and activities by hanging banners in support of the organizations and the promotion of community events.
Mark Blackwell Jr.
Robert Clancy Jr.
Michael Emond, Jr.
Joseph Fernandes Jr
Jeffrey G. Leconte
Thomas St. John
Roger St. Laurent
Anna May Viera