Braintree Electric Light Department (BELD) is one of 41 municipal light departments organized under Massachusetts General Laws chapter 164, and one of more than 2,200 municipally owned light departments in the country. BELD was established by Braintree Town Meeting vote in March 1892 for the manufacture and distribution of electricity. At that meeting $30,000 was appropriated to establish an electric generation plant to run wires for street lighting only. The first general manager of the light department was Thomas A. Watson, co-inventor of the telephone.
Today, BELD is one of the largest municipal light departments in the state, serving more than 16,000 customers, including more than 14,000 residential customers. BELD is governed by a three-member elected board; managing the day-to-day operations of the department is the responsibility of general manager Bill Bottiggi. BELD is a vertically integrated utility, owning and operating more than 150 miles of overhead and underground distribution lines, 9.5 miles of 115 kV transmission lines and 200+ MW of onsite generation (one of only a few municipal light departments in the state to do so). Currently BELD owns and operates the 96 MW Potter II combined cycle plant and two state-of-the-art Rolls Royce simple cycle turbines rated 58 MW each. These quick-start units can ramp up to full load in less than 10 minutes. The Potter II unit has been in operation since 1977 while the two Rolls Royce turbines came online in 2009 with the dedication of the Thomas A. Watson Generating Station.
The department’s mission is to maintain a staff of competent, well-trained employees, dedicated to providing safe, reliable, economical energy and related services for our customers, and responsive public service for the community. BELD employees do more than keep Braintree’s lights on—they're proud to be part of a tradition of giving back to the town by supporting local organizations, charities and other projects.
BELD is recognized locally and nationally as an innovator in technology and new services. In 2000, after running a new hybrid fiber coax network throughout the town, the department began offering cable television services to Braintree residents. Over the following years, that was expanded to include Internet and phone services to both residents and businesses in town. In 2012, and after two years of work, BELD employees completed the installation of new smart meters throughout town. These meters allow them to more efficiently read meters, detect electric outages, and provide better service to customers.
In the last few years, the department has partnered with Ameresco and the Town of Braintree for the installation of two large solar arrays: a 1.2 MW array on the town’s capped landfill and a 660 kW community solar array on the roof of the high school. Residents can have a portion of their energy come from the latter by purchasing up to 10 panels. Last year—with a goal to have 200 electric vehicles (EVs) in town by 2018—BELD began promoting the use of EVs through the Braintree Drives Electric program. The department leases three EVs and installed two public charging stations on site.
As a member of Northeast Public Power Association (NEPPA) and American Public Power Association (APPA), we honor the democratic tradition of community decision-making and participation that led to our founding in 1892. Because public power utilities are operated by local governments as a public service—and our customers are an important part of that process—we take part in a national Public Power Week celebration each year during the first full week of October to show our appreciation to the residents of Braintree.
As a Braintree municipal utility, BELD is exempt from paying taxes to the town. But BELD does give money to the town on an annual basis, in the amount it would pay if it were subject to paying property tax ($1 million in 2010).
Braintree July 4th Celebration
BELD donates to this annual celebration every year. In 2001 the utility contributed $10,000, making good on a launch pledge to make a donation for each new BELD Broadband cable installation.
In addition to providing a fiber-optic network, BELD supplies Braintree's municipal buildings and school buildings with four-digit telephone support and a high-speed data network. We provide voice mail services for the town's fire department, parks and recreation department, high school, and Thayer Library. BELD also provides technical assistance and computer maintenance to the police department at a contracted rate.
Assist other departments
BELD employees work very closely with staff from other departments in the town and county. In addition to setting poles at the Norfolk County Jail, linemen regularly hang banners in South Braintree Square and assist the Tree Warden with maintenance work.
Lights around town
BELD performs traffic signal maintenance for the town of Braintree. In addition to installing decorative streetlamps in Braintree Square and in South Braintree Square, BELD crews have installed lights at the BHS athletic field and at the Hollingsworth Little League field. And BELD provides electric service and lights to the Town Hall, as well as installing holiday lighting at the building each year.
BELD's Bright Ideas online newsletter offers another opportunity for free posting of local activities.
BELD's Energy Services programs—including energy audits, tree plantings, and other conservation projects—are available to customers at no charge. BELD also conducts energy safety programs in the Braintree schools.
Good Neighbor Energy Fund
The Massachusetts Good Neighbor Energy Fund (GNEF) helped more than 1,600 families pay an electric, gas or oil bill in 2011. BELD partners with the Salvation Army and other state energy companies to bring assistance to any Massachusetts resident who, because of temporary financial difficulty, cannot meet a month's energy expense and is not eligible for state or federal energy assistance. Click here for information on donating, or call 800.334.3047 to request assistance from the GNEF.