May 26, 2014

Energy boost can benefit bottom line for Mass. manufacturers

Shaun Pandit

As anyone who runs a business in Massachusetts knows, managing the cost of electricity and natural gas is a constant challenge. The process of overseeing energy supply can be difficult, especially since the best deals aren't always immediately clear. The manufacturing industry, with its energy-intensive operations, perhaps feels this pinch most.

A new initiative, announced last month by Gov. Deval Patrick, is aimed at addressing this challenge and putting the commonwealth at the forefront of energy cost management. The goal of the program, called the Massachusetts Manufacturing Energy Collaborative (MassMEC), is to make buying electricity and natural gas easier, more efficient and cost effective for businesses — particularly manufacturers.

The Worcester area, home to a significant chunk of these companies, is poised to benefit significantly. Local companies will benefit from MassMEC's energy management services and have access to reviews of energy-efficiency and renewable-energy initiatives. Most important, companies will gain a trusted and experienced advocate that can help them cut utility costs.

The energy-buyimng process can be time intensive and frustrating, as anyone charged with the task knows. It's not uncommon for executives to hear from a variety of energy retailers, each promising a great deal that will save their firms a lot of money. With a fast-changing market, many voices and often a lack of transparency, it can be difficult to know what or who to believe.

An added benefit of MassMEC is the security and peace of mind it can offer local businesses. MassDevelopment, the state's finance and development agency that works with businesses, nonprofits, financial institutions and communities to stimulate economic growth, is leading the implementation of the program.

MassMEC is a state-sponsored collaborative managed by EarlyBird Power, which was selected after a competitive bidding process, and has decades of energy-sector experience. We can more effectively monitor market opportunities, risks and trends, and, through the power of this bulk energy-buying program, secure the best utility rates for participating companies.

Our task is clear: Spread the word so manufacturing companies throughout Massachusetts have the opportunity to participate. We already have more than 20 businesses on board, and we hope to add more in the coming months.

Gov. Patrick launched MassMEC with the goal of supporting the commonwealth's manufacturing sector so that companies are offered every advantage to ensure the state continues to attract and retain companies in this vital industry.

Effectively managing energy costs is a major step toward achieving this goal since utility costs can mean the difference between a profitable year and missing a financial target.

With this much at stake, MassMEC can be a valuable asset, not only for manufacturing companies, but as a tool to grow our regional economy.

Shaun Pandit is president of EarlyBird Power, based in Milton, and manager of MassMEC.

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