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MBTA poised to save $25 million in energy costs over five years

A Red Line train approached the Quincy Adams stop in October.
A Red Line train approached the Quincy Adams stop in October.David L. Ryan/Boston Globe/File

After weeks of dismal financial reports detailing the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority budget, here comes some bright financial news: The MBTA is poised to save $25 million in electricity costs over the next five years after striking a new deal with BP, the energy company.

The savings are more than welcome for an agency that is weighing numerous controversial actions — such as service cuts, fare hikes, and delaying worker raises — to fill a budget shortfall. Last week, the MBTA released a list of more than two dozen options that could save money or generate more revenue for the agency.

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Officials are no doubt pleased with the new rates: Brian Shortsleeve, the chief administrator of the MBTA, described it as an "exciting" electricity procurement deal.

Joe Pesaturo, an MBTA spokesman, said the agency has the falling price of natural gas to thank, since electricity rates are tied to those prices.

"It's a good time to buy electricity," Shortsleeve said.

The MBTA consumes more than 453 million kilowatts per hour of electricity annually, according to officials. That's the equivalent of the consumption of 42,000 households.

The current electricity contract with BP was set to expire at the end of this year, so the agency started looking around for a better deal. BP and Shell both bid for the contracts, and BP had the better price of $46.35 per megawatt hour, compared with the current price of about $65.72 per megawatt hour. The final price for the new contract even shrunk by about 5.3 percent.

The T paid about $20 million for electricity in 2015, and that will shrink to $14.1 million in 2016. Savings are expected to continue over the life of the contract.

Green Line report

Last week, consultants revealed to the state transportation board many reasons why the costs of the Green Line extension went so far off track.

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But even though consultants made those findings public, the MBTA is refusing to release the actual report completed by the consultants.

The Globe requested the report on Monday, but MBTA officials said they would not be releasing the records. Reporters from Commonwealth Magazine have also tried to obtain the records, but have been refused, according to the magazine.

Pesaturo, the MBTA spokesman, said officials chose to withhold the records for three reasons: The MBTA and the state Department of Transportation are "still engaged in policy development," the report is currently a draft, and it is "both attorney-client and attorney-work product privileged."

Asked for the specific statutes for such exemptions, the MBTA said it would prepare another response. The Globe plans to appeal the MBTA's decision to the secretary of state's office.

The refusal comes just months after Governor Charlie Baker revamped rules regarding public records, in an effort to "improve transparency and public access to government records and information."

In late October, the MBTA estimated that reports about the Green Line could cost up to $1.5 million for the agency: Nossaman LLP and Foley Hoag LLP were hired to look into the contracting process, and the Berkeley Research Group was hired to produce a report that examined how the MBTA's initial cost estimates appeared to come in too low. The Arup Group engineering firm was also retained to find out ways to cut costs in the project overall.

Consultants from both the Berkeley Research Group and Nossaman LLP presented their findings at the state transportation board meeting, and more information will be presented on Dec. 9.

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MBTA rider census

The MBTA wants to know how you use the agency's buses, trains, and ferries.

Every five years, the MBTA must put out a "rider census" to look at rider demographics and travel patterns. The T recently posted an online survey at www.mbta.com/census to get a handle on what services people are using. The survey asks you about your most recent one-way trip on the service, how you paid, and other such questions about how you use the T.

The information, which will be posted online once the survey is over, will help the MBTA determine service changes in the future.


Nicole Dungca can be reached at nicole.dungca@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ndungca.