Let there be light

And God said, “Let there be light: And there was light.”

If only it were that simple.

Turning on the lights in Lynnfield requires some help from Peabody and Reading, dating back to 1909 when Reading Municipal Light Department (RMLD) began providing lighting fixtures to Lynnfield Center, initially illuminating 17 Lynnfield homes.

Four years later, Peabody Municipal Light Plant (PLMP) joined the party and began providing lighting to South Lynnfield.

More than 100 years later, PLMP and RMLD provide electricity to 4,000 and 3,200 Lynnfield accounts, respectively, sending power to the outlets charging laptops and appliances and brightening public spaces like MarketStreet’s Green and streetscapes.

RMLD and PMLP are municipal light plants (MLPs), which are not-for-profit and community owned, unlike much larger power providers such as National Grid or Eversource that are investor-owned-utilities, known as IOUs.

Having two MLPs providing electricity to one town is pretty unusual. Why not use one larger supplier instead of two smaller ones?

The split service reflects the town’s historical origins as two villages: Lynnfield Center and South Lynnfield.

Back in the day, when things were looking pretty … dark in rural Lynnfield, the town was too far from larger electric companies to use them as service providers. The choice was either continue burning candles and staying in the Dark Ages, or call on surrounding towns to bring in some help: PMLP and RMLD to the rescue.

MLPs can typically set their rates with power plants for longer periods of time compared to IOUs, who are usually on a six-month contract schedule.

This allows MLPs to keep their rates lower and stable. In fact, RMLD’s rates are 30-35 percent lower than IOU’s, and PMLP’s rates are typically 20-25 percent lower than neighboring MLPs, and are one of the lowest in the state.

Oh — fun fact: In 1909, the year the Oval Office was built in the White House, electricity was brought into Lynnfield by RMLD. What an illuminating fact.

The next time you’re driving down the woodsy roads of Lynnfield, thank Peabody and Reading for installing the wooden poles along the streets way back when.