The RMLP's History

Rowley Historical Society | Platts Bradstreet House 1677

Rowley Historical Society

The Story of Providing Power to Rowley, MA

On September 25, 2011, many Rowley residents came out to celebrate the Light Department's Centennial—100 years of Public Power with us. Check out the RMLP History Timeline to learn more about your lighting plant's history.

  • RMLP Beginnings

    Over 100 years ago, residents of Rowley had the foresight not only to bring electricity into their town, but to establish their own Municipal Light Department.

    At a Town Meeting held on October 20, 1909, residents paved the way to bring power into town by giving approval to appoint a committee of five to investigate the establishment of electricity in the town of Rowley.

    Just a short two months later on December 10th, the committee presented their report at a Town Meeting. It was then that a vote was taken to establish a municipal lighting system. The residents gave an overwhelming approval with a vote of 131 in favor and 6 opposed.

    1910 Newspaper Clipping

    On May 17, 1910, the town bonded $12,000 to construct an Electric Plant. On the evening of August 17th an estimated crowd of 1,000 people lined the streets to witness the illumination of the town by the new system of electric lights. Between 1910 and 1916 the town bonded a total $19,200 for construction of the distribution system.

    By 1911 there were 32 customers connected to the system; the town which had 146 streetlights, 30 customers with 586 lamps and 1 customer with a 3HP motor to pump water. In total, the town purchased 18,450 kWh that year at a rate of 6¢/kWh from the Ipswich Light Department.

  • More Lights Come On

    1930s RMLP Light Truck

    By 1921 we were purchasing power from Newburyport Gas & Electric Company (now National Grid), with power being distributed through a substation that was built on Railroad Avenue.

    Rowley continued to purchase electricity from Newburyport Gas & Electric until 1936, when we resumed purchasing power under contract from Ipswich Light Department.

  • Improved Reliability

    During the 1950’s we made great strides to improve our reliability when we became one of the first towns in the country to install spacer cable. Spacer cable was first introduced in the mid 1950’s and has provided a dramatic reduction in outages due to its design and strength.

    Over the years much of the town’s distribution system which originally included bare copper wire has been replaced by spacer cable.

  • A New Operations Center

    RMLP First Office

    By 1966 the Operations Center was erected on Summer Street that would house the office, department vehicles, all department stock and supplies. Previous to that the office was located in the basement of Town Hall, poles were located behind Town Hall, transformers and wire were stored in Chandler Todd’s barn, a ladder and utility truck were kept at McDonald Brother’s garage on Central Street. We have made improvements and enlargements to the building to meet our growing needs since then, but it remains home to all RMLP operations with the exception of the substation.

    1960s RMLP Crew and Manager

    By 1969 the line crews were able to rest their hooks when the Department’s first bucket truck was purchased. Today, there are still poles located within the town that are only accessible by climbing, but most pole work is now done from the bucket truck.

  • The '80s Growth Boom

    By the 1980s we saw the beginning of the building boom. Rowley was growing, and so was the need to provide additional capacity to serve those growing needs. It was during this period of time the Department determined the time had come to put a plan in place that would both increase our capacity and improve the reliability of the town’s power supply.

    By the mid-80s a feasibility study to determine Rowley’s power supply alternatives was underway. The study concluded that construction of a substation connected directly to the 23KV high-power lines would both improve efficiency and reliability while being economically beneficial to the RMLP.

    Between 1986 and 1988 (some 70 years since the Department’s last bond), the town authorized a total of $1.15 million dollars in bonds for the construction of a 13KV substation on Power House Road located off Daniels Road. We continued receiving power from Ipswich until 1989 when we completed the construction of the substation. After several years of building boom it became necessary to expand the capacity of the Power House Rd. substation.

    Probably most noticeable to the public has been the changes in the efficiency of the office. Bills became computer generated in 1987 when our first full computer based billing system was brought on line. Today our computer system is state of the art and allows us to offer more services to our customers. Even meter reading is modern and efficient, with an automatic system that uses radio transmitters for optimal accuracy and efficiency.

  • The 2000s

    In March 2009, final steps were completed to create a loop system whereby the Route 1 area can be fed from either of two directions in the event of an outage. We have created redundancy within the substation itself and in the distribution system to further heighten RMLP's reliability.

    Putting up Centennial Flags

    Today, RMLP serves almost 3,000 customers throughout our town. Our annual kilowatt sales now exceed 41,000,000, and although still considered a bedroom community, Rowley’s commercial base makes up for 41% of all kilowatt sales. Our entire system is operated and maintained by a professional staff of just 8 employees.

    There have been decades of advancement and achievement since those early days of electricity. Through over 100 years, the RMLP has been able to continue our mission of providing reliable and cost effective energy services in a responsible, courteous and efficient manner that will meet the current and future needs of our residential and business customers.


Dates General Manager
2019 - present Matt Brown
2012-2019 Daniel Folding
2011-2012 Kristina Frizzell
2005-2011 Linda J. Soucy
2000-2004 Carl Benson (died in office)
1981-1999 G. Robert Merry
1964-1980 Bernard S. McCormick (first full-time Manager)
1956-1963 Charles T. Barney
1941-1955 Alexander Good
1939-1940 Maynard R. Haley
1919-1938 John A. Marshall
1918 Grover C. Heald (died in office)
1916-1917 Joseph N. Dummer
1913-1915 Stephen O. Kent
1910-1912 Albert E. Bailey
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