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October 19. 2012 8:34PM

$1.8m in energy settlement, will lower NH PSNH bills

Electricity customers in New Hampshire and throughout the Northeast will get a break on their bills next year thanks to a $245 million settlement between Constellation Energy and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

New England’s share of the settlement amounts to $20 million, with $1.8 million designated for New Hampshire customers, according to an order issued by the FERC on Friday, approving the allocation and distribution of funds in the settlement.

The FERC announced the settlement in March, claiming that Baltimore-based Constellation manipulated the market for energy sold to independent system operators in New England and the New York area by scheduling day-ahead electricity flows to benefit its financial position.

Constellation agreed to pay a $135 million civil penalty, which goes to the federal government, and return $110 million in what the FERC determined was “unjust profit” to consumers.

Constellation has denied any wrongdoing. The company president told the Union Leader in March that is practices were “lawful portfolio risk management transactions,” but it agreed to pay the fines in order to put the matter to rest.

Four days after agreeing to the settlement, Constellation announced it had completed a merger with Chicago-based Exelon Corp., creating one of the largest competitive energy suppliers in the country. The total settlement amount of $245 million is the largest penalty imposed by FERC since Congress expanded its enforcement authority in 2005.

Martin Murray, spokesman for Public Service of New Hampshire, said the $1.8 million designated for the Granite State will be shared by PSNH and other utilities to reduce the cost of purchasing energy, which will be passed along to customers. “It will be rebated to customers through each customer’s utility bill as a credit against their energy charge,” he said.

A new energy charge for PSNH customers will take effect on Jan. 1, and it will reflect the impact of the Constellation settlement.

“It will be part of a calculation in December,” he said. “We will make a new filing to the PUC in terms of what our expenses will be, and this will now be part of that calculation. It will be $1.8 million that we would otherwise have to recover from customers.”

Lawrence McDonnell, director of external communications for Constellation, stood by the company’s previous denials of any wrongdoing, and declined to comment on the distribution of the settlement.

“The actual dissemination of the funds, we have nothing to do with,” he said. “So I think it would be inappropriate for us to comment on something that was just between the administrative law judges and the various jurisdictions.”

More than half the commercial customers for electricity in New Hampshire buy power from unregulated suppliers like Constellation, even though it is delivered by state-regulated utilities like PSNH.

dsolomon@unionleader.com



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