Burden sharing in sale of fossil-fuel plants getting hard look by state
The sale price of the plants is not likely to cover investments made in the generating facilities, particularly Merrimack Station in Bow and its recently completed $425 million air emissions scrubber.
Committee member and Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, said sharing the burden is the key issue before the committee.
As a result, many residential and small business customers have opted to buy power from alternative producers. Large power users stopped buying electricity from Public Service some time ago, but with low natural gas prices, a competitive electric market exists for small users.
The PUC has been reviewing how much customers should pay for the $422 million investment, but Public Service appealed to the state Supreme Court claiming legislators passed a law requiring the scrubber be built as part of a program to reduce mercury emissions.
Public Service spokesman Martin Murray said discussions of the company writing off any of its investments has focused on the cost of the scrubber. The scrubber law — which had many partners — included an absolute assurance the company would recover all of its costs, he said.
Yesterday, the committee approved a letter asking the PUC to determine if it would be more economical for consumers if the generating plants were sold.
Murray said any honest analysis should acknowledge that two large New England power plants will be shut down soon and the region’s over-reliance on natural gas to generate power.
Ann Ross, PUC general counsel, said the April 1 deadline would be “pretty tight,” noting the agency just received bids for a company to determine the value of the plants, and added there are likely to be disagreements over issues.
Not all committee members were happy with the draft report the committee will finalize Oct. 30, which calls for burden sharing between Public Service and its ratepayers.
She objected to a section saying it is time for Public Service to complete electric industry deregulation by selling its generating plants.
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