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Electric customers are paying extra for competition says Eversource and the Massachusetts AG agrees

By MICHAEL COUSINEAU
New Hampshire Union Leader

September 25. 2018 9:41AM
Bill Smagula, vice president for New Hampshire generation for Eversource, stands at the overlook for the Amoskeag Dam on the Merrimack River in Manchester in May. Eversource in August finalized its sale of nine hydroelectric facilities, including Amoskeag Hydro. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER FILE)



CONCORD — An Eversource attorney suggested Monday that eliminating competition from independent power suppliers could lower electricity costs for residential customers in New Hampshire.

“Perhaps a low-hanging fruit thing that should be done is to think about doing away with residential competition on the retail level,” Robert Bersak, chief regulatory counsel for Eversource Energy, said during a statewide energy summit at the Holiday Inn.

He said administrative and legal costs involving independent power suppliers help drive up prices and cited a report from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office that showed competitive supply customers paid more than if they had stayed with their utility.

“They’re paying more than they would otherwise,” Bersak said. “And the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission staff is asking utilities to provide data, so they can take a look at what’s going on in New Hampshire.”

Don Kreis, the state’s consumer advocate who appeared on the same panel discussion, disagreed with Bersak.

“I think eliminating the retail competition would be a little too drastic, but I would certainly favor a scenario that requires competitive electric suppliers to meet or exceed what the incumbent utility is offering for default energy service,” Kreis said.

More than 135,000 Eversource customers in an average month in the April-to-June time frame bought their power from a competitive supplier — roughly a quarter of the utility’s total residential customers, according to Eversource.

Power purchased from other suppliers gets delivered over Eversource’s electric lines to people’s homes.

Dan Allegretti, an executive who recently retired from competitive energy supplier Exelon Corp., spoke on the same panel. He said the process for customers to shop for lower energy costs should be more transparent and convenient.

“When you tell people, ‘You know what, we’re just taking your choice away because we just don’t think you’re smart enough to make good choices,’ I think that’s a bad political move,” said Allegretti, who had more than 25 years of experience in the electric power industry. “I think that’s insulting to the New Hampshire consumer.”

The Massachusetts report issued in March said customers who chose a competitive supplier paid $176.8 million more during a two-year period than if they had stayed with their utility company.

“If you look at the website for retail supply in Massachusetts, the entire period covered by the Attorney General’s report, there were always offers that were below the utility price,” Allegretti said. “People just weren’t taking them.”

Earlier, Liberty Utilities executive Michael Licata said Exeter officials this month approved an easement on town property near the wastewater treatment plant that will aid the utility’s Granite Bridge gas pipeline project.

Licata said that would shorten the proposed 27-mile pipeline between Manchester and Stratham by a half-mile and avoid a river crossing.

mcousineau@unionleader.com


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