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NH power plant deal a savings for some

By MICHAEL COUSINEAU
New Hampshire Union Leader

October 12. 2017 10:37PM
Eversource's largest power plant is its coal-fired Merrimack Station in Bow. The utility announced a deal Thursday to sell about a dozen power generation facilities, completing electric deregulation in New Hampshire. (COURTESY)

Customers who buy their electricity from Eversource should see a cut in their monthly bills if the utility gets approval to sell a dozen power generation plants.

But those who buy from an independent supplier and have Eversource deliver it to their homes should see a slight increase in a portion of their bill, according to the state’s consumer advocate.

Eversource announced Thursday two deals worth a combined $258 million, capping a two-decade push to deregulate the state’s electricity market.

“I think that in the long term and in the short term, it’s going to be a benefit to consumers,” said Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, a key player in deregulating the market.

The combined price tag topped a consultant’s estimate by $23 million.

Eversource customers who rely on Eversource for their power could see around a 1.3 cent per kilowatt hour savings — or $7.80 a month if they use 600 kilowatt hours a month — based on “rough estimates,” said consumer advocate Donald Kreis, whose office works on behalf of New Hampshire utility ratepayers.

Those getting a cut in their bills will benefit from expected lower energy prices by Eversource buying power at a lower price in the wholesale electric market, according to Eversource spokesman Martin Murray.

Those using an independent power supplier could see a 0.7 cent per kilowatt hour increase, or $4.20 a month using 600 kilowatt hours, on a portion of their bill, according to Kreis.

That is because they will pay a share of $600 million in “stranded costs,” including $400 million in environmental upgrades to the Eversource plant in Bow, not recovered through electric rates.

As of June 30, Eversource had 513,174 customers taking delivery service from Eversource New Hampshire. Of those, 134,713 were not taking energy from Eversource but from an independent supplier, Murray said. Those 134,713 customers, many of them larger customers, represented 60 percent of the total amount of energy delivered.

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The proposed sale could also affect property tax payments to about a dozen communities.

Eversource said it would provide three years of tax stabilization payments to communities if a power plant is sold for less than its assessed value.

Bow Selectmen Chairman Harold Judd said more information was needed to determine whether Bow would see a cut in property taxes from Merrimack Station.

“There’s more here that we don’t know than we do know,” Judd said.

“It’s going to continue to operate and generate both electricity and tax dollars,” Judd said. “I think that’s important.”

The town has assessed the plant at $86 million for tax purposes, which Eversource is disputing, Judd said. A filing with the PUC on the plant sale indicates the plant’s purchase price is $75 million.

Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas views the proposed sale of Amoskeag Hydro in Manchester as a potential gain. “It’s probably going to be worth more than we have it on the books for, so it might increase our tax base,” he said.

Last year, the state’s Public Utilities Commission established an auction process to sell the plants. The sales, if approved by the Public Utilities Commission, would close late this year or early 2018.

Eversource’s three large fossil-generation facilities and two remote combustion turbines will be purchased by Granite Shore Power LLC, a newly formed 50-50 partnership between Atlas Holdings of Greenwich, Conn., and Castleton Commodities International of Stamford, Conn., for $175 million.

The company’s nine hydroelectric facilities will be acquired by Hull Street Energy, LLC and affiliates, a private equity firm based in Bethesda, Md., for $83 million.

mcousineau@unionleader.com


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