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June 11. 2013 7:34PM

NextEra to enter residential electricity market in NH

NextEra Energy became the latest company to enter the residential electricity market in New Hampshire on Tuesday, announcing plans to offer energy supply in the PSNH and Unitil service areas.

The company, which started out as Florida Power and Light, has offered electricity supply to commercial and industrial accounts in the state since 2010.

The NextEra announcement comes less than a month after another corporate giant, Gulf Oil, was licensed by the Public Utilities Commission to sell power in New Hampshire as Gulf Electricity.

NextEra, a publicly traded electricity generation, transmission, and distribution company headquartered in Juno Beach, Fla., has nearly 15,000 employees in 26 states and Canada. Its energy supply division, NextEra Energy Services, is headquartered in Houston, Texas.

NextEra Energy Service New Hampshire is offering 7.10 cents per kilowatt hour on a six-month guarantee, and 6.6 cents per kwh, guaranteed only for one month, in the PSNH franchise area. Rates for Unitil customers were unavailable on Tuesday.

The current default rate for PSNH customers who do not chose a competitive supplier is 9.54 cents per kwh. PSNH has filed a request with the Public Utilities Commission to lower the default rate to 8.98 cents per kwh as of July 1. The default rate for customers of Unitil, which does not own or operate power plants, is 7.13 cents per kwh.

NextEra is now active in 14 of the 17 states that have deregulated energy sales, in which energy suppliers compete for consumers while the regulated utility transmits the power and offers a default energy supply rate. The name was created in 2009, when the Florida Power and Light Group announced that it was beginning its “next era.”

Florida Power and Light, which bought the Seabrook Station nuclear power plant from PSNH and other stakeholders more than a decade ago, is now a subsidiary of publicly traded NextEra.

“We look for markets where we believe we can bring value to customers in a combination of savings and product offers that give them benefits like stability or renewable energy,” said Brian Landrum, president of NextEra Energy Services. “As we looked at New Hampshire from a residential standpoint, we thought we could offer something better to customers who are currently with PSNH or Unitil, or with other competitive suppliers.”

Competitive suppliers have had the opportunity to sell to residential customers for more than a decade, but have only been able to compete with the PSNH default offer for the past two years, as natural gas prices declined and PSNH began to recoup the costs associated with pollution controls on its Bow coal-fired plant.

What started as an initiative by entrepreneurial, bootstrap companies is now attracting Fortune 500 corporations into the state.

NextEra is rolling out additional energy supply offers today, but could not discuss pricing on Tuesday. Those offers will include higher-priced green energy or clean energy options, which are common among competitive energy suppliers. When customers sign up for green energy, they aren’t controlling the energy that flows to their toaster, but they are encouraging the development of renewable energy markets, Landrum explained.

“You don’t really affect the current delivery of power, but you can affect the future delivery of power by showing there is more demand for clean energy in the market today,” he said. “We look at it as an opportunity for customers to express their demand for renewable power, which through time will drive more clean energy into the grid.”

Competitive suppliers are developing a range of alternative products, in anticipation of the PSNH default rate becoming more competitive as time goes on. “Switching is about more than just price,” Landrum said.

NextEra has maintained a high profile in New Hampshire since entering the commercial market. The company is a sponsor of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, the Hampton Beach Seafood Festival and the Business and Industry Association Golf Classic.

Landrum said the company intends to aggressively promote its residential offers, and is not worried about its late entry into the consumer market. “The fact that other competitors have already come in and convinced customers to consider something other than the default offer is a good thing,” he said.

dsolomon@unionleader.com


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