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Up in smoke: $100 million in higher rates

December 06. 2017 12:21AM

Supporters of a deal requiring Eversource to purchase power from the Berlin biomass plant justify the intervention because it protects jobs in the North Country.

At a cost of $100 million to ratepayers, how many jobs has the deal cost?

The Burgess BioPower plant does provide both direct and indirect economic activity. The company that manages the plant says it employs 27 people, and accounts for nearly $14 million in labor income across New Hampshire, mostly in Coos County.

Eversource ratepayers had paid $52.3 million in above-market rates for the biomass power though April of this year, and are expected to hit a $100 million cap in 2020, sooner than expected when the Public Utilities Commission approved the power purchase agreement.

Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley supported the agreement, and now wants policy makers to consider “whether the $100 million threshold should be extended somewhat.”

So $100 million isn’t enough for New Hampshire ratepayers to shoulder in order to keep open a biomass plant that couldn’t operate in the open market?

The biomass deal costs residential electric customers a few dollars a month, but the cost is much more for large, industrial users. New Hampshire’s punishing electric rates remain a major barrier to increasing the state’s manufacturing sector.

Forcing ratepayers to pay more for biomass may support some jobs in Berlin, but the costs are high everywhere else.

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