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State Public Utilities Commission approves sale of Eversource fossil facilities

By MICHAEL COUSINEAU
New Hampshire Union Leader

November 29. 2017 10:40AM
Merrimack Station in Bow is among the plants to be sold in a deal approved Wednesday. (Courtesy)



CONCORD — The Public Utilities Commission approved Eversource selling three large fossil-fuel generation plants and two combustion turbines for $175 million, part of a two-decade push to deregulate the state's electricity market.

Donald Kreis, the state's consumer advocate, said Eversource customers who buy power from Eversource should see some reduction in their bills due to that sale and another proposed deal to sell off hydroelectric assets.

Kreis said it is important the $175 million deal gets finalized as close to the end of 2017 as possible.

"The terms of the purchase and sales agreement are such that there is a financial penalty that trickles down to customers," Kreis said. "The sales price declines every day the sale is delayed after the end of 2017."

Still pending before the PUC is a separate deal to sell nine hydroelectric facilities to Hull Street Energy LLC and affiliates, a private equity firm based in Bethesda, Md., for $83 million.

The hydroelectric locations are in Manchester, Bristol, West Stewartstown, Franklin, Bow, Gorham, Hooksett, Hillsborough and Berlin.

"We anticipate significant savings overall for our customers once the sales have been approved by the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission because our rates going forward will not include ongoing costs of owning and operating these power generation plants," said Eversource spokesman Kaitlyn Woods.

The PUC also hasn't ruled on nearly $600 million left in "stranded costs," including $400 million in environmental upgrades to the Eversource plant in Bow.

All customers who receive a bill from Eversource, whether they choose Eversource as their energy supplier or only receive delivery service from us, will share in paying those costs if the PUC approves.

"The refinancing of these (stranded) costs from our overall cost of capital to a low cost Triple-A rated financing will produce significant savings for customers," Woods said.

Last year, the PUC established an auction process to sell the plants.

J.P. Morgan, which oversaw the auction, contacted 182 potential buyers as part of its outreach. The first round garnered 25 bids. The second round was cut to 16 bidders before J.P. Morgan received seven final bids: three for the entire portfolio and four for one or more assets, according to PUC order.

Following the bidding, J.P. Morgan recommended going forward with two bidders: a thermal-only bid and a hydro-only bid.

"We find that the auction process leading to the sale of the thermal assets was commercially reasonable, competitive and consistent in all respects with our prior auction design order," the commission wrote in its 28-page order dated Tuesday.

The $175 million deal involves selling Newington Station in Newington (burns oil or natural gas), Schiller Station in Portsmouth (coal, oil or wood) and Merrimack Station in Bow (coal and kerosene) and two combustion turbines, in Groveton and Tamworth, to Granite Shore Power LLC.

Granite Shore Power LLC, a newly formed 50-50 partnership between Atlas Holdings of Greenwich, Conn., and Castleton Commodities International of Stamford, Conn., plans to offer jobs to 80 percent of the current 184 Eversource workforce at the plants included in the $175 million sale, according to the PUC.

mcousineau@unionleader.com


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