The scrubber at Merrimack Station in Bow, pictured here while under construction, was originally estimated to cost $250 million, but wound up costing $422 million. A major proceeding to determine if PSNH could bill ratepayers for that full cost has now been stayed.
The New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission has agreed to put the brakes on a big decision regarding the state’s largest electric utility, Public Service of New Hampshire.
The first is how much it will be reimbursed for a scrubber on a power plant in Bow that saw more than hundred million dollars more than was initially estimated. And the second is whether they should be allowed to continue to own power-plants – period – or if instead independent, third-parties should be the only companies in the electricity generation market.
Public Service of New Hampshire wants to seek a settlement on two major proceedings currently before utility regulators.
The first decision facing the Public Utilities Commission is how much ratepayers should have to spend to reimburse the cost of a $422 million scrubber on its coal-fired power plant in Bow. The second is whether it’s in customers’ best interest to allow PSNH to keep its power plants, or if the utility should sell them.
LaCapra estimates that compared to a $500 million "book value" Merrimack station would sell for somewhere around $10 million, or 2% of it's value. Schiller Station could see a similar mark down, at 6.5% of it's value.
An independent assessment commissioned by electrical regulators has released a preliminary report that finds some of Public Service of New Hampshire’s fossil-fired plants hold little market value. The report agrees with what staff at the Public Utilities Commission said last year.
This winter’s cold weather has proven a boon to Public Service of New Hampshire and its customers. Spikes in the price of natural gas have lifted regional electric prices, making PSNH’s rates competitive again.
PSNH says during most of the winter it was able to more cheaply produce electricity using its fleet of power plants than buying it on the open market and this saved the company $115 million dollars, savings which will be passed on to customers.
The New Hampshire House appears poised to send the question of whether the state's largest utility should sell its power plants to regulators.
In 2012, lawmakers tried to force PSNH to sell its power plants outright, but that effort stalled in the New Hampshire house. So this time around they’ve written a bill that asks the Public Utilities Commission to rule on whether that sale would eventually lower electric rates.
That bill got near unanimous support during a committee hearing Thursday, including from PSNH itself.
Since June New Hampshire lawmakers have been grappling with what to do about the persistently above market cost of electricity at the state’s largest utility, Public Service of New Hampshire. Now the legislative committee wants advice from regulators to see if selling PSNH’s power plants is the solution, but that advice may be slow in coming.
New Hampshire lawmakers say new leadership at Public Service of New Hampshire has brought a change of tone. For policy-makers this as a welcome development as they seek a solution to the steady bleed of customers from the state’s largest utility.
For customers of the state’s largest electric utility, Public Service of New Hampshire, electric rates are going up this week. Resident Power, the new utility in town, is using that fact to beat the drums and let New Hampshire residents know they can save money on their electric bills.