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Committee retains bill to give Eversource another shot at Northern Pass power buy



Monitor staff
Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Lawmakers hit the brakes on a bill that could give Eversource Energy another chance to seek regulatory approval on its plan to buy power off the Northern Pass.

The House Science, Technology and Energy Committee voted, 20-1, on Tuesday to retain Senate Bill 128, meaning members will work on it over the summer and bring it back next year.

In March, the Public Utilities Commission rejected Eversource’s request to secure 10 percent of the 1,000-megawatt transmission line for customers. Eversource officials had been watching the bill, but they said Tuesday they understood the committee’s decision.

“We understand the importance of considering this proposed legislation carefully,” said Bill Quinlan, president of New Hampshire operations at Eversource. “We are committed to continuing to work intently with the New Hampshire Legislature, the (Public Utilities Commission), and other parties to identify solutions for delivering much-needed energy rate relief for our customers.”

The bill would have changed the state’s electric restructuring laws by letting utilities propose measures aimed at reducing electricity costs, such as power purchase agreements like the one Eversource proposed.

Rep. Jacalyn Cali-Pitts said the committee wants to delay action on the measure until divestiture is complete, which will happen once Eversource sells off its remaining power plants. Then, no utilities in the state will generate their own power.

“We decided to hold that bill, work on it a little bit ... but in the meantime let the process take its full course,” she said. “We want to see what comes out of all of this.”

Northern Pass opponents cheered the decision.

“We applaud the committee members who saw through Eversource’s slick arguments and rejected this bill to shift the financial risks of Northern Pass to consumers,” said Judy Reardon, an a senior adviser to advocacy group Protect the Granite State.

Eversource had sought a 20-year power purchase agreement to buy hydropower off Northern Pass and then resell it on the competitive market. Any net losses or gains from the sale would be passed on to customers. The PUC rejected the request, saying the setup would violate state laws deregulating the power industry because the utility’s sale of power is essentially the same as owning a power plant.

(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or amorris@cmonitor.com.)