PSNH seeks rate decrease, more customer migration
Public Service of New Hampshire customers could see their bills drop 4.3 percent starting in July, though the rate decrease may have been greater if the company didn’t continue to lose customers to lower-priced competitors, according to a filing PSNH made yesterday to the Public Utilities Commission.
The rate change, if approved by the commission, would save a customer using 500 kilowatt-hours $3.94 a month, said PSNH spokesman Michael Skelton. The company also disclosed in the filing that it expects 50.9 percent of its commercial and residential customers will leave for other providers by year’s end, up from 45.6 percent.
That additional customer migration will cost PSNH $23 million in revenue this year, according to the company. It also means fewer customers will be sharing the company’s annual costs, the filing said.
PSNH predicted in May that its rates would drop for the last six months of this year, from the current rate of 9.54 cents per kilowatt-hour to 8.98 cents per kilowatt-hour. But in its updated filing, PSNH projected a slightly lower rate of 8.62 cents per kilowatt-hour.
Skelton attributed the new rate, in part, to this winter’s spike in natural gas prices. When natural gas became more expensive, PSNH was able to generate cheaper power from its own coal, biomass and hydro plants, and did not have to buy it from other generators, Skelton said.
He said the company returned the $42 million it realized in savings to its customers by covering costs it would have otherwise had to pass on to rate payers. Looking ahead, PSNH expects to continue generating its own power during high-demand summer months, Skelton said.
The company’s new proposed rate of 8.62 cents per kilowatt-hour is closer to competitors’ prices, but it’s still higher than most. Electricity NH is advertising a 12-month rate of 7.89 cents per kilowatt-hour. North American Power has its six-month rate advertised at 7.99 cents per kilowatt-hour.
Skelton noted yesterday that PSNH’s proposed rate includes 0.98 cents toward the $422 million mercury scrubber the company was required to install at its Bow coal-burning plant. But Skelton said PSNH “is not here to compete with those suppliers.” PSNH, the only utility to generate and distribute its power, is regulated by the state. That regulation includes oversight of its rates.
“We are here as the safety net, and we are at a reasonable price,” Skelton said. “Our price is competitive with the marketplace, and that is a good thing for customers. They might find a better deal and we support that. And in case they don’t find what they want, or they’d like to come back, we are the safety net.”
Hearings on PSNH’s rate change request are expected to begin next week at the Public Utilities Commission, Skelton said. If approved by the commission, the rate changes are set to take effect July 1.
(Annmarie Timmins can be reached at 369-3323,
firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @annmarietimmins.)