Eversource gets approval to sell its power plants

  • The coal-fired Merrimack Station in Bow, shown here last winter, was one of three fossil-fuel plants and nine hydro facilities currently owned by Eversource Energy to be sold at auction overseen by the state Public Utilities Commission. AP file

By Monitor staff
Saturday, July 02, 2016

State energy regulators approved the sale of Eversource Energy power plants Friday, including Merrimack Station in Bow.

The nine hydro facilities and three fossil-fuel plants, including coal-fired Merrimack Station, Newington Station and Schiller Station in Portsmouth will be sold at auction overseen by the state Public Utilities Commission. New ownership is expected to save customers money by creating a more competitive market to generate power.

“Divestiture and securitization should have overall positive impacts on all customer classes – residential, small commercial and large commercial,” the PUC wrote in its order approving the agreement.

PUC commissioners ultimately determined the deal was in the public’s interest, and estimated $165 million in saving during the first five years.

However, the deal also allows Eversource to recover $415 million from customers of the cost to install a mercury scrubber at Merrimack Station. Eversource agreed to forgo $25 million of the scrubber’s cost, which the PUC found “reasonable.”

Eversource would eventually purchase power on the competitive market, in line with the practices of other utilities in the state.

“This means New Hampshire has finally completed the restructuring of our electric market,” said Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley and Sen. Dan Feltes in a statement. Both senators participated in the settlement and said they were gratified by its approval.

“The settlement should lead to lower rates which will improve N.H.’s economy,” the senators said.

The energy savings projections were calculated on the power plants being sold by the end of 2016.

Eversource has been preparing to sell the plants. In November of last year, the utility used drones to shoot marketing video of the plants from above.

It’s not clear what Merrimack Station would fetch in an auction. The settlement would provide for three years of property tax stabilization for Bow if the plant sells for less than its assessed value.

Gov. Maggie Hassan applauded the agreement, saying it reduces costs to ratepayers and avoids costly litigation.