My Turn: Eversource has been working in good faith to comply with biomass law

For the Monitor
Published: 3/12/2019 12:10:04 AM

In his op-ed on Senate Bill 365 (Monitor Forum, March 7), Tom Thomson makes a show of blaming Eversource for the status of agreements with the wood-generating plants, but never actually demonstrates how Eversource has engaged in the “bullying” that he claims. That’s because he is unable to, as we’ve been working in good faith at Eversource to comply with the requirements of the law.

Immediately following its implementation, we solicited proposals from the wood-generating plants. Five of the six responded, either rejecting or amending the solicitation, with those responses creating confusion about how some of the requirements were interpreted under the law. At the same time, other parties brought the constitutionality of SB 365 into question, with the New England Ratepayers Association, the New Hampshire Office of Consumer Advocate and the Electric Power Supply Association asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to declare it unconstitutional, arguing it conflicts with existing provisions of federal law.

Against this backdrop of confusion and uncertainty, we continued working to implement the goals of the New Hampshire Legislature while also ensuring that customers are protected if the law is invalidated by federal authorities. That’s why we asked the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission for guidance on how the law should be implemented while considering the pending constitutionality question, the ambiguities within the law itself and the significant costs to be borne by electric customers.

In its initial order, the PUC clarified several questions regarding the interpretation of the law – including the formula to be used for the adjusted energy rate, which differs from what the wood-generating plants initially reported in their filing with FERC. However, the PUC did not guarantee that the above-market costs could be recovered by Eversource if SB 365 were found unconstitutional, and instead suggested that the plants and Eversource voluntarily develop a customer-protection mechanism until the constitutionality questions are resolved.

With the existing tension between state and federal law, and the approximately $75 million in above-market costs for customers at stake, it is of paramount importance that we make every effort possible to protect our customers until that tension no longer exists. As such, we’ve proposed that the above-market costs be placed in an escrow account until the constitutional questions around the law are resolved, but the wood-generating plants have repeatedly rejected this prudent approach.

We are committed to providing our customers with the lowest rates possible while working within the bounds of state and federal law. Despite the uncertainty surrounding SB 365, we have continued to work in good faith to implement its requirements while protecting the interests of all until a final decision is reached.

Eversource has a legal requirement to ensure that its rates are “just and reasonable and not more than is allowed by law.” Until there is a decision determining whether SB 365 is constitutional, the PUC has made it clear that it lacks authority to provide assurance the costs of this law will meet this legal requirement.

(William Hinkle is media relations manager for Eversource.)




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