×

Group that shapes electricity markets in New England wants to keep meetings secret

  • NEPOOL logo Courtesy—New England Power Pool



Monitor staff
Sunday, August 26, 2018

A little-known organization that helps shape policy for electricity markets in New England wants the federal government to let it keep its meetings secret.

The request, which has drawn objections from the New Hampshire Consumer Advocate, comes from NEPOOL, or New England Power Pool, a group composed of utilities, power plants, and various participants in the wholesale electric markets. NEPOOL filed the request with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Aug. 13, asking FERC to formalize a long-standing informal practice of not allowing members of the press to become a member of the group or to otherwise attend or cover meetings.

Allowing coverage “would adversely impact NEPOOL’s ability to continue to foster candid discussions and negotiations in its stakeholder meetings,” it says in the filing.

Don Kreis, the New Hampshire consumer advocate with the Public Utilities Commission and a member of NEPOOL, has intervened in the FERC proceeding and said he plans to file an objection.

On Twitter, Kreis expressed dismay at the move.

“The pleading filed by NEPOOL reads like J.P. Morgan arguing on behalf of his fellow robber barons — keep NEPOOL a secret club because, Oh gosh, otherwise we might start feeling uncomfortable,” he wrote on Sunday.

The issue came up when a reporter from a trade publication called RTO Insider tried to attend a NEPOOL meeting. The publication covers electricity markets; RTO stands for “regional transmission organization.”

NEPOOL has seldom been the subject of coverage in general news publications.

NEPOOL is part of the complicated system that designs and operates the power grid throughout the six New England states. It was created in 1971, and now has “more than 480 members,” mostly companies involved in creating or distributing electricity, like Eversource and Unitil, but also some “public service organizations” including the New Hampshire Office of the Consumer Advocate.

It is distinct from ISO-New England, which oversees the complex operations of the power grid, although it interacts closely with ISO-New England, including voting on whether to support that group’s budget when it goes before FERC for approval.

A spokeswoman for ISO-New England tried to emphasize that difference in an interview with Commonwealth Magazine, saying that NEPOOL is a private organization that “has an advisory relationship to the ISO, but is not under the ISO’s jurisdiction.”

According to the filing with FERC, NEPOOL members had considered other options, including one that would allow members of the press to become “non-voting” members who could attend many, but not all, meetings, as long as they paid a $5,000 application and an annual fee. Under that proposal, which was rejected by a vote of NEPOOL members, reporters who paid the fee would have had to submit any coverage “to all attendees quoted so they could make corrections and provide additional explanation.”

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)