Co-op member electric rates will go up about 18% during the winter months; natural gas delivery issues at fault

PLYMOUTH — Electric bills will be going up for members of New Hampshire Electric Cooperative during the upcoming winter period, though not as high as last winter, the utility has announced.

At its meeting Tuesday, the NHEC Board of Directors approved increases effective with bills issued Nov. 1 for the co-op power and regional-access charge portions of members' bills. As a result, the typical residential member using 500 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per month will see an overall bill increase of 18 percent — or $16.30 per month for the winter period — which ends next April 30.

Though the winter period rate increase is significant, it comes on the heels of a summer period that saw rates drop 20 percent from the 2014 winter period price. Overall, the typical residential member using 500 kWh per month will be paying 4.5 percent less than last winter.

The same conditions that have caused New England electric rates to spike for the past three winters are still to blame for this latest seasonal increase. Though natural gas prices remain low at the wellhead, a lack of adequate pipeline capacity into New England means that power producers will be competing again this winter with home heating for limited natural gas supplies. This causes a significant delivery premium to be added to the wellhead price for natural gas, which is used to generate more than half of the electricity produced in New England.

The rate increase is the result of increases in two portions of members' bills — co-op power (the actual electricity used) and the regional-access charge (the cost to access the regional transmission grid in order to get power to the NHEC distribution system). For most members, the co-op power rate is increasing 46 percent from 6.5 cents per kWh to 9.5 cents per kWh. By comparison, that is 18 percent lower than last winter's co-op power rate of 11.6 cents per kWh, the co-op noted.

For most members the regional access-charge (RAC) is increasing 11 percent during this winter period from 2.2 cents per kWh to 2.4 cents per kWh. Driving this increase are the continued costs of major investments being made in the region's bulk transmission facilities that move large amounts of power from generators to load centers. Investment in these large transmission facilities that serve the whole region went up another $800 million this year (following $1 billion in additions last year), and such additions are expected to continue at about that same level for at least the next two years.

Similarly, there is little relief in sight for the conditions in the natural gas market that are causing the wide seasonal swings in the cost of wholesale power in New England.

"ISO-New England is taking some steps to reduce the need to deliver natural gas to New England by pipeline by incentivizing the storage and back-up use of fuel oil by generators that are capable of using it; by paying for liquid natural gas that can be stored within the region; and by enlisting some electricity users who can reliably reduce their demand when conditions are tight. But the fundamental cause for high New England winter electricity prices won't be resolved until solutions are implemented that counter the region's natural gas delivery limitations," said Steve Kaminski, NHEC Vice President of Power Resources and Access. "The 'forward' electricity market does not anticipate such relief for at least the next several years."

 

 

City facing shortage of election officials

LACONIA — City Clerk Mary Reynolds, whose responsibilities include ensuring that all local, state and federal elections are conducted properly, relies on those who generously volunteer to work the polls on election day.

These positions include the elected offices of moderator, ward clerk, selectman and supervisor of the checklist — and the unelected positions of ballot clerk and assistants.

There are currently vacancies in four of the six wards in the city. Ward 2 is without two selectmen. In Ward 3 the positions of moderator and ward clerk as well as two selectmen are vacant. And three selectmen are required in Ward 4 and Ward 5.

Reynolds said that all the positions must be filled, but stressed the urgency of filling the vacancies in Ward 3. She noted that anyone wishing to serve in an elected position — moderator, ward clerk, selectman and supervisor of the checklist — must be a registered voter of the ward. She also emphasized that training is provided to all volunteers.

To volunteer or seek information contact the City Clerk at 527-1265 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Repair work on Laconia's downtown parking garage to begin next week

LACONIA — Paul Moynihan, director of Public Works, said yesterday that he expects work to begin next week to address the structural deficiencies that prompted the abrupt closure of the downtown parking garage on Monday evening.

Moynihan said that R.M. Piper, Inc. of Plymouth, the firm that recently completed the reconstruction of the Main Street Bridge, will likely do the work. He said that the repairs will require welding additional steel to beams and joints, especially those supporting the ramps, which have been compromised by corrosion. Moreover, some of the galvanized steel pans, into which the concrete was poured to form the ramps and decks, have also been weakened by corrosion and may require repair. Along with the exposed steel beams, the pans containing the ramps contribute to structural integrity of the garage.

Meanwhile, Dubois & King, Inc., the engineering firm that found the deficiencies in the course of an assessing the condition of the parking garage, will be testing the strength of the compromised steel and evaluating the remaining sections of the garage. Moynihan said that the section of the garage atop the commercial and office spaces along Main Street has suffered from leaks from time to time. The repairs and assessment will be working in parallel," Moynihan said.

The garage was built in 1973 and opened in 1974. Since then it underwent a major upgrade in 1996, which included repainting the steelwork. In 2005, repairs were made to the decks and the middle deck was overlaid and sealed to stem damage from road salt and melting snow. And leafage into the commercial spaces was addressed in 2008.