Eversource seeks approval to sell power plants

MANCHESTER — Eversource has announced a $258.3 million purchase-and-sales agreement with two companies wishing to buy the utility’s electrical power generating facilities, including the hydroelectric dam at Ayers Island in Bristol-New Hampton and Eastman Falls Dam in Franklin.
The sale, if approved by the state Public Utilities Commission, would lead to lower electric rates in the future, according to Martin Murray, Eversource’s media relations manager.
Eversource expects the sale, which would complete New Hampshire’s electric deregulation, to be finalized in late December, or early in 2018, which would make rate adjustments possible in either the first or second quarter of 2018, Murray said.
Hull Street Energy, LLC, of Bethesda, Maryland, is purchasing Eversource’s nine hydroelectric facilities. The Hull Street Energy team owns and operates other North American hydroelectric facilities and recently acquired five power generation plants in western Massachusetts.
Ayers Island Station, which has an 8.4 megawatt generating capacity, is selling for $10,500,000, while Eastman Falls Station, with a capacity of 6.4 megawatts, is selling for $6,150,000, according to the agreement.
In addition to Ayers Island and Eastman Falls, Hull Street Energy is acquiring Amoskeag Hydro in Manchester, Canaan Hydro in West Stewartstown, Garvins Falls in Bow, Gorham Hydro in Gorham, Hooksett Hydro in Hooksett, Jackman Hydro in Hillsborough, and Smith Hydro in Berlin. Together, the plants have a 68.2 megawatt generating capacity.
Granite Shore Power LLC, a newly formed partnership between Atlas Holdings and Castleton Commodities International of Connecticut, is purchasing Eversource’s fossil fuel plants: Merrimack Station in Bow, Newington Station in Newington, Schiller Station in Portsmouth, Lost Nation in Groveton, and White Lake in Tamworth. Those plants have a combined generating capacity of 1,130.1 megawatts.
The sales are necessary under New Hampshire’s electric restructuring law, initiated by current Sen. Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro) in 1996. Other utility-owned plants were sold about 15 years ago, leaving Eversource as the only electric utility in New England that still owns coal, wood, oil and gas generation plants.
Murray said Eversource was working on divestiture of its plants when the state legislature halted the process in 2014. The following year, Eversource, along with a dozen other parties, including senators Bradley and Dan Feltes, the state Office of Energy and Planning, the Office of Consumer Advocate, staff members of the Public Utilities Commission, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1837, the Conservation Law Foundation, TransCanada Hydro Northeast, Inc., TransCanada Power Marketing, Inc., and the New Hampshire Sustainable Energy Association, signed the 2015 Public Service Company of New Hampshire Restructuring and Rate Stabilization Agreement to sell the power plants.
The Public Utilities Commission selected J.P. Morgan Securities LLC to oversee the auction process, with the goal of achieving the highest possible price for the assets in order to minimize any stranded costs — the value of capital investments that are unrecovered in the sale.
Murray said there will be significant reductions in electric rates going forward, because they no longer will include the ongoing costs of owning and operating the power generation plants.
He explained that current rates are inflated by the guaranteed recovery of the costs associated with a regulated utility.
“These plants were built under the old order,” Murray said, “when regulators told them what to build and guaranteed they’d recover those costs. Because of a series of events and concerns, we continued to own them and recover costs under the old regulated model. Over time, that became more expensive that the costs on the open market.”
He said Eversource’s plants are the only generating plants in New England that are owned and operated by a regulated company. Unregulated plants are better able to adjust to market conditions, he said.
Eversource anticipates that purchasing its electricity on the wholesale market will bring additional savings that will translate into lower electric rates.
The agreement includes foregoing the recovery of $25 million associated with the emission-reducing “scrubber” at the Merrimack Station, but the company will continue to charge customers — both those purchasing energy from Eversource and those who buy power from other suppliers but use Eversource transmission lines — to recover the stranded costs. However, the agreement with state government leaders allows the company to purchase low-cost bonds that customers will repay over a 12-year period, softening the impact.
Anticipating that the sale also will have an impact on the communities where the plants are located, Eversource agreed to provide three years of tax stabilization payments.
Murray explained that the property tax assessment is likely to change, and “Eversource is seeking to provide a soft landing, assuming there’s a possibility that the new assessment may be less than the old.”
Once the municipality establishes an assessment for the new owner, Eversource agreed to cover taxes for the difference between the old and new assessment for the first year, two-thirds of that amount in the second year, and one-third in the third year.

10 12 Avery Island Dam

Ayers Island Dam sits at the border of Bristol and New Hampton. (Adam Drapho/Laconia Daily Sun)

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Belmont facility committee seeks additional comments

BELMONT — Residents had a chance to help prioritize town building needs during an open house on Wednesday night, but for those who did not attend, the Belmont Facility Strategy Committee is offering further opportunities to weigh in.
Committee member Donna Hepp said comment forms are available at the Belmont Town Hall, and the committee will be posting an electronic version of the survey online.
The deadline for completion of the surveys is Friday, Oct. 27.
“We’ve just scanned through the comments thus far, and I’d say there are a wide range of suggestions and feedback,” Hepp said. “Thus far, the comments are focusing on issues facing the Police Department and Town Hall and lots of options regarding future use of the Belmont Mill.”
She said the responses also indicate an interest in public tours of the town buildings.
The survey identifies issues with nine of the town-owned buildings and provides space for people rate the priority and offer their own comments, including an open-ended “Other Ideas/Suggestions” at the end of the sheet.

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Shaker board awards bid on high school track

CANTERBURY — The Shaker Regional School Board has chosen Maine Tennis and Track for the reconstruction of the Belmont High School track, which is closed to public use because of its deteriorating condition.
The nearly 50-year-old business, based in Gray, Maine, specializes in the design, construction, surfacing, and resurfacing of tennis courts, running tracks, and other sports facilities in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts. The company’s bid of $276,080 was not the lowest one — Cape and Island Tennis and Track of Bourne, Massachusetts, came in lower, according to Superintendent Michael Tursi — but the School Board voted to award the bid to the Maine firm.
Work on the track is scheduled to begin the first week of November, with the company milling and regrading the track this fall. Next spring and summer, the company will do the fine grading, paving and resurfacing, so the track will be able to open next fall.
The track has traditionally been used by members of the community as well as high school athletic teams, but bubbling and delamination have made it unsafe, and the district closed the track at the beginning of this academic year.
The Shaker board also opened the sole bid that came in for the Gale School, but Tursi said no action was taken. School Board members will review the bid, which came from the Save Our Gale School Committee, and will discuss it at their Oct. 24 meeting.

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