Should Eversource be allowed to buy pipeline gas, Northern Pass power?

May 05, 2017

BY: CCNH-LFDA Highlights

The House Science, Technology and Energy committee is working on a bill that would allow utilities such as Eversource to purchase gas from new pipelines or power from new transmission line projects. Ratepayers would fund the purchases, with a long-term goal of lower electricity rates.

The bill, SB 128, would modify the utility restructuring New Hampshire started in the late 1990s. That restructuring prevents utilities that sell electricity from also owning their own power plants. Ideally this forces utilities to buy electricity from the cheapest power plants, rather than making customers pay for a company's own, less efficient power plants. 

SB 128 was prompted by Eversource's interest in long-term contracts to purchase gas from a new pipeline and electricity from the proposed Northern Pass transmission line project. The Public Utilities Commission has ruled that Eversource cannot sign the long-term contracts because it amounts to owning power generating facilities, which is exactly what New Hampshire's restructuring aimed to end.

SB 128 would allow such long-term contracts if they are likely to decrease electricity rates or increase electric grid reliability.

Bill supporters argue that the true goal of restructuring New Hampshire's energy market was lower electricity rates. In the long-term, new natural gas pipeline and transmission lines from Quebec will ease some of New Hampshire's energy shortages, lowering electricity rates for all. Eversource should therefore be allowed to sign the contracts.

Bill supporters also note that the Public Utilities Commission will still have final say over whether the contracts are in the public's best interest before approving any long-term purchasing agreement.

Bill opponents argue that the electricity market can change significantly over the course of a long-term contract, and Eversource should therefore not lock into any long-term purchasing agreements.

According to testimony from the New England Power Generators Assocation, "There can be no doubt that this bill will result in benefits to projects chosen by utilities, likely projects the utilities themselves own, and there can also be no doubt that those benefits will come at the expense of New Hampshire consumers."

The committee's next work session on SB 128 is scheduled for Tuesday, May 9.

What is your opinion on SB 128? Share your opinion in the comments below.

Comments

Kevin Drees
- Madbury

Fri, 05/12/2017 - 8:22pm

Long-term contracts for non-renewable energy is a bad idea. Craft laws that encourage the development of solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources.

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