- A ratepayer group says it would be a bad idea to force Public Service Co. of New Hampshire (PSNH) to sell its power plants, as a Public Utilities Commission (PUC) staff analysis is recommending. "If PSNH was forced to divest, then you're pulling off more of PSNH assets, then you're creating more of a shortage in capacity," according to Marc Brown, president of the New England Ratepayers Association.
- The PUC analysis says that the utility's ratepayers would be better off in the long run. As more of its retail customers buy power supply from competitive suppliers, fewer will be left to pay rising PSNH power costs. It would be better to sell the assets, even if some of PSNH's debt would not be recovered, and spread the so-called stranded costs to the broader base of the utility's distribution customers. The analysis says the plants' total value is $660 million but would probably bring only $225 million in the open market.
- The New England Power Generators Association favors divestiture. It's a red herring to say divestment would mean closure of the plants, said NEPGA President Dan Dolan. "I'm in the business of keeping plants open, not closing them," he said. "All I want to do is change the structure."
This has shades of the 1990s, when the New England restructuring and "stranded investment" argument raged. In the tight New England power market, New Hampshire is the only state that didn't require or encourage utilities to sell generation and become wires-only companies. Some lawmakers are promoting the idea now, however. To PSNH, holding on to its three fossil fuel plants and nine hydropower stations is a kind of "insurance policy" for its ratepayers as power market dynamics face volatility and tightening supplies. The Vermont Yankee nuclear plant is slated to shut down, as is the Salem Harbor Power Station in Massachusetts. To non-utility generators, likely buyers of at least some PSNH assets, competitive companies do a better job of plant and market efficiency.