I’ve seen a convergence of random incidents that make me think it’s time to start asking some questions of the Public Utilities Commission and Public Service of New Hampshire.
In a story I wrote last week, Clean Power Development said they are ready to break ground on their project if they can get a purchase power agreement. CPD has a complaint before the PUC that says PSNH’s refuses to discuss buying power from them. PSNH argued CPD is trying to force PSNH to buy CPD’s electricity against their will.
Mayor David Bertrand wrote a letter to the PUC on Monday requesting they address the issue as soon as possible, as the CPD project would be a huge help to the city. And PSNH started following me on Twitter the same day. That’s enough gentle reminders to make me think I really need to get after this issue.
I understand PSNH’s feeling that it shouldn’t be forced to be an unwilling partner, but it seems like a dodge to the real question. Is PSNH required by law to consider all viable proposals to figure out what will result in the lowest electricity cost to rate payers? I think that’s the question I’d like to see answered with a simple yes or no. If CPD is in the best interest of rate payers, PSNH, a regulated utility, should accept their offer. If the CPD offer isn’t in the best interest of rate payers, PSNH should reject their offer. But PSNH can’t make that determination if it is unwilling to hear the offer in the first place, it seems.
I have read the docket, and it seems like CPD is asking one question and PSNH is answering a different one. I’d like to get the answer to the question CPD is asking, as that is the question the city of Berlin is asking. I suppose the PUC will ask it too, but I’m impatient.
So, PSNH, can you refuse to hear an offer? Is that a violation of your responsibility as a regulated utility?
Update: PSNH contacted me through Twitter and said they will address the question.
Update: Martin Murray of PSNH left a comment reiterating PSNH’s position that the law does not not require them to enter contracts with local generators. I wasn’t satisfied with that answer, so I called Mr. Murray to ask if PSNH is allowed to dismiss a proposal without considering it. He said due to the current complaint he was unwilling to comment. I tried several different approaches, including asking how PSNH decides who they enter into contracts with. I thought if I made the question more general, not about CPD, he might be able to answer, but he was still unwilling to comment. He said the issue is before the PUC, and it is for the PUC to address. He said PSNH will issue a response to the PUC docket in about a week.
I’m not satisfied with that response, but that’s what I got. Their response to the PUC hopefully will clear the mystery up. Either way, I intend to keep after it.