PUC, PSNH, CPD, AWOL, IOU

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.

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3 thoughts on “PUC, PSNH, CPD, AWOL, IOU

  1. To the NH PUC and related entities of interest,Your office has thanked me for several concerns I have regarding biomass in the north country, however I was really looking to speak with someone within the NH PUC or related entities who could actually address these concernsPlease send all future correspondence to my new email address as follows; jonathanedwards@pcre.comI am in favor of appropriately positioned and sized biomass facilities within the sustainability levels of the local forests. As I travel West from Berlin on Rte. 110 towards Milan, liquidation harvesting has virtually eliminated wood supply within close proximity of the proposed biomass facilities due to a few land holders who have exercised their rights under lack of NH law to sabotage the land. The same holds true traveling east in the direction of the Success township where one of the same land holders have created an uproar of concern for the land’s future that the conservation fund has acquired options for easements to protect such practices from occurring again. Various wood studies document this concern. Legislative changes have occurred in Maine to prevent one of these same owners from sabotaging Maine lands in the future but that is a subject for another day.I have learned that PSNH’s Schiller station is having to reach out further and further for wood supply and that north country biomass facilities already in operation have run out of supply at times. Understandably without paper mills and lumber demands for the higher quality wood, the low graded limbs and branches just aren’t available at times. So how can we add another 100 MW of biomass facilities to this situation? What changes can we make to reestablish responsible forestry practices? What demands can we put forth as a responsibility of these biomass companies in a role of sustainability? I understand that two additional biomass facilities are actively spending tens of thousands of dollars gearing up for their projects and that these two proposed Berlin facilities should be taken seriously. Lastly, a number of people are reporting that they feel the PUC and/or related entities are favoring PSNH due to the fact that PSNH provides the PUC with so much business in processing. These people are stating that because PSNH favors one of the proposed north country biomass facilities over the other that almost guarantees the PSNH favorite at the expense of the other which seems to blend into the countryside better in addition to blending better into the grid and sustainability of the forest.Who can I speak with regarding these issues?Jon Edwards

  2. Erik – thanks for your question posted on your blog.As you know, a complaint against PSNH has been filed with the NH Public Utilities Commission by Clean Power Development.We are preparing a formal response to that filing and will be happy to share it with you when it is filed with the NHPUC – likely within one week.Until then, I will address your question with this background – The deregulation of the electric utility industry in New Hampshire in 2002 changed our energy landscape.Customers today of any electric utility in New Hampshire can choose to purchase their “energy” from an independent supplier, instead of their traditional utility. (Although they still pay their “delivery” company/utility for delivering that energy.)The deregulation law also changed the rules regarding PSNH’s relationship with independent suppliers. The company IS required to assist developers of new generators, such as CPD, in accessing the regional transmission system, so that they can offer their energy for sale; but, the company is NOT required to enter into a long-term contract to purchase that energy itself.Basically, as the deregulation law intended, new generators now have access to the entire New England region – to sell their energy to any willing customer. PSNH is not the only game in town.I hope this helps explain the issue to some degree. Again, I'm happy to share with you and your readers our formal response to the CPD complaint, when it is filed in the near future.

  3. PSNH may not be required to enter into a long term contract with CPD, but ethically speaking shouldn't they at least consider doing so, especially if CPD offers to sell them the same renewable power as LLEG but at a discounted price? Doesn't the electric rate payer in NH matter in a case like this? I think Mr. Murray gave Eric a canned response that didn't address the real issue of concern to NH electric ratepayers. I personally can see right through his spin.

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