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Proposed NU-NSTAR merger could boost wind power, transmission

From SEC filing form 425 dated Nov. 1, 2010 This map of potential long-term development goals for the proposed utility to be born out of a merger of Northeast Utilities and NSTAR, shows areas (shaded in blue) of potential wind power development in northern New England and possible transmission routes to carry that energy to southern New England where 80 percent of the region’s energy is consumed. (click for larger version)
November 03, 2010
The problem of how to pay for building a larger, more robust Coös Loop to transmit renewable power out of the North Country could become a non-issue.

The merger of Northeast Utilities — parent company of Public Service of New Hampshire — and NSTAR, formerly Boston Edison announced on Oct. 18 would create the 15th largest electric utility in the U. S. It's new size could allow the utility to make significant investments in transmission facilities, both companies reported in separate but identical filings with the U. S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Both utility companies filed form 425 with the SEC on Monday morning that state that once combined they would be "larger, more diverse, and better positioned to support economic growth and renewables in New England." Along with that statement were maps that showed possible regions in Northern New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine where the company could explore windpower and transmission of that power to southern New England.

The explanation with the accompanying map of New England, reads: "Together, NU and NSTAR would serve 50 percent of the region's load, including important load centers in southern New England." It would "bring best-in-class transmission developer, scale, financial strength, and combined talent to successfully develop large-scale projects to connect wind generation with load centers that complement (current) ISO-New England regional planning and potential Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) changes; create efficiencies by optimizing multiple wind sites and required transmission; get clean energy to New England's load sites; and utilize a 'beneficiary-pay' model that provides transparency for both customers and regulators."

The filings point out that

NU, NSTAR, National Grid, and United Illuminating are working collectively on this model.

A major plus of the proposed NU and NSTAR merger, the two companies say, is that the combined companies would effectively advocate projects designed to move forward current public policy goals to address climate change and the regional Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS). New England RPS are set at 21 percent by 2020, whereas existing resources now only provide 6 percent.

Next week's meeting of the North Country Transmission Commission (NCTC) is set from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 9, under the chairmanship of Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, a Democrat of Portsmouth, in the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) offices on Fruit Street in Concord.

The agenda includes discussion of the KEMA consultant's report on how, realistically, a $150 million investment in a new Coös Loop could be paid for and whether or not the Commission should recommend any legislation be filed for the upcoming 2011 legislative session.

The most recent NU and NSTAR filings could influence the discussion.

The proposed merger of the two utilities sprang out of the president/CEOs working together on the Northern Pass Transmission LLC.

The Northern Pass line, starting in Des Cantons, Quebec, would run to Franklin at a capital cost of $1.107 billion to be borne by Hydro-Quebec. An application filed on Oct. 14 with the federal Department of Energy (DOE) began the permitting process.

Varney Smith
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