Blogs > Power to the People

A common sense look at energy issues in the state of Connecticut and how they affect the state's residents

Monday, August 17, 2015

Eversource Energy Schedules Hastily Called Press Conference About Northern Pass

Hartford-based Eversource Energy has called a 10 a.m. press conference on Tuesday  in Pittsfield, New Hampshire for what it is says is an "updated" route for the Northern Pass transmission line project it has proposed to bring hydroelectric power down from Quebec.

In a media advisory sent out at 3 p.m. Monday, just 19 hours before the event will be held, Eversource said it will "announce a new balanced plan with an improved route that preserves New Hampshire's most treasured scenic areas."  The advisory also says the company will "unveil a comprehensive plan that ensures the Granite State receives significant, enhanced and unique benefits."

It will be interesting to see what changes Eversource is proposing. One of the major concerns about the project is the impact that the 187-mile transmission line will have on New Hampshire's environment. A draft report issued last month by the federal Energy Department concluded that the transmission project will have a negative effect on tourism, wildlife and prop­erty values in New Hamp­shire, but that  it would cost less than other alternatives.

The current plan for the project calls for only eight miles of transmission line to be buried underground. None of that would be done the White Mountain National Forest, one of New Hampshire's scenic treasures

 The Department of Energy report says burying additional amounts of line is “practical and technically feasible,” but only if a lower power transmission cable is used.

The report says the line could be buried over greater distances if a 1,000 megawatt line was used instead of the 1,200 megawatt transmission that is currently being proposed. But doing so would reduce the amount of electricity that could carried by the project.

Eversource's media advisory says the "new route addresses many of the concerns voiced to the project over the years, as well as the conclusions of the U.S. Department of Energy's draft Environmental Impact Statement."

To borrow a line from Lewis Carroll, the author of "Alices's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass," the Northern Pass project just gets "curiouser and curiouser."



Labels: , , ,

Sunday, July 5, 2015

UIL Holdings Stock Dips

Think that last week's announcement that Connecticut utility regulators were tentatively rejecting the UIL Holdings' $3 billion deal with Spanish energy giants Iberdrola didn't hurt the New Haven-based company?

The performance of  UIL's stock price stock price suggests that it did.

Over the past week, UIL Holdings stock price fell $3.11 or  6.4 per percent from Monday's high of $48.45 to $45.34 at the close of trading on Thursday during a holiday-shortened trading week. The announcement of the decision by Connecticut's Public Utilities Regulatory Authority regarding the proposed  UIL-Iberdrola merger came Tuesday afternoon.

The stock hit a low for the week of $44.16 early Thursday before adding $1.18 over the remainder of that afternoon.

UIL Holdings is the parent company of The United Illuminating Co., which is an electric distribution company, as well as Southern Connecticut Gas, Connecticut Natural Gas and Berkshire Gas, which serves customers in western Massachusetts. The company's stock trades under the ticker symbol UIL on the New York Stock Exchange.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Eversource Energy Eager To Start On Northern Pass

Think the folks at Eversource Energy's  aren't chomping at the bit to get work started on their Northern Pass transmission line project that will bring more hydro power from Canada into the New England electricity market?

The company announced on Tuesday that  has reached an agreement with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. It has already hired 15 apprentice electrical workers as part of its arrangement with the IBEW, according to New Hampshire Public Radio.

The only problem is that Hartford, Ct.-based Eversource still has a number of federal and state approvals that must be approved before any construction can begin.

There's nothing wrong or illegal with what Eversource is doing. To some extent, the partnership with the IBEW and the hiring of apprentice line workers is just good planning.

And since the 187 mile project will come straight down the state's middle from north to south, Granite State workers deserve first crack at the work.

The transmission project would bring 1,200 megawatts of hydropower from Quebec into southern New Hampshire, where the line would be linked up with the regional power grid. A small portion of the transmission line’s route, about eight or nine miles, goes through the heart of the White Mountain National Forest.

But it is another example that the company is prepared to go to great lengths to get the project approved.



Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, April 30, 2015

You Say Tomato And I Say Toe-Mah-Toe

One of the true pleasures of being a journalist with a blog is providing my readers with what radio broadcaster Paul Harvey used to call "the rest of the story."

My latest opportunity to do that is with Eversource Energy, which held its annual meeting Wednesday at Hartford's Infinity Hall. At that meeting, Thomas May, the company's chairman, president and chief executive officer, confidently told shareholders that the company's Northern Pass transmission project would not be derailed.

 May called opponents of the project, which will be built in New Hampshire, a “a vocal minority ... a small project of resistance.”

As anyone who has traveled through New Hampshire with any regularity can tell you, there are probably thousands of signs opposing Northern Pass. They can be found in towns all along the route that the transmission line will take as it brings hydro power from Canada to be included in New England's mix of energy options.

My story had the temerity to report that the company is talking with state officials about how it can remove any political opposition to the project. That's important because New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan is opposed to Northern Pass in its current form and the project requires state approval.

In the story, I referred to those discussions as "negotiations." And that sent Eversource Energy's public relation's army into a snit.

Martin Murray, an Eversource Energy spokesman in New Hampshire, told me the term negotiations "carries a legal  meaning” that does not reflect what the company is doing in the state. And the company was so concerned about my story that they even devoted to short post to it in the blog they devoted exclusively to Northern Pass.

"We continue to solicit input from a broad range of stakeholders, including landowners along the route, municipalities, businesses, environmental groups, and elected officials, as we consider adjustments to the project that will provide substantial New Hampshire benefits," the Northern Pass blog post said in part.

All I can say is: I'm flattered that Eversource considers me such an influential journalist. We have published a clarification to the story, not because we believe that what we originally reported was wrong, but to be fair to the company in the court of public opinion.

 I'll leave it to you, dear reader, to decide whether you can have negotiations without discussions or vice versa.

 But consider this: If Eversource is so confident that Northern Pass will be approved at the state level that its own CEO is dismissing opponents as "a vocal minority," then why does the company "continue to solicit input from a broad range of stakeholders, including landowners along the route, municipalities, businesses, environmental groups, and elected officials."

And one final thought as you ponder the answer to that question. An Eversource shareholder asked May during the meeting how much it cost the company to change its name from Northeast Utilities to Eversource Energy, a change which occurred earlier this year.

 May demurred at first, saying he didn't know and then "It's in the millions."

Following the meeting, I asked a company spokesman how it was possible that the company could spend that amount of money on a rebranding and not know exactly how much. And after a little bit of prodding, he acknowledged that it was number that Eversource officials would rather not make public.

Keep that in mind as you try to decide what Eversource is actually doing in New Hampshire

Labels: , , , , ,

Saturday, March 14, 2015

New Report Shows Solar Gains In Connecticut

Connecticut added 500 new solar energy jobs between 2013 and 2014, according to a new report released by the Washington, D.C.-based Solar Foundation.

The gain in employment moved Connecticut's ranking among the nation's 50 states from 28th in 2013 to 25th in 2014. The information regarding Connecticut's standing within America's solar industry is contained in the group's National Solar Job Census.

Connecticut is home to 127 solar energy companies, according to the report. And solar energy powers 15,230 homes in the state, which leaves Connecticut ranked 21st in the nation.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Reuters Story Mentions ISO-NE In Natural Gas Price Story

Another day, another view on regional grid operator ISO-New England.

I wrote a story Friday in which Pulitzer Prize winning author David Cay Johnston criticized ISO-NE for its handling of one of the auctions that it oversees to procure electricity three years in advance of when its needed. 

Now in this Reuters article that appears in the Bangor Daily News, ISO-NE is given credit for having offered incentives to power plant operators to lock in oil and gas supplies early. Among the incentives offered is an end-of-season cash payout to cover any excess costs from unused fuel supplies.

The supply of natural gas is important to for generation of electricity in the region because a majority of New England's power plants run on the fuel. And last winter, as the Reuters article points out, the price of natural gas spiked to record levels and forced some electric power generators not to run due to a lack of fuel.

The Reuters article also makes the case that despite the fact this winter has been the coldest in 81 years, natural gas prices haven't spiked as they did last year. Whether ISO-NE's actions are the primary reason the region didn't see a repeat of last winter's natural gas prices is debatable, but it's only fair to give the grid operator some credit.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, February 19, 2015

New Ticker Symbol Replaces The Old NU

The last remaining vestige of Northeast Utilities disappears with Thursday morning's opening of the New York Stock Exchange.

The Northeast Utilities name, along with the monikers of its electric and natural gas subsidiaries in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire disappeared on Feb. 2nd with the company's multi-million dollar re branding as Eversource Energy. The stock of Eversource Energy continued to trade under the NU symbol through the close of trading on Wednesday.

Now, the NU ticker symbol heads off into fog of history with the arrival of Eversource Energy's ES listing on the New York Stock Exchange.

In what should probably be considered the corporate equivalent of a NASCAR victory lap, Tom May, the chairman, president and chief executive officer of Eversource Energy will ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange Thursday.

Eversource Energy has a market capitalization of more than $16 billion, which is based upon the market value of the company's shares. It is calculated by taking the stock price and multiplying it by the total number of shares outstanding. 

Eversource has assets of nearly $30 billion and 317 million shares outstanding. The company has more 8,000 employees and serves more than 3.6 million electric and natural gas customers across the three states it serves

Labels: , , ,