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

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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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Friday, December 26, 2014

Connecticut Is One Nation's Top States for Fuel Cells, New Report Says

The U.S. Department of Energy has ranked Connecticut as one of top five states in the country when it comes to use of fuel cells and development of the power source.

The federal agency's 82-page report, "State of the States: Fuel Cells in America 2014" was released earlier this month. Gov. Dannel Malloy said in a statement that the state's ranking in the latest edition of the report, as well as the previous four editions of the publication, "demonstrates that our work to deliver cheaper, cleaner and more reliable energy sources for Connecticut residents and businesses is paying off.”

"The U.S. fuel cell industry employs thousands of residents and generates millions of dollars in economic activity and tax revenue," Malloy said. "That is why we have implemented the policies necessary to drive the use of fuel cells and ensure there is no better place for the renewable energy sector to continue to grow and create jobs than right here in Connecticut."

Among the major fuel cell advances in Connecticut that the report cites are:

- The 2013 launch on the nation's largest  fuel cell power station, 14.9 megawatts, which was installed by Danbury-based FuelCell Energy, and is operated by energy producer and transporter, Dominion Energy.

- Two fuel cells that The United Illuminating Co. is installing in 2015 in Bridgeport and New Haven that will produce  5.6 megawatts od power between them.

- Plans by South Korea's Doosan Co., which bought the assets of  bankrupt ClearEdge Power, to hire 150 employees by the end of 2015 for the headquarters of its American fuel cell business.

Connecticut companies are estimated to have generated close to $600 million in revenue and investment annually. 

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