Unitil Corp., hasn’t operated a power plant since the 1950s, but the electricity company would like to start again.
Unitil has been one of the most vocal opponents of allowing utilities to build power plants, saying that would stunt the growth of a competitive market in New Hampshire and turn back the clock on important deregulation laws passed 10 years ago to break up electric monopolies.
However, this week, it said building small, renewable power plants in its service territory could help protect customers against recent double-digit rate increases, without disrupting the competitive market. Renewable power is generated by harnessing local resources, such as wood, wind and solar energy.
The company would consider partnering with some of its largest customers, such as a hospital or manufacturer to build a generation facility on site to produce those businesses’ power.
State lawmakers banned utilities from owning or building power plants 10 years ago, in a move to break up electric monopolies and create a competitive market.
But so far, customers still don’t have a choice who they buy power from, and the open market has proven volatile because of soaring natural gas prices.
Gary Long, president of Public Service Company of New Hampshire, said the company plans to build one or two small, wood-burning plants to keep PSNH rates low, create local jobs and help the struggling wood industry.
Opponents say allowing utilities to build plants will not help boost the state’s economy, lower electric rates or make stronger energy policy. The Senate Energy, Environment and Economic Development Committee is expected to make a recommendation on a bill allowing utilities to build renewable power plants within the next few days.
29 March 2007
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