(Watch what happens when a State PUC actually does its job and protects ratepayers.)
From Lewiston Maine Sun-Journal, January 20, 2012 (excerpts)
First Wind, Maine’s largest wind-energy developer, (and Hawaii’s too) last April trumpeted a multimillion-dollar deal that would pay for the company’s ambitious plans to erect more wind turbines throughout Maine and the Northeast.
But in just the past week, the Maine Public Utilities Commission dealt a potentially fatal blow to the deal.
Faced with what opponents have called the first serious challenge to the state’s landmark electricity deregulation law, which went into effect in 2000, PUC staff on Jan. 13 recommended that the agency give a thumbs-down to the deal.
“We deny approval of the ‘proposed Transactions’ as we find that the risk of harm to ratepayers exceeds the benefits,” the draft decision reads, “even if conditions intended to mitigate the risk of harm to ratepayers were imposed.”
The recommendation, which will be considered and voted on by the three PUC commissioners Jan. 31, caps a nine-month struggle over a deal that’s described in legal filings as being worth, “at the high end,” $880 million. The capital infusion to First Wind alone would amount to $333 million.
First Wind, Emera Inc. (the Nova Scotia-based parent company of Bangor Hydro and Maine Public Service) and Ontario-based Algonquin Power and Utilities Corp. propose to jointly build and operate wind-energy projects in Maine and elsewhere in the Northeast. After a failed bid to go public in 2010, which left First Wind cash-hungry, the deal is a way for the Boston-based company to continue building wind towers across Maine and the region, as well as a way for Emera and Algonquin to reach new energy consumers in the U.S….
…staff wrote that the proposed affiliation of Bangor Hydro and Maine Public Service with companies that will “develop, own and operate generation assets” raises “substantial concerns regarding the possible exercise of preferential treatment by a utility to its competitive affiliates.” That, in turn, could produce higher transmission rates and higher electricity prices. (Which is exactly what is happening in Hawaii.)
read … PUC staff: No go for energy firms’ wind deal