It’s time to put NH Ratepayers First

New Hampshire has the fifth highest electric rates in the country. These disproportionately high rates are making our economy less competitive and less attractive for new businesses, they are hurting working families and are making life very difficult for seniors on a fixed income to live comfortably.

New Hampshire citizens pay 150 percent of the national average for residential electric rates.

New Hampshire commercial businesses pay 143 percent of the national average.

New Hampshire industrial businesses pay 193 percent of the national average.

This is crazy. It must stop and these rates must come down.

We recently learned of a new power purchase agreement (PPA) reached between Eversource and HydroQuebec. The new PPA to bring hydroelectric power into New Hampshire from Canada is a step in the right direction, but leaves much to be desired.

As the deal currently stands, New Hampshire would not see the benefits it would deserve for hosting the burdens of the power lines. New Hampshire would become an energy donor state for the rest of the region.

Since announcing my campaign in March, I have consistently been the only candidate for governor discussing the importance of keeping 30 percent of the power from Northern Pass in New Hampshire for Granite State residents and businesses at the lower hydroelectric rate.

We cannot allow ourselves to repeat the mistakes of the past when the Seabrook plant was sold and negotiations failed to require that a percentage of the power stay in New Hampshire to lower rates for our ratepayers. If we had retained a percentage of the power from Seabrook, families would not be paying the astronomical electric rates we do today.

Families, businesses, and seniors on fixed incomes cannot afford to see their rates increase year in and year out.

Recently my 90-year-old mother showed me her most recent electric bill from 2016 and another electric bill for the same period from 2009. She used less electricity on the current bill and still saw her bill increase by $50. While that increase may not sound like a lot to some of you, for seniors on a fixed income this increase is a lot to handle.

When I was in the state Senate, BAE used to tell us that a penny increase per kilowatt-hour would be equivalent to $1 million off their bottom line. With electric rates as high as they are now for commercial and industrial businesses, why would any company want to relocate to New Hampshire until these rates go down?

The PUC just approved an 8.4 percent rate increase for Eversource that means yet again our bills will go up.

There is a problem and we have to find a solution. We cannot let this opportunity pass us by.

As the PPA between Eversource and HydroQuebec currently stands, only 10 percent of the power would stay in New Hampshire at the low rate, and this would only be in place for half of the 20-year contract.

New Hampshire would retain 10 percent of the power for 10 years. In year eleven, New Hampshire would be right back to where we started after we sold Seabrook, retaining none of the power at below market levels. All of the power would flow directly from Canada to the grid, and again Granite Staters would be seeing our electric rates climb.

Furthermore, the New Hampshire Union Leader reported that the actual rates were redacted from the PPA that the Public Utilities Commission made available to the general public. It’s nice to say that a percentage of the power would remain below the market value, but New Hampshire ratepayers deserve transparency and deserve to know just how less expensive that power would be.

It should also be a requirement that the percentage of power retained in state to lower electric costs should be clearly delineated in your billing statement in a separate line item, just as we do with stranded costs.

While this new power purchase agreement shows that Eversource and HydroQuebec have begun to hear our concerns, there is more progress that must be made.

As your governor, I will put the ratepayers first. I will not allow Northern Pass to come into this state without assurances in the form of a new PPA. It must make guarantees that 30 percent of the power generated stay in New Hampshire at the low hydroelectric rate for the entire 20-year agreement.

The solution is simple. Let’s get it done.

Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas is a Republican candidate for governor.

As printed in the NH Union Leader on July 8, 2016