Does Cost Matter Anymore?

On October 3, 2016 a subcommittee of the Public Utility Commission’s Site Evaluation Committee held a public comment session on the application of Antrim Wind Energy to build nine 400-foot wind turbines on Tuttle Hill in Antrim, NH. I offered the following comment to the subcommittee:

“Good morning. For the record, I am Representative Michael Vose, Rockingham 9, the town of Epping. I serve on the House Science, Technology, and Energy committee. I buy my electricity from the NH Electric Coop.

On behalf of my constituents who also get their power from the Coop, I raise the question of whether the Coop’s power purchase agreement (PPA) with Antrim Wind is in the public interest.

News reports about this PPA surfaced several months ago (June 14, 2016). But a recent search of the Coop’s website found no documents that detail such an agreement. I have never received any letter or message from the Coop about this agreement. I find this lack of transparency troubling.

Even more disturbing, these reports state that the PPA will lock in a price of $81/MW, which contrasts sharply with the Energy Information Agency (EIA)’s ISO-NE wholesale price range of $20-$60/MW in July of 2016 (the most recent data available).

The COOP website has information about the Coop’s compliance with the state’s RPS law. It lists the following goals for such compliance:

  • “Seeking renewable energy from sources that are cost-effective and appropriate to NHEC’s power resources portfolio”
  • “NHEC continues to entertain all options and sources that may provide renewable energy to its members while striving to keep costs to a minimum.”

Given these goals, a PPA that purports to pay $81/MW for power from Antrim Wind would appear to be contrary to the organization’s goal of being “cost-effective” and “striving to keep costs to a minimum.” Locking Coop customers into a PPA for 20 years may not contribute to the achievement of these goals.

Given the lack of transparency surrounding this PPA and its unrealistically high cost, the SEC should seriously question the public interest of this application.

Further, in considering the public interest in this case, the SEC should also question whether Antrim Wind plans to sell its power and RECs to NH utilities before approaching out-of-state buyers. While there is no legal requirement for such an arrangement, doing so would help NH reach its renewable energy goals and would demonstrate good citizenship.”