By Barbara Tetreault
BERLIN — Mayor Paul Grenier said city officials have not yet met with officials of the company that is purchasing Eversource’s hydroelectric facilities including plants in Berlin and Gorham.
“We have yet to meet with any representative of the new owners, and I’m looking forward to meeting them,” Grenier said in an email.
Last Thursday, the N.H. Public Utilities Commission approved the sale of Eversource’s nine hydroelectric generating plants to Hull Street Energy Hydro NH AC LLC for $83.3 million. Earlier in the week, the PUC approved the sale of Eversource’s fossil fuel generation facilities to Granite Shore Power LLC for $175 million. The two sales, which are expected to be finalized soon, complete the restructuring of the state’s electric industry.
Headquartered in Bethesda, Md., Hull Street Energy described itself as a private equity firm that acquires and grows middle market power businesses by leveraging its decades of experience and unique knowledge of the North American electricity infrastructure.
Berlin and Gorham have carefully watched the sale of Eversource’s electric generating facilities because of the potential impact on their tax base. The 17.2-megawatt Smith hydro in Berlin is one of the city’s largest taxpayers with a tax assessment of $56.5 million. The smaller, 2.2 megawatt Gorham hydro has an assessment of $3.9 million.
Eversource and state regulators reached an agreement in 2015 to sell off the utility’s generation assets to complete the deregulation of the industry. An auction was set up under the oversight of J.P. Morgan Securities.The two communities filed as interveners and went to court in an unsuccessful bid to challenge the auction schedule.
Grenier said it is premature to point to any correlation between the sale price of the hydro facilities and their valuation for property taxes. He said there are many factors that affected the auction price and said that fact is recognized in the decision.
“Berlin's position has always been that Smith's value as formulated by our assessing experts represents a true value for the asset,” he said.
The order includes a stipulation that prices allocated for the individual hydros “is not a statement of fair market value of those facilities for any state and/or local property tax purposes.”
Hull Street Energy must also operate the nine hydroelectric facilities for 18 months after the sale is complete.
In addition to Berlin and Gorham, the sale includes hydro electric facilities 16-megawatt Amoskeag Hydro in Manchester; 8.4 megawatt Ayers Island hydro in Bristol, the 1.1 megawat Canaan Hydro in West Stewartstown; the 6.4 megawatt Eastman Falls in Franklin, the 12.1 megawatt Garvins Falls hydro in Bow Hooksett Hydro, the 1.6 megawatt Hookset hydro, and the 3.2 megawatt Jackman Hydro in Hillsborough.