Coakley, Jepsen want lower electric rates

Bryan Cohen Oct. 3, 2011, 12:43pm


BOSTON (Legal Newsline) - Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley filed a complaint on Friday with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission seeking to lower the rates electric transmission companies charge New England ratepayers.

The complaints name ISO New England Inc.; Vermont Transco LLC; the New England Power Company, doing business as National Grid; New Hampshire Transmission LLC, doing business as NextEra; NSTAR Electric and Gas Corporation; Northeast Utilities Service Company; the United Illuminating Company; Unitil Energy Systems Inc.; and Fitchburg Gas and Electric Light Company. Most of the transmission companies named are transmission affiliates of local electric distribution companies.

Joining the complaint were the Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Company, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities, the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, the Connecticut Office of Consumer Counsel, Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen and several other New England ratepayer advocates, state regulators and industrial consumer groups.

"The current electric transmission rates are excessive and transmission companies are making unreasonable profits at the expense of ratepayers," Coakley said. "Electric transmission companies in New England have enjoyed the benefits of higher returns that were set when economic conditions were much better. It is now time for the federal government to set rates at an appropriate level in order to give ratepayers relief from the current rates."

Transmission companies are allowed to recover the costs to conduct transmission lines, plus a profit, which was set by FERC in 2006 at 11.14 percent. Because interest rates have declined and economic conditions have worsened, Coakley is requesting that FERC lower the return on equity to 9.2 percent.

Regional transmission lines cost ratepayers in New England $1.347 billion annually. A successful complaint would lower the bills by $113 million in 2012. Because transmission costs are expected to double over the next few years, the savings would grow to $206 million per year by 2015. Massachusetts ratepayers pay for close to half of the region's transmission costs.

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