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BY MICHAEL MCCORD news@,’seacoastonline.com
The temporary hike for PSNH ratepayers will go into effect Monday as part of a recent Public Utilities Com­mission decision to allow the company to begin recouping costs from a state-mandated $422 million mercury scrub­ber project at PSNH’s coal burning Merrimack Station in Bow. The scrubber system went online in September and, according to a recent report filed to the PUC by PSNH, recent tests show that its “Clean Air Project” is re­ducing mercury emission 97percent to 98percent, well above the 80 percent mercury reduction requirement set by the New Hampshire Legislature in 2006. The plant has also reduced sulfur dioxide emissions by 96 percent to 98 percent, which exceeds the project’s 90 percent sulfur dioxide emissions reduction goal.

PSNH says the rate hike from 8.31 cents per kilowatt hour to 8.75 cents per kilowatt hour will allow it to begin recoup costs from 2011 and 2012 for the scrubber. This figures to be an increase of about $2.20 per month for a residential customer using 500 kilowatt-hours. The PUC could make a final determina­tion on how much PSNH can recover and set a more per­manent recovery rate later this year.
PSNII spokesman Martin Murray said even with the recent hike, the new energy charge is less than it was four years ago. He added the company is aware it is losing customers — in part due to the drop in natural gas prices, which has led to increased electricity supply competi­tion — and that is creating a market dilemma of a slowly shrinking customer base po­tentially paying high& rates.’ He said PSNH and state regu­lators are working to develop an alternative rate plan for the company to be more com­petitive.
“We are looking to spread out costs to a larger base in a manner that is fair to all cus­tomers,” he said.

Martin said, according to PSNH figures, through the end of 2011, some 2,000 cus­tomers — or less than one-half percent of its 421,000 accounts — had chosen other suppliers such as Resident Power.

Fromuth said many con­sumers still aren’t aware that deregulation laws passed as far back as 1999 allow con­sumers to choose the source of their electricity supply. He said electricity lines are still maintained by the customer’s utility, there is no equipment to install, and the bill still comes from the utility. The only change that mat­ters, he said, is the size of the bill. cull article published April 13. 2012