Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bangor Hydro is proceeding with an $8 million investment in smart grid infrastructure, despite not winning federal stimulus funding to support the project. Bangor Hydro plans to build on the company’s existing "advanced metering infrastructure". The utility projects this may add 50 cents to the typical residential bill.

Meanwhile, CMP's $190 million plan to install a new automated meter system at homes and businesses -- which did win $96 million in stimulus funding -- is drawing opposition from members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1837. The union laborers are concerned that the automated meters will lead to 141 layoffs, including 85 meter readers. The Maine Public Utilities Commission is holding a public hearing today in Hallowell on the plan. CMP anticipates installing the meters in 2010 and 2011.

In Canadian news, through government utility Nalcor, Newfoundland and Labrador are commencing legal action against Hydro-Quebec over the Upper Churchill power sales agreements. Under the existing long-term contract, HQ pays one quarter of one-cent per kWh, and one-fifth of one cent for the 25 years starting in 2016 -- less than 5 per cent of the power's commercial value. According to Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams, in 2008, Hydro-Québec reaped profits of about $1.7 billion from the Upper Churchill hydro dams, while owner Newfoundland and Labrador was paid $63 million. Nalcor will also ask Quebec's Régie de l'Énergie to require HQ to provide access to its transmission system for export of power from the proposed Lower Churchill expansion project.

Also in Canadian news, there's been an odd wrinkle in the HQ acquisition of NB Power. A leaked document suggests that New Brunswick's power transmission and distribution systems are no longer for sale; NB Power would continue to operate as a New Brunswick-owned and operated Crown corporation. The revised deal is reportedly now worth $3.2 billion and would still include hydroelectric facilities and the Point Lepreau nuclear power plant near Saint John, N.B. Under the revision, the 5 year rate freeze for residentials would remain in place, but industrials face a smaller rate reduction. The revised deal was reached by the provincial Liberal government after significant criticism that it, like the Upper Churchill contract, gave too much power to Quebec.

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