Cape Wind shake down continues, and the gloves come off

Back in July I speculated that the Patrick Administration’s decision to stomp down on the proposed merger of NSTAR and Northeast Utilities had less to do with a new-found concern for ratepayers than a leveraging of the regulatory process to force NSTAR to purchase the remaining 50% of Cape Wind’s over-priced power.  Then in August I noted that NSTAR had cleverly found a way to fulfill a significant portion of its renewable energy quota by purchasing power from three land-based wind farms at a fraction of the cost of Cape Wind’s juice.  Click on those links and skim over those posts if you have a moment – there is a lot of context that is important to fully understand the latest development in this sordid Green drama. 

No time (lazy!)?  Here’s the upshot: Last year National Grid (NSTAR’s primary competitor in MA) agreed to purchase 50% of Cape Wind’s projected output.  Much celebration ensued in the Patrick Administration, where questions of cost (Cape Wind power will cost consumers roughly twice what power generated using natural gas runs) take a distant back seat to such ephemeral benefits as “winning the future” and so-forth.

Months later and the Patrick/Murray smiles have turned upside down, as National Grid’s competitors have stubbornly refused to saddle their own customers with a huge price premium to appease the Green Gods of Massachusetts Politics.  That remaining 50% sits there despondent, with neither a purchaser nor any un-coerced prospects in sight.  Hence that regulatory foot on the throat of the NSTAR/Northeast Utilities merger. 

Hence now this from today’s Globe:

Cape Wind Associates, the company behind the 130-turbine wind farm to be built in Nantucket Sound, are urging Massachusetts regulators to require that a merger between NStar and Connecticut-based Northeast Utilities include a condition to buy 50 percent of the power generated by the offshore wind project.

“Think big,” said Dennis Duffy, vice president of Cape Wind Associates, who last week filed a letter to the state Department of Public Utilities asking officials to make NStar and Northeast Utilities purchase “the remaining output of the CWA project.”

Other groups watching the case, including the state Department of Energy Resources and the nonprofit Conservation Law Foundation, made similar entreaties, asking regulators to compel the utility companies to enter a long-term contract to buy electricity from a wind farm.

Cape Wind has been on the hunt for more customers since National Grid, one of the state’s largest utilities, agreed more than a year ago to purchase half of Cape Wind’s power. Securing another customer would cement Cape Wind’s viability, and help attract investors who can finance the wind farm’s construction. Many have long viewed NStar as the most likely candidate.

 It’s that precious?  “The most likely candidate.”  Most likely mark they mean.

See what is going on here?  Back in the summer when the Patrick Administration first announced its intention to muck about in the NSTAR merger it smirkingly denied any connection to Cape Wind’s unwanted output (“smirkingly” because even at the time the Administration’s energy spokesman could not help mentioning that the Governor  “considers Cape Wind an important project in terms of clean energy and jobs for the commonwealth…”).

Now that a few more months have gone by and NSTAR remains infuriatingly unwilling to impose that price premium on its customers when it has perfectly viable alternatives to doing so, the Governor and his allies are done fooling around… READ THE REST at CriticalMASS

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