In New Hampshire, the topic of deregulation had come to the forefront of public concern in the mid-1990s as customers complained about what they called some of the highest electric rates in the country. Ratepayers also claimed that they had no alternative to buying electricity from PSNH, because that utility had a virtual monopoly in its service areas. The original goal of deregulation was to lower rates by attracting other energy producers into the state to create a competitive climate, to oblige PSNH to sell its power generating plants–including its share of Seabrook Station as well as its fossil-fuel and hydro power generating plants–and to offer consumers a choice of energy providers. (Note: Some people thought that PSNH’s ability to generate, transfer, distribute and sell electricity gave it the power to become a monopoly.)
The N.H. Deregulation Bill, supported by both the Legislature and PSNH, was signed in June 2000 by then Governor Jeanne Shaheen and sent to NHPUC for implementation. When the Act went into effect May 1, 2001, customers could choose an alternative energy provider. In a reaction to the effects of California’s energy blackouts and price spikes, the Legislature modified the deregulation law so that PSNH’s divestiture of its power plants, except Seabrook Station, was delayed until February 2004. In 2002, PSNH sold its share of Seabrook Station to the Florida Power and Light Company and applied part of the proceeds of the sale to the refinancing of existing debt and the continuing reduction of electric retail rates by an average of 16 percent, compared to the cost of electricity in the previous year. The Seabrook sale eliminated the risks of nuclear operation in New Hampshire and enabled PSNH to reduce stranded costs, which would otherwise have been passed on to customers.
The issue of Seabrook will be considered in future histories. Note that no matter the cause PSNH persisted in its plan to build the nuclear power plant long enough and against huge opposition helped to increase the actual cost incredibly. No one can fault PSNH in its persistence to continue to make the same mistake for a long period of time (our interpretation.) This, of course, is one of the reasons for the high fees ratepayers pay. Sadly, customers continue to pay the price of PSNH’s mistakes.