Utilities, Anchorage groups line up to weigh in on ML&P sale
Several parties with concerns regarding Chugach Electric’s pending $1 billion purchase of Municipal Light & Power will be allowed to voice their concerns in the matter, as state regulators continue to examine the proposed deal.
The Regulatory Commission of Alaska issued an order last week allowing three utilities — the Homer Electric Association (HEA), Matanuska Electric Association (HEA) and the Golden Valley Electric Association (GVEA) — to intervene in its considerations of the purchase, which was approved last year by Anchorage voters.
The order also consolidates the purchase with two other matters before the commission, including a petition by ML&P to eliminate its retail electric service area in anticipation of its purchase by Chugach. The other is an investigation of how the municipality has managed its portion of a one-third interest in Cook Inlet’s Beluga River natural gas field, purchased jointly with Chugach in 2016 for $152 million.
Two other entities which purchase large amounts of electricity in Anchorage, Providence Health & Services and the Federal Executive Agencies (FEA) on behalf of federal facilities in the Anchorage area including Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, will also be allowed to intervene.
The various filings to intervene offer groups an opportunity to formally comment on the proposal, without indicating explicit opposition to it.
In its filing, Providence Health & Services noted that its extensive dealings with ML&P for years offer the group “a deeper knowledge of ML&P’s finances, rate structure, and operations than any other ML&P customer.” It expressed concerns about Chugach and ML&P’s promises of no immediate rate hikes related to the purchase; the origin of any potential cost savings from the purchase; whether transaction costs or any acquisition premium might be allowed to affect electric rates; and how Beluga River Unit benefits might be allocated among “legacy customers” of ML&P and Chugach respectively.
“The combined utility would be very different than ML&P in terms of finances, governance, and physical operations, among other things,” Providence officials wrote. “The transaction would therefore affect the cost and quality of Providence’s electrical service for decades to come.”
The FEA filing includes a list similar to Providence’s of issues it plans to raise, including “protections for existing ML&P customers to ensure their retail rates are not adversely affected.”
“The costs of electric service represent one of the larger variable expenses of operating the federal offices, facilities, and/or installations on whose behalf intervention is sought,” FEA staff wrote. “For example at JBER, electric service costs have a dollar-for-dollar impact on the funds available for service members and federal employees to train and operate.”
In MEA’s case, the utility notes that many of its customers spanning as far south as Eagle River live within the municipality’s boundaries.
“MEA seeks to intervene to ensure it understands any operational changes that may occur and to protect against any adverse consequences to its members; this would include protecting MEA’s contractual rights to power from the jointly-owned Eklutna Hydroelectric Project,” MEA officials wrote. “This proceeding may also have bearing on the parties’ on-going discussions regarding power pooling and economic dispatch.”
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