Berlin Takes First Step Toward New Power Agreement

BERLIN – Berlin took the first step toward a power purchasing agreement Monday night when the Berlin Mayor and Council voted to send out requests for bids from power companies in the hope of alleviating high power prices.

The town electric utility has been without a power purchase agreement for the last few years, instead buying power on a monthly basis. Such an agreement was considered a handicap during the attempted sale of the Berlin electric company, prompting the town to move to the monthly purchase model.

Since then, the town has attempted to find a financially attractive power buying contract, but the proposals received would have cost ratepayers the same or more as the current monthly arrangement. A power purchase agreement would only be entered into if the price offered would be lower than what the town currently pays for power.

Pursuit of a purchasing contract has hinged on the question of whether to retain or sell the electric utility.

Eric Quisgard, chair of the Berlin Utility Commission (BUC), told the Berlin Mayor and Council this week that electric consultant Booth and Associates has indicated that a sale is not a good idea right now.

The wisest thing, according to the consultant, is to move forward, Quisgard said.

“Now doesn’t seem the time to sell,” Quisgard said. “Maybe in the future.”

The electric consultants have said that Berlin can make better use of the power utility, which is not in the best shape currently.

“We really don’t have the best asset right now to offer,” said Quisgard.

The request for proposals (RFP) will be sent out in early December.

Mayor Gee Williams asked Quisgard if the timing of the RFP, given the declining state of the oil market, put the town in a more favorable position for a good contract.

“None of us know what the heck is going on with the market,” Quisgard said.

While Quisgard could not say when any new cost-reducing power purchase agreement could be in place, the town will attempt to make electric bills easier on ratepayers by asking the state Public Service Commission to allow the power cost adjustment (PCA) to be averaged over 12 months instead of every three months.

“It should at least moderate the fluctuation in the power cost adjustment,” Williams said.

Quisgard agreed, saying, “It certainly should soften the blow.”