Attorney General says utilities merger will save consumers money

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By Bonnie Adams, Government Editor

Region – The approval of a proposed merger between NSTAR and Northeast Utilities will result in significant savings to customers across the state, according to state Attorney General (AG) Martha Coakley. Her office announced Feb. 15 that the two utility companies have reached separate merger-related agreements with both the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) and AG's office. According to the AG's office, the merger will save utility customers $217 million.

Per the agreement, there will be a one-time $21 million rate credit for customers of NSTAR Electric, NSTAR Gas and Western Massachusetts Electric Company (WMECo). Base distribution rates for the utilities would then be frozen until 2016.

Additionally, Northeast Utilities and NSTAR have agreed to buy more than a quarter of the power produced by the embattled Cape Wind offshore wind farm project off of Nantucket Sound as well. Another utility company, National Grid has already committed to buying 50 percent of the Cape Wind project but there have been difficulties finding buyers for the other half. Under the agreement just reached, the merged Northeast Utilities – NSTAR will purchase 27.5 percent of the electricity Cape Wind produces under a 15-year contract.

The proposed agreement must next be approved by the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) for consideration and final approval.