Calls for shutdown of Merrimack Station are misguided
Bow coal plant plays important economic role
Recent articles in the New Hampshire Business Review and Concord Monitor reported on a petition effort to shut down Merrimack Station in Bow and Schiller Station in Portsmouth, both owned and operated by Public Service of New Hampshire. The petition was signed by a number of local businesses.
I think it is important to present the larger picture of what Merrimack Station means to the local economy, its role in providing needed power generation at peak usage periods, and its impact on air quality and the environment. Let’s take this last point first.
- Emissions scrubber: This was an installation mandated by state law in 2006 in order to satisfy a multi-pollution reduction bill first crafted by then-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen. It resulted in a reduction of mercury emissions by more than 90 percent and a reduction in sulfur by more than 90 percent, exceeding mandated requirements. This significant reduction is rarely acknowledged and has dramatically improved emissions air quality.
Why Merrimack Station is needed: Over the past several decades, Merrimack Station has saved PSNH customers in the hundreds of millions of dollars. It is true that state-mandated emissions reduction technology (the scrubber) added significantly to the cost of energy production, and for this reason Merrimack Station does not operate continuously. But during periods when demand for energy is great and the market price peaks, Merrimack Station is fired up and provides cheaper energy for its customers.
For example, in the first quarter of 2013 customers saved millions because Merrimack Station was operating during a cold snap when market prices rose dramatically.
- Economic impact: Merrimack Station employs about 100 area residents, making it one of the largest employers in Bow. In addition, the plant pays more than $5 million annually in property taxes in that community. The city of Concord receives more than $300,000 in taxes from PSNH, mostly associated with generation facilities at Garvins Falls.
In the interest of full disclosure, PSNH is a member of the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce. They are longtime supporters of our efforts to build a stronger economy in the capital region, even though they do not sell power in the Concord marketplace.
PSNH has been a staunch ally in job creation and economic development through its partnership with the state Department of Resources and Economic Development. PSNH supports numerous other philanthropic organizations here, including the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center, Volunteer NH, the New Hampshire Travel Council, the New Hampshire Center for Nonprofits, the New Hampshire Business Committee for the Arts, the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies, the League of NH Craftsmen and many more. Employees are engaged locally on nonprofit boards and serve as volunteers for numerous good causes. PSNH is a good corporate citizen.
We can all agree on the need for clean, renewable energy sources. We must also face the fact that we are paying some of the highest electric costs in the country. A diversified energy production portfolio is critical to providing some balance to the ebbs and flows of a potentially volatile market. A significant investment has been made in Merrimack Station to improve air quality and reduce emissions. We should realize the benefits of that investment. This is not the time to call for a shutdown.
Tim Sink is president of the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce.