Merrimack Station still plays a key role

Setting the record straight

Merrimack Station in Bow has been a trusted employer and vital part of New Hampshire’s energy infrastructure for many years. Along with the other fuel-diverse power generation facilities of Granite Shore Power, Merrimack supplies electricity which allows our homes to be heated and our businesses to operate on the days when alternative energy sources are not available.

In recent weeks, a select group of individuals, predominantly from out of state, have publicly advanced an outside-the-mainstream agenda that fails to convey the full story about Merrimack. Their tactics of trespassing and larceny at Merrimack Station, and defacing our State House, are surpassed only by their public demand that each person employed at Merrimack should lose his or her job, and thus their families should lose their livelihood.

Knowing how crucial Merrimack is to New Hampshire and the New England community more broadly, I am compelled to set the record straight.

Why does Merrimack matter?

One year ago, a spokesperson for the New England Independent System Operator (ISO-NE) said it best, noting, “The ISO has expressed concerns about regional fuel security risks as more coal-and oil-fired power plants and nuclear power plants retire … [t]hey are being replaced by natural gas-fired generators, which can have trouble getting fuel in winter when pipelines become constrained, and renewable resources, which are weather-dependent.”

We saw this play out firsthand 20 months ago, when our state was hit with life-threatening temperatures during the “bomb cyclone” event in the winter of 2018. Without Merrimack Station during that period, the safety of those across our region — from families with young children to the elderly sheltering in place — would have been at risk, as natural gas was in scarce supply.

And wallets would have been far lighter, as well.

For just the 13 days of the bomb cyclone, I estimate that, had Merrimack not been available, customers across the region would have shared a higher energy bill in the amount of $72 million due to skyrocketing natural gas prices and the scarcity of that fuel. Merrimack provided the electricity necessary to power more than 275,000 households, or more than half the homes in all of New Hampshire. By being online, we also facilitated the diversion of natural gas to heat over 150,000 homes in greater New England.

Merrimack’s economic impact

What must also not be lost is the enormous impact Merrimack has on the region’s economy. In addition to providing dozens of good-paying jobs, Merrimack Station alone does business with numerous vendors and suppliers, driving nearly $50 million into our broader economy. A significant amount of this spending is done right here in New Hampshire, supporting small- and medium-sized businesses operating and supporting dozens more additional jobs.

Merrimack Station is generating more than electricity, it is generating commerce to power our local economy.

A cleaner Merrimack

First and foremost, we take our environmental stewardship responsibility serious — we have children and grandchildren too. Merrimack only operates on New England’s most vulnerable days. In fact, the number of days Merrimack operates has declined 80% since 2006. But the 63 hard-working and dedicated employees maintain Merrimack Station’s availability 24/7, 365. Merrimack operates in full compliance with its environmental permitting; Merrimack’s CO2 emissions have declined nearly 90% from 2004 to 2016. We operate with state-of-the-art emission control systems and, in 2017, Merrimack produced less than 1% of all CO2 emissions among ISO-New England generators.

New Hampshire and its leaders of both political parties have led the way for enhanced emission controls for Merrimack Station while ensuring you can depend on its power generation when needed. Their actions are working! According to recent data, the state of New Hampshire has the lowest CO2 rate for power generation in New England.

Merrimack’s story is far different today than it once was. It is a story of business support, employment for New Hampshire residents and vastly reduced emissions levels. That means Merrimack has an important role to play as a vital bridge today to providing a better, stronger energy future for everyone tomorrow.

James Andrews is president of Granite Shore LLC.

Categories: Opinion