Saturday, May 25, 2013
By Paul Koenig
Maine's largest producer of hydropower is selling all 19 of its hydroelectric dams, including projects on the Kennebec, Androscoggin, Saco and Presumpscot rivers, but consumers and recreational users of the waterways likely won't see a difference.
An angler casts for a fish beneath Wyman Dam in Moscow this summer. The 84-megawatt dam, owned by NextEra Energy Partners, is being sold, along with a portfolio of Maine dams, to Brookfield Renewable Energy Partners, a Canadian firm.
Photo by Andy Molloy
The NextEra Energy Rescources office building in Hallowell.
Staff photo by Andy Molloy
NextEra Energy Resources LLC is selling its hydro assets, with 351 megawatts of capacity, which also include eight upstream storage reservoir dams, to Brookfield Renewable Energy Partners LP for approximately $760 million, including an existing $700 million of project debt.
NextEra spokesman Steven Stengal said the company is selling the assets because hydroelectric generation isn't a growing part of its portfolio, and the sale will allow them to concentrate on areas with greater growth potential.
The Maine assets are the only hydropower facilities controlled by the company, which is the country's largest generator of wind and solar power, according to Stengal.
"There should be no impact on Maine. We are selling good assets to an experienced operator," he wrote in an email.
All employees will be transferred to Brookfield after the sale and Brookfield will take over the lease of NextEra's Hallowell office, said Stengal. He said he doesn't know how many employees work at the Hallowell office, which was built in 2010. Multiple calls to the Hallowell office were not returned.
Brookfield currently owns 10 hydroelectric dams in Maine with 186 megawatts of capacity, including Hydro Kennebec in Winslow and Waterville.
"Brookfield is looking forward to expanding our presence in Maine," Brookfield spokeswoman Julie Smith-Galvin wrote in a prepared statement. "This portfolio offers many synergies with our existing operations, especially those on the Androscoggin River."
As an experienced operator of hydropower in New England, she wrote, they bring regional knowledge, hydro operating expertise and a long-term perspective to the portfolio.
"We've been in Maine for a long time, and we're excited about this," she said.
Jeremy Payne, executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association, said that although it's a significant transfer in terms of size, he doesn't expect a large difference from a management or operation perspective. NextEra's hydropower assets make up around 40 percent of Maine's total capacity, Payne said.
"On the surface, I don't see a remarkable change besides the signs on the buildings that will go from NextEra to Brookfield," he said.
Payne said that whitewater rafters and other people who use the rivers shouldn't notice any difference after the sale goes through.
Kenneth Fletcher, director of Gov. Paul LePage's energy office, said he was surprised to hear that NextEra, which also owns oil-burning plants in South Portland and Yarmouth, will be selling off its entire portfolio of renewable energy in Maine.
He said he hopes that Brookfield will look to increase its hydroelectric capacity and upgrade its facilities.
"I think, in a way, it could be very positive because I think the Brookfield company understands the value of hydropower," he said.
Hydropower makes up 20 to 24 percent of the electricity generated in Maine, Fletcher said. Nearly all of Brookfield's energy generating assets are hydropower, according to its website.
The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2013 after the necessary regulatory approvals.
Brookfield Renewable Energy Partners LP, with renewable energy facilities in the United States, Canada and Brazil, is a subsidiary of Canada-based Brookfield Asset Management.
NextEra Energy Resources is a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Inc., with headquarters in Florida. Its subsidiary, White Pine Hydro Investments LLC, indirectly owns the hydropower assets through FPL Energy Maine Hydro LLC.
Paul Koenig -- 621-5663