Brookfield to acquire 19 hydropower dams from NextEra

Posted Dec. 27, 2012, at 6:22 p.m.
Last modified Dec. 27, 2012, at 6:56 p.m.

Brookfield Renewable Energy Partners has reached an agreement to purchase 19 hydroelectric dams in Maine, including the two largest in the state.

The company, which is managed and majority-owned by Toronto-based Brookfield Asset Management, is acquiring the portfolio of 19 hydroelectric dams, as well as eight upstream storage reservoir dams, from NextEra Energy Resources LLC for approximately $760 million, according to a media release from the company.

NextEra Energy Resources is a subsidiary of Juno Beach, Fla.-based NextEra Energy Inc., although the dams are licensed to another subsidiary of NextEra’s, FPL Energy Maine Hydro LLC.

The 19 dams are primarily on the Kennebec, Androscoggin and Saco rivers and have a total capacity of 351 megawatts and annual generation capacity of 1.6 million megawatt-hours, according to the release. All of the facilities have licenses from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, most of which are valid through 2025. All output from the facilities is sold into the New England wholesale power market.

These dams belonged to the original 31 hydroelectric dams FPL Energy of Maine acquired from Central Maine Power Co. in 1999 after Maine restructured its energy industry, forcing electric utilities like CMP to sell off its generating assets.

Jeffrey Thaler, currently a visiting professor of energy policy, law and ethics at the University of Maine, was one of the lawyers who represented FPL Group (now known as NextEra Energy Inc.) when they acquired the hydroelectric dams from CMP. In an email to the Bangor Daily News, Thaler said the acquisition “is a big deal in terms of dollars and cents, and it is big in the sense that the dams are a large chunk of Maine’s hydropower.”

Thaler called hydropower “the steady backbone of Maine’s renewable energy sector.”

“So for me, the good news is that the dams will continue to operate, generating clean, carbon-free electricity for Maine consumers,” he said. “Brookfield has experience with Maine dams, so I hope that they continue to operate all of them, and stay invested in Maine.”

Richard Davies, Maine’s public advocate, said his office is not directly involved in the transaction because the Maine Public Utilities Commission doesn’t regulate the generating assets, but said in general a transaction of this type shouldn’t result in any noticeable changes to consumers.

Brookfield Renewable already operates 10 dams in Maine on the same river systems, according to its website.

“These proven generation assets are an ideal investment for us as they complement our existing hydro fleet in Maine where we have a long operating history,” Richard Legault, Brookfield Renewable’s CEO, said in a statement. “This transaction also provides a unique opportunity to leverage our operating platform while positioning us to participate in rising electricity prices over time.”

Julie Smith-Galvin, a spokeswoman for Brookfield, declined to offer further details on the transaction, but sent the BDN the following statement:

“Brookfield is looking forward to expanding our presence in Maine. This portfolio offers many synergies with our existing operations, especially those on the Androscoggin River. As an experienced operator of hydropower in New England, we bring regional knowledge, hydro operating expertise and a long-term perspective to this high quality portfolio. While we cannot discuss certain specifics of the transaction at this time, we look forward over the coming months to closing the transaction and further strengthening our ties to the Maine community.”

Smith-Galvin said Brookfield Renewable operates renewable power assets in Canada, the United States and Brazil. All the company’s U.S assets are managed from its office in Marlborough, Mass., she said.

According to the release, Brookfield Renewable expects to have institutional partners co-invest alongside it for up to 50 percent of the portfolio through a private fund sponsored by Brookfield Asset Management.

NextEra Energy Resources is selling its assets “to further optimize our power generation portfolio and concentrate our resources on areas with greater growth potential for our business,” Armando Pimentel, the company’s CEO, said in a statement.

While NextEra Energy Resources is shedding all its hydropower facilities in Maine, it is still the owner of approximately 800 megawatts of generating capacity at six oil-fired generation units at two locations in Maine, Steve Stengel, a company spokesman, told the BDN.

Stengel said the decision to sell the dams was solely a business decision, as expressed by Pimentel.

“These are good assets that are going to be operated by an experienced hydro operator,” Stengel said, “so that’s a good thing for Maine.”

The transaction is subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions and is expected to close in the first quarter of 2013.

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