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New AEL&P owners have ‘no interest’ in selling

Alaska Electric Light and Power Company Lemon Creek operations center in Juneau on Wednesday, July 19, 2017. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

The new owner of Juneau’s electric utility has “no interest” in selling it to local owners.

 

Hydro One, a Canadian power company, agreed in July to purchase Alaska Electric Light &Power’s parent company Avista. The City and Borough of Juneau then sent a letter to Hydro One saying that those in Juneau wanted to see AEL&P locally owned.

In response to that letter, Hydro One President &CEO Mayo Schmidt wrote his own letter, saying that “assuming the transaction is approved by all regulatory bodies and closed, Hydro One has no interest in selling Avista’s assets or subsidiary companies.” The sale is expected to be finalized in late 2018.

The CBJ letter was intended both to express a desire to have AEL&P locally owned, but also to introduce Hydro One officials to two businessmen in Juneau — Juneau Hydropower owners Keith Comstock and Duff Mitchell — who would be interested in running the utility down the line. Comstock said Tuesday that Hydro One’s letter, which was sent to City Manager Rorie Watt on Aug. 14, doesn’t totally rule out the possibility of having discussions in the future.

“At this point, the process is going,” Comstock said. “They know that there’s interest here, Avista knows that there’s interest here and there’s a process (going). It’s not 100 percent guaranteed that Hydro One will even purchase Avista.”

In the letter to the city, Smith said that Hydro One intends to allow Avista to be run in the same fashion, and to have AEL&P remain unchanged. In a My Turn in the Empire on Sunday, Aug. 13, AEL&P President and General Manager Connie Hulbert said that this merger shouldn’t change anything on a local level.

“The proposed acquisition of AEL&P’s parent company Avista by Hydro One does not change our operating structure as a subsidiary of Avista,” Hulbert wrote. “You can expect no material impact on AEL&P, our employees or our community involvement as a result of this transaction.”

The Hydro One letter came up briefly in Monday’s CBJ Assembly meeting, when the Assembly directed city staff to continue to look into the possibility of talking with Hydro One down the line about having the utility run locally.

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