French utility group to buy U.S. hydro operator FirstLight

French utility group GDF Suez announced September 2 its Suez Energy North America unit will buy U.S. hydropower operator FirstLight Power Enterprises from Energy Capital Partners.

Connecticut-based FirstLight, the former NE Energy Inc., owns 13 hydroelectric plants totaling about 1,265 MW and other power plants, all in either Connecticut or Massachusetts. (HNN 2/12/07)

Although financial details were not disclosed, industry sources quoted by Le Figaro newspaper in France said the deal would be worth 1.3 billion euros (US$1.91 billion). In a September 2 interview published in Le Figaro, GDF Suez Chairman Gerard Mestrallet said the deal would make GDF Suez the third-largest supplier of electricity to businesses in the United States.

“FirstLight will complement GDF Suez’ LNG and gas business in North America and will strengthen the group’s existing power generating assets and retail activities in New England and eastern Canada,” Dirk Beeuwsaert, chief executive of GDF Suez Energy International, said.

Suez Energy North America owns or operates 47 power, cogeneration, steam, and chilled water facilities, including those in construction, representing more than 6,382 MW.

FirstLight operates 11 conventional hydro stations on the Shetucket and Housatonic rivers in Connecticut and on the Connecticut River in Massachusetts totaling about 167 MW. It also operates the 1,080-MW Northfield Mountain pumped-storage plant in Northfield, Mass., and the 29-MW Rocky River pumped-storage plant in New Milford, Conn. It also has 263.3 MW of natural gas and coal generation in operation or advanced development. The company has about 235 employees.

The FirstLight power plants previously were owned by Northeast Utilities. Energy Capital Partners, a private equity firm, purchased Northeast Utilities’ competitive generation business in November 2006, including assets totaling 1,442 MW, for $1.34 billion. At that time, Energy Capital Partners provisionally named the newly formed company NE Energy Inc. (HNN 11/3/06)

The hydro plants include:
o NU subsidiary Connecticut Light &Power Co.’s former Western System on the Housatonic, Bantam, and Still rivers, including 8.4-MW Bulls Bridge, 29-MW Rocky River, 43-MW Shepaug, 28.9-MW Stevenson, 320-kW Bantam, 10.2-MW Falls Village, and 600-kW Robertsville;
o CLP’s former Eastern System on the Shetucket and Quinebaug rivers, including 2-MW Scotland, 1.8-MW Taftville, and 2-MW Tunnel; and
o Northfield Mountain group on the Connecticut River, including 1,080-MW Northfield Mountain, 53-MW Cabot, and 6-MW Turners Falls.

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