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

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

AEL&P sale officially dead

Avista, Hydro One agree to terminate merger agreement

The sale of Juneau’s electric utility is officially dead, according to an announcement Wednesday.

Canadian power company Hydro One has been trying to work out a deal to purchase Avista (the owner of Juneau-based Alaska Electric Light & Power) since July 2017. Avista and Hydro One issued a joint statement Wednesday announcing that the deal is off.

Though the Alaska Regulatory Commission signed off on the merger, the state regulatory commissions in Idaho and Washington — Avista owns companies in both states — objected to the sale.

The main reason the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) gave for denying the purchase was the political influence in Hydro One’s leadership. The Province of Ontario owns 47 percent of the utility (making it the largest shareholder), according to the UTC’s decision in December.

As a result, there was a huge upheaval in Hydro One’s leadership this summer. When a new party took over the Ontario Legislative Assembly, the party ousted the Hydro One CEO and replaced the entire Board of Directors.

[After lack of rainfall, electric rates set to rise]

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission ruled that Hydro One’s purchase of the company would violate an Idaho law that prevents the sale of electric utilities to other state governments. Commissioners ruled that the term “state” was broad enough to include the Province of Ontario.

Avista and Hydro One officials expressed sadness in the statement that the sale didn’t go through. According to a report from the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Avista leaders would have received an $18 million payout had the sale gone through.

A statement from AEL&P President Connie Hulbert said AEL&P won’t be dwelling on the sale’s failure.

“The outcome of Avista’s proposed merger will not affect our focus on or ability to provide outstanding service to our customers,” Hulbert said in the release. “It will continue to be business as usual for AEL&P.”

As required by the merger agreement, Hydro One will pay Avista a $103 million termination fee (in U.S. dollars) as a result of the termination of the merger agreement. According to Avista’s website, the money will be used for “general corporate purposes and may reduce our need for external financing.”

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