Canadian Pension Fund Closes on Candlewood Lake

A Canadian pension fund just purchased FirstLight-ENGIE Group’s hydroelectric assets in Massachusetts and Connecticut — including all of Candlewood Lake, on June 1.

PSP Investments, a pension fund management firm for public service, Canadian forces, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Reserve Force, paid $1.2 billion to close the deal announced in February. A Waterbury power station is not included in the sale.

The closing came without fanfare as the pension fund that oversees $86 billion expanded its existing green energy holdings beyond Canada and into New England.

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A northeastern view of the iconic Rocky River Hydroelectric Plant with the penstock in the background. Completed in 1929, this pumped-storage hydroelectric plant, located in New Milford, was the first of its kind in the US and is recognized as a National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark.

The main properties purchased in Connecticut include Candlewood Lake and the Rocky River station, Lake Lillinonah and the Shepaug Dam and station, and Lake Zoar and the Stevenson Dam and station.

Several smaller plants were purchased as well. “A few of the most notable are the Bulls Bridge Dam in New Milford and Falls Village Station in Falls Village, Canaan. Both are located in Northern Litchfield County and both are Class 1 renewable, clean energy station facilities,” stated Leonard C. Greene, FirstLight’s spokesman.

“The message to homeowners is that the ownership of the lakes is changing but it will be business as usual. Only the title deed changes. In other words, essentially the name of the company is only changing. FirstLight will remain, and it will be FirstLight Power Resources moving forward,” Greene said.

FirstLight’s hydroelectric assets will be managed by H20 Power, which is majority-owned by PSP Investments. H20 Power owns and operates several hydroelectric stations throughout Canada and the United States. Greene said, “all employees in Connecticut, about 35 to 40, will keep their jobs.” The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission license does not expire until 2044, so there will be no regulation changes for the plants.

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A northeastern view of recreational boaters enjoying Candlewood Lake. The lake was created in 1928 to power the Rocky River Plant. It is the largest lake in Connecticut.

Regarding environmental and recreational concerns, the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is involved no matter who owns the lakes. A few of the regional nonprofit lake authority organizations are optimistic about the acquisition.

“I am looking forward to getting better acquainted with the new owners. I welcome the opportunity to work together and build a collaborative, supportive partnership,” stated Phyllis Schaer, Chairwoman of the Candlewood Lake Authority, dedicated to patrolling and preserving the lake.

“I just hope they support the authority and we can have a good working relationship with them that we have been trying to build with FirstLight and to make for a better and healthier lake,” stated Greg Petriccione, Chairman of the Lake Lillinonah Authority, which oversees environmental, safety and recreational needs of the lake.

From the time PSP Investments publicly announced their intent to buy ENGIE Group’s FirstLight hydroelectric assets in late February, to when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission accepted the offer, the deal was then closed within a three-month time frame.

“We are extremely pleased with the closing of the FirstLight Hydro acquisition and the addition of these quality assets to our hydroelectric portfolio. The team that comes with them is also top notch, and I’m sure that they will continue to optimize the value that these environmentally friendly facilities deliver to energy consumers in New England,” stated Guthrie Stewart, Senior Vice President and Global Head of Private Investments at PSP Investments.

Julie Vitek, Vice President of Communications for ENGIE North America, said “we are truly pleased that these power plant assets, and the dedicated people who support them, have found a home with PSP and H20. We wish the teams every success with these operations.”

The article and photos are by Alicia Sakal. They were originally for Republican-American and first appeared in the business and news content areas online on June 2, 2016. Then, on the front page of the Business section in the June 3, 2016 print edition. It was reprinted in the Town Tribune on June 9, 2016.

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