BERLIN, Conn. (AP) – Northeast Utilities said Monday it has agreed to sell 15 power generating plants in Connecticut and Massachusetts, nearly completing the divestiture of its competitive businesses.

The sale to private equity company Energy Capital Partners for $1.3 billion includes power plants at 14 sites with an output of 1,442 megawatts, the largest of which is a 1,080-megawatt facility in Northfield, Mass. As part of the purchase, Energy Capital, which is based in Short Hills, N.J., and San Diego, will assume $320 million in debt.

NU spokeswoman Mary Jo Keating said 216 employees – 90 in Connecticut and 126 in Massachusetts – will be affected, but probably will not lose their jobs.

“The expectation is they will all go with the buyer,” she said. “The buyer is expected to substantially retain the employees because it needs them.”

Berlin-based NU plans to shift its focus to its regulated utility operations and use proceeds from the sale to invest in that business and pay debt and taxes. The transaction is expected to close by the end of 2006, subject to regulatory approvals, the company said.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal criticized the transaction. “This purchase perpetuates the status quo of a failed energy market where the highest electricity prices prevail, regardless of the cost of producing the power,” he said.

Northeast Utilities announced last November that it will divest itself of its competitive businesses and focus on its regulated transmission, distribution and generation operations.

In May, it announced that its subsidiary, Select Energy Inc., had agreed to sell its retail energy marketing business to Amerada Hess Corp. Select Energy is a supplier of electricity and natural gas in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states.

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