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My Turn: A mess for Eversource, HydroQuebec



For the Monitor
Wednesday, March 15, 2017

HydroQuebec, Eversource’s partner in the Northern Pass project, is encountering problems in Canada. The Bureau of Public Hearings on the Environment is expressing concerns regarding the environmental impact of the 48 miles of lines connecting the dams to the Northern Pass project. The Nature Conservancy of Canada called the project “environmentally backward.” Another concern is the unknown profitability of the project due to the high cost of construction balanced against the decreasing energy costs in the U.S. and due to the lack of a firm supply agreement.

The recent power auction held in Massachusetts stated there was easily enough power available to meet the needs for 2020-21 and will cost ratepayers less than last year (without Northern Pass power). Eversource, despite the reduction in energy costs, helped keep the rates paid by consumers high, by raising its transmission rates to such a point the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission began an investigation.

The Champlain Hudson Power Express and the New England Clean Power Link, both competitors of Northern Pass, have received their permits and HydroQuebec is in discussions with both projects – not good news for Northern Pass.

In breaking news, HydroQuebec and Eversource were disagreeing over who will pay for the transmission construction costs in the U.S. Canadian papers published stories stating Eversource’s website claimed HydroQuebec would pay for the cost of burial construction in the U.S. (confirmed by a spokesperson at Eversource). HydroQuebec immediately issued a press release on March 8 stating: “We won’t pay a cent for the NP transmission line on the American side. American consumers will pay the transmission costs in the U.S. through their electricity rates.”

It further states the cost to the U.S. of $1.6 billion on the American side is “under the responsibility of Eversource.” The press release has since been removed from its website. Eversource has repeatedly said the Northern Pass project will not cost ratepayers, but now states Eversource will advance the monies for the construction and will recoup their money through the use of the project and ratepayers will not have to pay for the costs. Both companies have since denied a disagreement.

The company, after stating repeatedly it will not cost the ratepayers of New Hampshire, is attempting, through Senate Bill 128, to eliminate competition and make us pay after all. Now we know why.

It is time Northern Pass realizes that its project, with its antiquated towers and lines, its partner’s increasing environmental problems in Canada, a tenacious public in New Hampshire that will not tolerate above-ground lines and towers, a reduction of energy needs, a reduction of energy costs, failure to be included in the sources of energy for 2020-21 in the Massachusetts auction, disagreement with HydroQuebec over funding, HydroQuebec talking with the Northern Pass competitors and finally mentioning possible termination of its involvement in the Northern Pass, creates a very negative outlook for Eversource, the Northern Pass and its stockholders.

(Dolly McPhaul lives in Sugar Hill.)