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New Hampshire Views: Eventually, we’ll need the power Northern Pass can deliver

If you are like us, the Northern Pass debate is something first thought foreign to those living in the southern New Hampshire. After all, it involves places we seldom visit like Pittsburg, nearly four hours from the Seacoast. Over time, however, we have come to understand its importance – even in ways unexpected.

Northern Pass is a cooperative effort by Public Service of New Hampshire and Hydro-Québec to bring hydroelectric power south. To do this PSNH wants to build 187 miles of transmission lines which will feed a terminal to be built in Franklin. The project has been controversial if for no other reason than the unsightly towers first proposed to carry power lines from Canada. But other concerns have meant opposition as well.

In response to the possibility PSNH could use eminent domain to secure land for transmission lines, the Legislature prohibited the use of eminent domain for any project not deemed essential by a government formula used to set tariffs. But that wasn’t enough for opponents who mounted a massive effort to buy land and secure conservation easements to block any proposed route. In the end, however, it appears PSNH has been able to announce an unobstructed route that outruns efforts to block the project.

As an unexpected consequence this means PSNH and opponents wind up with land not needed in the battle over transmission lines. For opponents this is still a victory because they have been able to preserve that much more of New Hampshire for future generations. There is hope that PSNH will turn some of its no longer needed acreage to the same purpose.

But all this is secondary to the essential debate now that PSNH has secured a route and promised to bury many miles of transmission lines that might otherwise spoil some of New Hampshire’s scenic vistas. That debate is the need for the hydroelectric project.

While it is possible to argue the project is not currently needed, that will not be the case for long. Electric use has ebbed for temporary reasons. The weak economy has caused many users to conserve. But as the economy brightens, a greater demand for power is expected. And when it does, the federal government is demanding we look to cleaner sources of power, which puts the Northeast between a rock and a hard place.

Coal is already in the process of being phased out, representing only 3 percent of the regions electrical output in 2012. And while nuclear could be an alternative, expansion is a politically impossible notion in the Northeast. Meanwhile, natural gas is working to secure a monopoly, generating more than 50 percent of the region’s electricity, a skyrocketing rise since 2005.

But natural gas has its limitations. Transmission lines are few throughout New England’s bedrock. And gas is in demand for other purposes. We refer readers to a report found atinstituteforenergyresearch.org titled “The Dilemma Caused by Low Cost Natural Gas,” which reads, in part:

“In a 2010 study, the American Public Power Association warned that natural gas demand is outpacing the delivery capacity of the gas infrastructure. Nearly half of the current delivery capacity was built after the previous peak natural gas demand of 22 trillion cubic feet achieved in 1972. Estimates of new pipeline capacity required range from $106 billion to $163 billion. Further, if all coal-fired generating capacity were to be replaced by natural gas capacity, the cost would be $348 billion.”

This, and more, calls for PSNH and its opponents to come to an agreement that the Northern Pass project be completed – if not because the power is needed today, but because it will be needed tomorrow.

Legacy Comments7

This is a vital National Security Issue....not a visual purist necessity

I think you will find that NH generates way more power than it uses. A 30 MW wind project in Antrim NH doesn't have any NH customers and will probably ship the power to NY. The Public Service Co/Northeast Utilities of CT project is likely to do the same. For profit businesses to sell power elsewhere other than NH. So why does NH have to get the eyesores so that somebody elsewhere gets the benefit. A very good reason why eminent domain shouldn't be used since it does NH residents no good and only damages the beautiful landscape of Northern NH. It doesn't seem like anybody is even thinking about the energy conservation measures households and businesses are making to reduce demand are even entering into the equation along with individual wind and solar installations that produce power. All are offsetting future demand growth.

Market Solutions are not being "planned by ISO", to the contrary, if you speak ISO officials, there is concern about the "market conditions". There is also concern for the future energy needs; who will ensure that the "public good" is met by way of consumers having the energy they need. In the good ole' days, ie: "Horse and Buggy" as I Love NH writes, it was the "good ole" utility who planned for and carried out making sure we all had the energy we needed. Which by the way, is what Northeast Utilities and PSNH is doing with Northern Pass, planning for the future, the future that most likely will include many less fossil fuel plants....So, I might ask, where would you all like to see your power come from? Would you like to see 3000 wind turbines gracing our majestic NH peaks...and then would you like to see the infrastructure needed to support these turbines? There needs to be diversification in any market and genrations by N Gas is not the answer here or anywhere. PSNH owning generation, provides pricing control and allows PSNH to meet the energy needs of their customer's. , I don't look forward to the day when NH's energy prices are driven soley by supply and demand, the for profit generators and energy brokers who are in the NH market right now, are in it just to make money - this is not the case for PSNH. Since the Horse and Buggy days PSNH has been providing and planning for reliable energy AND they and their employees have been supporting the 211 communities they serve........millions of dollars in community and state wide support, way beyond providing electrical service. We need to look at the big picture here.....I remember the days when people protested the highways being built....NIMBY.... we need to work together and understand that NU and PSNH are not the "big bad corp." villian...... They are electrical utiltiies with thousands of employees..... supporting all of us in our daily lives....................

Does just putting something in print make it true? Psnh of CT's full page ad in today's paper touts their "spirit of collaboration" - with who? and "a commitment to innovative ideas" - like the outdated technology from the days of horse and buggy - overhead transmission? and "dedicated to the public good" ? - If they were truly dedicated to the public good, wouldn't they listen to the public who pays their salaries and propose a responsible route with a responsible modern and "innovative" method of transmission like other utilities around us who have listened to the public and proposed responsible projects. They don't waste their ratepayer's money on expensive full page ads of questionable self promotion - they put it to good use. Talk is cheap - but full page ads aren't. Show NH how much you care by proposing to bury this line all the way - or just admit that maximum profit is the overriding concern.

There is no argument as to whether the proposed project is needed as regulators have already determined that it is not. Only those who would argue which way is up would attempt to use "need" or more accurately "fear of need" in a desperate attempt to drum up support for their get rich quick scheme at NH's expense. Psnh of CT has a long history of bad decision making leading to NH ratepayers paying among the highest rates in the nation for their highly polluted power. They have no plans to stop burning coal in NH as they want the Canadian power for southern New England. NH already generates twice as much as it uses so we surely don't need it. Opponents have not blocked all possible routes - just the most dangerous, damaging and destructive. There are much more direct routes [underground] next to the interstate and rail beds like the other current projects in our region that the author strategically omitted - the Champlain Hudson Express Project in VT and NY and the Northeast Energy Link which goes through Maine, the seacoast area of NH, and northern Mass. No. pass is only interested in the most profitable way - not the most responsible. Their latest land grab attempt is sure to fail - something they must be used to by now.

The author's claim that a "greater demand for power is expected" is totally unsubstantiated. Who says so? And the author's cherry-picked reference to a study by the Institute for Energy Research study is not convincing. The IER, staffed by a former lobbyist for the Koch industry, is not a disinterested source, and the article is out of date (2010). The disinterested source is ISO-New England, the regional grid planners. In May 2013, Gordon van Welie, head of ISO-NE, addressed the natural gas issues in New England before the Senate committee on energy and natural resources. Van Welie concluded that "ISO New England is addressing these issues with a sense of urgency and is working with the New England states and regional stakeholders to submit market rule changes to the FERC, with the objective of providing the economic incentives necessary to ensure that generators secure adequate and reliable fuel supplies and perform when called upon by the ISO." Van Welie did not even hint that New England needs to import Canadian hydro power. The sky is not falling in. Market solutions are available and being planned by ISO-NE. Sorry, PSNH/Northeast Utilities, the "natural gas crisis" as rationale for Northern Pass doesn't hold water. And it's certainly not stopping NU from promising its CT customers both a cheap and abundant supply.

Foster’s Daily Democrat said: "it appears PSNH has been able to announce an unobstructed route that outruns efforts to block the project." The supposed appearance that PSNH has been able to announce an unobstructed route is just that an appearance! The reality is their supposed unobstructed route has numerous obstructions that Foster's Daily Democrat, The Northern Pass, and PSNH are not admitting currently exist but will in the end stop this project from ever happening. If your going to report the facts concerning this possible project report the entire story. Inclosing Foster’s Daily Democrat said: " PSNH has secured a route and promised to bury many miles of transmission lines that might otherwise spoil some of New Hampshire’s scenic vistas." Again despite the real facts that PSNH hasn't secured a route, their supposed promise to bury many miles of the transmission lines is misleading at best. Of the 187 miles of electrical transmission corridor necessary to site the Northern Pass project, they are now offering to bury 8 miles of line. That's an incredible gesture of 4.3% of the entire project which Foster's Daily Democrat equates to "many miles"...

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