My Turn: Will Northern Pass hurt region’s electric reliability?
The residents of New Hampshire and New England are totally dependent on the New England electric grid. Lacking in the discussion regarding Northern Pass is an answer to this question: How is the risk of catastrophic failure of the grid affected by continuing to increase New England imports of distant and centralized large-scale hydroelectric power through several conduits crossing the Canadian border, and most particularly by the proposed Northern Pass project in New Hampshire?
The risk of catastrophic failure of the grid exists today, as evidenced in July when a drought-driven forest fire incapacitated four Canadian power lines crossing the border to the United States. The North American Electric Reliability Corp. is now investigating the failure of Hydro Quebec to give notice of this pending event, notice which is required to enable managers of the grid to minimize the risk of catastrophic failure.
That risk increases as the grid expands over longer distances to concentrated sources of supply. The future of the New Hampshire and New England economies and security of our environment would be well served by shifting to decentralized, renewable electric generation serving local residences, business and industry. Instead, New Hampshire may be forced to accept a major electric tentacle that will make it more difficult for New Hampshire and New England to decentralize with local renewables, will damage the state across many other fronts and may increase the risk to all of New England of catastrophic failure of the grid.
Our media, citizens, universities and most certainly the Department of Energy in the environmental impact statement for the pending presidential permit for Northern Pass must address this issue. They should specifically consider the following possibilities:
1. Events of nature that may be more likely to occur in eastern Canada than in New England, e.g. droughts, forest fires, ice storms and geomagnetic events such as solar flares and coronal mass ejections;
2. Malevolent human actions such as cyber-attacks and physical terrorist attacks on Canadian soil beyond our government’s control, including the use of electromagnetic pulse;
3. Reliance on the vagaries of Quebec politics for electric power and other foreign nations for replacements for large transformers which are mostly no longer produced in the United States.
4. A perfect storm where two or more of the above are involved.
I am pleading for help with these matters in the presidential permit process and from the media and our state and federal politicians.
(Fred O. Brownson lives in Wentworth.)