Northern Pass officials pressed on financial incentives related to project

Friday, March 11, 2016
Northern Pass officials don’t have specific bonuses tied to whether the company’s proposed electric transmission line gets built, a top executive said Thursday night during a hearing on the proposal.

The company plans to build a 192-mile transmission line through New Hampshire, but first the project needs state and federal approval. The hearing at the Grappone Center in Concord was part of that process, and it drew hundreds of people who made comments on the proposal.

At the start of the event, Northern Pass officials faced dozens of written stakeholder questions, many of which related to financial aspects of the $1.6 billion energy project, including how much the company will earn once the project is operational and whether executives earn bonuses.

The company expects to draw a $90 million return during the first year of the project, a sum that would depreciate over the line’s projected 40-year lifetime, said top Eversource Energy executive Bill Quinlan.

On bonuses, Quinlan said Northern Pass is a “strategically important” project.

“When we make it a reality, if we are successful in doing so, that will be certainly a positive in any executive review,” he said. “I do not have a specific incentive or bonus tied to Northern Pass.”

Northern Pass would bring roughly 1,000 megawatts of Canadian hydropower to the New England grid – enough to power 1 million homes. The project, initially proposed in 2010, is a partnership between Eversource Energy and HydroQuebec.

The most recent version of the project announced last August would send roughly 60 miles of the transmission line underground, including the section that runs through the White Mountain National Forrest.

Still, the project has drawn fierce opposition from environmental groups and residents who say the entire line should be buried, and tall transmission towers would mar the natural landscape.

Advocates say the hydropower will help diversify the region’s energy mix, one that is increasingly reliant on natural gas, and generate tax revenue across the state.

Those sentiments arose during the public comment section of the hearing.

Canterbury Rep. Howard Moffett said the project costs outweigh its benefits for New Hampshire. “Unless the line is buried, the cost to the state of New Hampshire are going to be incalculable,” he said. “It’s not a reliability project; it’s an economic project.”

Sen. Andrew Hosmer, a Laconia Democrat, said the project would bring a big tax boost to Franklin.

“The benefits to the city will be short-term and long term,” he said. “The project allows citizens of Franklin to look into the future.”

Tax revenue for affected towns is higher if the project is buried, but Northern Pass has said putting the whole line underground is cost prohibitive. It came up during the question-and-answer portion.

“If the project costs more, the tax bill will be higher,” said Lisa Shapiro, an economist. “But if the project costs so much more, there’s no project, there’s no taxes.”

The project is under review by the U.S. Department of Energy and the state Site Evaluation Committee. It needs approval from both to move forward.

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