Northern Pass and its competitors await Mass. decision on clean energy

Published: 1/16/2018 3:47:15 PM

Next week is D-Day for Northern Pass and other proposals to bring electricity down from Quebec, as Massachusetts will announce which proposals will be chosen to negotiate 20-year contracts for providing renewable electricity.

The selection committee, comprising representatives from Eversource, National Grid and Unitil with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Resources as an adviser, will announce Jan. 25 which proposals out of 46 will move to the next level, negotiating a long-term contract for the renewable energy.

Massachusetts officials hope renewable energy, which has no fuel costs, will help drive down regional prices and provide a more economically stable wholesale market, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Of the 46 proposals the committee is considering, two would use the proposed $1.6 billion, 192-mile Northern Pass transmission project stretching from Pittsburg to Deerfield. That proposal is under consideration by the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee, which begins deliberations on the project Jan. 30.

Northern Pass officials say their project does not depend on being chosen to negotiate with the Massachusetts program.

“Northern Pass was never predicated on any single solicitation for clean power,” said Kaitlyn Woods, a spokeswoman for Eversource, which jointly owns Northern Pass with Hydro-Quebec. “In fact, the Massachusetts RFP didn’t exist when Northern Pass was first proposed.”

Northern Pass was pitched in 2010, and the legislation for the Massachusetts clean energy project passed in 2016.

But Jack Savage of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, which opposes the project, said he believes the contract is important for Northern Pass.

“Today, Northern Pass apparently only works for Hydro-Quebec if the ratepayers of Massachusetts were to pay the cost of building the line. New Hampshire would bear the burden of siting the project and all of the unreasonable adverse impacts the project creates,” Savage said. “So the Mass RFP is important to Northern Pass. It’s not critical to Massachusetts since there are other options for getting power out of Quebec.”

Eversource argues that Northern Pass is the only major proposal being considered that would meet Massachusetts’ statutory timeline requiring delivery of clean energy by the end of 2020.

Since the 46 proposals were submitted to Massachusetts in July, the selection committee along with its consultants and an independent evaluator have been reviewing and rating the plans. They use a variety of electricity sources and routes to bring power to the state.

Northern Pass and Hydro-Quebec would use their proposed transmission line for two plans, one to supply 1,090 megawatts of large-scale Canadian hydropower and the other supplying hydropower along with Canadian wind power currently under development.

National Grid also has two proposals that use a combination of hydro and Canadian and New York wind and solar projects.

One, called Granite State Power Link, would use existing rights of way through Vermont from the Canadian border to Monroe and down to Londonderry. The Vermont right of way would need to be expanded, is controversial and yet to be finalized. The other, called Northeast Renewable Link, would use existing lines to bring small hydropower, wind and solar from New York to a substation in Massachusetts.

Central Maine Power also submitted two proposals and has run ads in Massachusetts saying it would cost $650 million less than either the Eversource or National Grid proposals. New England Clean Energy Connect would bring 1,200 megawatts of Hydro-Quebec power to the New England grid over a 145-mile new transmission line from the Canadian border to Lewiston, Maine. The Maine Clean Power Connection would use wind and solar power being developed in western Maine to connect to the New England grid in Lewiston.

TDI (Transmission Development Inc.) New England also presented two proposals. The New England Clean Power Link would deliver 1,000 megawatts of Hydro-Quebec power and the other would use 700 megawatts of hydro coupled with 300 megawatts of wind power under development in New York and Canada.

And Emera has proposed the Atlantic Link, a new 900-megawatt underwater cable connecting Nova Scotia and Massachusetts. The proposal would supply wind and hydro power from the Maritimes.

Other proposals would use wind, solar and hydro power in smaller bundles from the Northeast and Canada.

And a firm called Revolution Wind submitted a bid, which is the first time an offshore wind farm has competed head-to-head with other renewable generators.

After the selection committee makes its recommendations, the projects have until March 27 to negotiate long-term contracts before they are presented to the Massachusetts DPU in April.

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