After Northern Pass decision, Vermont company to help Massachusetts clean energy goals

  • Northern Pass opponents gather outside the polling place for the first-in-the-nation presidential primary at the Balsams Grand Resort on Monday, Jan. 9, 2012, in Dixville. AP

  • Some of the present transmission lines that cross Route 107 in Deerfield. The recently denied Northern Pass project called for much taller towers. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor file

  • Nick Paul (left) of Concord and Tim Madsen of Manchester protest with the group Protect the Granite State outside a hearing by the Site Evaluation Committee in April. AP file

Published: 2/4/2018 10:17:08 PM

After the stunning vote against Northern Pass’s application on Thursday, Vermont-based TDI-NE says it’s ready to help Massachusetts’s clean-energy goals with its fully permitted project that will be buried underground in Vermont and through Lake Champlain.

A week after Northern Pass was named the sole winner of 46 bids to supply the coveted Massachusetts Clean Energy contract with Hydro-Quebec electricity, New Hampshire regulators unexpectedly voted 7-0 Thursday against the controversial 192-mile, high-voltage transmission line. The line would have run from Pittsburg to Deerfield, then on to the New England grid. Eversource Energy/Northern Pass said they will appeal.

According to TDI-NE’s website, it is also working with Hydro-Quebec. TDI-NE CEO Don Jessome issued the following statement about its 1,000-megawatt New England Clean Power Link:

“TDI-NE offers a fully permitted, fully supported, fully underground and viable, shovel-ready solution to help the State of Massachusetts meet its clean energy goals with low-cost electricity. We stand ready to assist the Commonwealth as it achieves these targets.”

TDI-NE calls it the New England Clean Power Link, a proposed 1,000-megawatt high-voltage, direct current underwater and underground transmission cable that it says will bring clean, low-cost energy from the U.S.-Canadian border to Vermont and the New England marketplace.

“Once completed, the project will lower costs for consumers, reduce environmental emissions, create jobs, increase tax revenues, and diversify fuel supply in New England, all while respecting Vermont’s natural beauty by burying the cable,” the website said.

There was little opposition to the plan in Vermont. According to TDI-NE website, the project would run two 6-inch-wide cables an estimated 150 miles, all in Vermont.

“Approximately 100 miles are proposed to be buried under Lake Champlain and the balance buried underground in existing rights of way. The line will end at a converter station to be built at a location in Ludlow, Vt., and connect into the VELCO transmission grid to serve Vermont and the broader New England market.

“The $1.6 billion merchant line will be privately financed and will not use taxpayer dollars,” the website stated.

TDI-NE had submitted two unsuccessful bids into the Mass. Clean Energy RFP. After losing, Jessome said in a news release: “While we are disappointed by the announcement, we remain fully committed to the project which is well positioned to meet the region’s laudable goal to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years.

“TDI-NE firmly believes the fully permitted and fully supported project is the right turn-key solution to help New England reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a cost-effective manner.”

Arthur Cunningham, a Hopkinton attorney who represented two small businesses opposed to Northern Pass, said the Vermont project had little opposition.

“That project didn’t have anywhere near the complications environmentally and otherwise as Northern Pass,” Cunninghham said.

Although Massachusetts officials said a key feature in the selection of Northern Pass was that it would be operational by 2020, Cunningham doubts that would be possible.

“According to testimony, (Northern Pass) wasn’t much past 10 to 30 percent of its engineering,” Cunningham said. “There’s no practical way that Northern Pass could be in the ground and operational by 2020.”

The Boston Globe reported Saturday that “Judith Judson, the state’s Department of Energy Resources commissioner, gave Eversource Energy and two other electric utilities one week to figure out if Northern Pass remains viable after a stinging rejection from a key New Hampshire committee or else consider moving on to another transmission project.”

Martin Murray, Northern Pass’s spokesman, declined comment on TDI-NE’s statement on Saturday.

After the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee voted against Northern Pass, Murray released this statement:

“We are shocked and outraged by today’s SEC outcome. The process failed to comply with New Hampshire law and did not reflect the substantial evidence on the record. As a result, the most viable near-term solution to the region’s energy challenges, as well as $3 billion of NH job, tax, and other benefits, are now in jeopardy.

“Clearly, the SEC process is broken and this decision sends a chilling message to any energy project contemplating development in the Granite State. We will be seeking reconsideration of the SEC’s decision, as well as reviewing all options for moving this critical clean energy project forward.”

Hydro-Quebec’s position

Northern Pass, first proposed in 2010, partnered with Hydro-Quebec in winning the Massachusetts contract, but the Crowne Corp. also worked with two other bidders — TDI-NE and Central Maine Power.

Northern Pass and Hydro-Quebec have a Transmission Service Agreement, unlike the other two bidders, but the agreement would need to change due to the Massachusetts contract.

Lynn St-Laurent of Hydro-Quebec told InDepthNH on Friday that the two projects continue to be interested in moving forward after the New Hampshire decision.

“We’re waiting to see what happens, we knew there were risks,” she said, noting Massachusetts sent a clear signal that Hydro-Quebec power would help satisfy its clean energy goals.

“We are still very much interested in exporting electricity to Massachusetts,” St-Laurent said. “We have a clean, reliable, easily dispatchable energy with a foreseeable cost.”

She said Hydro-Quebec believed it had three solid proposals for the Massachusetts program with proven energy leaders.

Northern Pass has 30 days after the Site Evaluation Committee issues a written decision to ask for reconsideration. The committee’s deadline is the end of March but it could issue a decision sooner.

If the SEC denies the request, Northern Pass has said it will appeal the decision to the New Hampshire Supreme Court..

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