Hydro-Quebec partners up

Hydro-Quebec partners up

Seeking Mass. contract, utility giant works with 3 transmission firms

HYDRO-QUEBEC, a utility giant that fashions itself the electric battery of the Northeast, is partnering with three different transmission companies in competing for a massive clean energy contract with Massachusetts.

The multiple partners were a bit of a surprise because Hydro-Quebec has had a long-standing relationship with Eversource Energy on the Northern Pass project, which hopes to deliver electricity into New England on a transmission line running from Quebec to southern New Hampshire. That line faces regulatory hurdles in New Hampshire, so perhaps the Canadian utility hedged its bets a bit by partnering with two other firms.

One of those firms is TDI New England, which wants to run a power line from Quebec to Ludlow, Vermont, using cables running underground and along the bottom of Lake Champlain. The other is Central Maine Power, which is seeking to deliver electricity from the Quebec border over above-ground lines to Lewiston, Maine, where it will feed into the New England power grid.

TDI said in a press release that its project is fully permitted and shovel ready. Central Maine Power said its transmission project is likely to be the lowest-cost because its terminus is the closest to Quebec, its power lines will run above ground, and the utility owns or controls the entire transmission corridor. Eversource, meanwhile, said it expects to receive all project approvals this year and complete construction in 2020, a full two years ahead of TDI and Central Maine Power.

Steve Demers, vice president for business development at Hydro-Quebec, said his firm is working with three partners to provide Massachusetts with the most competition possible. He said Hydro-Quebec is offering two options to its three transmission partners: a 100 percent hydro option or a 70-30 split between hydro and wind. The wind power would be supplied by Quebec wind farms, and their electicity would be backstopped by Hydro-Quebec’s hydroelectricity.

Demers said all three of Hydro-Quebec’s transmission partners will receive power on the same financial terms. Each proposal calls for the delivery of a minimum of 8.5 terawatt hours or a maximum of 9.4 million terawatt hours per year.

The Massachusetts solicitation seeks 9.45 terawatt hours of electricity a year. Responses to the state’s clean energy RFP were due at noon on Thursday. Officials said public versions of the proposals will be posted on a state website next week, so until then there is no way to know how many bids were submitted. The officials said the public proposals are unlikely to contain pricing information. Most of the information available on Thursday came from the bidders themselves, either through interviews or press releases.

National Grid said it plans to build transmission lines to import wind power from Quebec and solar and wind power from New York. Grid officials said their project would guarantee delivery of nearly nine terawatt hours of electricity. National Grid is partnering on the project with Citizens Energy, which will use a portion of its profits to provide home heating fuel assistance and weatherization to low-income families in Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Emera Inc., a company based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, said its bid offers 5.69 terawatt hours of onshore wind from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia backed up by hydro-electricity from Newfoundland and New Brunswick. The power would be delivered to Massachusetts via an underwater line running from New Brunswick to Plymouth, where it would feed into the power grid at the retiring Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station. Company officials noted their project would require infrastructure investments in Massachusetts, while many of the other clean energy proposals would generate investment and jobs in other New England states or Canada.

Like many of Hydro-Quebec’s rivals, Emera argues that it makes sense for Massachusetts not to contract with one supplier for all of the clean power. Company officials say multiple contracts would diversify the state’s energy supply and provide a backstop if one of those selected is unable to complete its project. “There’s an argument for saying let’s spread the business around a bit,” said Robin McAdam, vice president of major developments at Emera.

  • NortheasternEE

    The prospect of clean energy from Quebec is forcing the early retirement of local baselioad power (Brayton Point, Pilgrim, Salem, etc..) Peak demand for electricity in Massachusetts coincides with peak demand for electricity in Quebec. When the chips are down, and we need power to avoid blackouts, our baseload power plants can be reliad upon to be online at full strength. If this deal goes through, in the near future we will have to depend on getting power from Quebec to avoid blackouts. At such times, it is doubtful that Quebec will have enough excess power to cover their needs as well as ours. We will get the short end of the stick, and blackouts will be inevitable.

    Quebec is looking to offload wind power that cannot be stored. We are going to get it when we don’t really need it. It’s a good deal for Quebec and a foolish deal for us. As soon as natural gas prices go up, look for our electric rates to skyrocket.