Hydro-Quebec officials push Northern Pass
Call project with Eversource ‘a complete solution’
TOP OFFICIALS AT HYDRO-QUEBEC said on Wednesday in Boston that the company’s Northern Pass project represents the best, most complete solution to New England’s need for clean energy.
Eric Martel, CEO of Hydro-Quebec, confidently predicted that Northern Pass will win needed permits in New Hampshire next year and be up and running by 2019. Steve Demers, a vice president at the company, said a number of projects are in the works to import Canadian hydroelectricity into New England, but none of them are on a par with Northern Pass.
For example, a project called the New England Power Link is fully permitted to run a transmission line from the Canadian border to Ludlow, VT, where it would feed 1,000 megawatts of electricity into the regional power grid. In contrast with Northern Pass, which at times has faced strong opposition in New Hampshire, the New England Power Link has encountered far less resistance because its power line would run underwater across Lake Champlain and be buried underground for the rest of the route.
Demers said the New England Power Link is a great project, but he noted it still needs to firm up a deal with Hydro-Quebec to supply power for the line. Demers said negotiations on a deal are ongoing, but he and Martel both mentioned Hydro-Quebec’s loyalty to Northern Pass and the company’s partner on that project, Eversource Energy.
The Massachusetts House passed energy legislation earlier this month that calls for local utilities to negotiate long-term contracts for large amounts of offshore wind and hydroelectricity. Many corporate partnerships are expected to bid on the hydroelectric contracts if the legislation is signed into law. Like Northern Pass, many of those corporate partnerships are actively lobbying officials in Massachusetts.
Some have suggested the best approach would be a transmission line that would bring a combination of onshore wind power and hydroelectricity into the region, with the hydroelectricity serving as a backstop for when the wind isn’t blowing. The House included a preference but not a mandate for this approach in its bill, which is awaiting action in the Senate.
Martel, in an interview at the offices of the Quebec Government Office in Boston, said the Northern Pass project would deliver 1,100 megawatts of just hydroelectricity. While acknowledging the benefits of a hydro-wind project, Martel said Northern Pass would offer benefits to the entire electric system and serve as a backdrop for renewables on a region-wide scale.
The hydroelectricity procurement included in the House bill is half what Gov. Charlie Baker called for in his original energy legislation. Matthew Beaton, the governor’s secretary of energy and environmental affairs, has urged the Senate to up the size of the hydroelectricity procurement.
But Martel and Demers noted that the region may secure additional hydroelectricity through a clean energy procurement process run by Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island that is expected to result in contract awards in the next few months.Martel said Hydro-Quebec competed in that procurement, offering power from Northern Pass using what is being called a delivery commitment. Under the delivery commitment, he said, Hydro-Quebec would agree to supply a fixed amount of power each year to the region. The price of the power would not be set by contract, but instead be set at whatever the market price is in the region.
The Hydro-Quebec officials said most of the power under the delivery commitment approach would be delivered in the winter and summer peak-demand months for electricity and the rest would be delivered when electricity prices are surging. The arrangement would give Hydro-Quebec attractive prices for its power, while holding down price spikes in the region.