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Northern Pass won’t pay to bury lines in push for Quebec electricity, official says  

Since no nuclear or fossil-fuel power plants are likely to be built, large wind farms draw opposition, and solar in New England remains tiny, Long said, the best way to avoid further reliance on the single fuel of natural gas is to use electricity from Quebec. By some calculations, Quebec hydropower equals more than all the power production in New England combined, and the province is eager to connect with New York and New England to sell that power. “The way New England has evolved over the last 15 years ... has been away from everything except from natural gas and some renewables. So New England is starting to turn to Canada,” Long said. “As the other states look at these issues, they’re not talking about underground – they’re talking about how do we get the power, period.”

Credit:  By DAVID BROOKS, Staff Writer | Nashua Telegraph | October 30, 2013 | www.nashuatelegraph.com ~~

Burying the Northern Pass transmission line along its 160-plus miles from the Quebec border would be so expensive that the private firm proposing the line won’t do it unless somebody else helps pay, which is unlikely. But killing the line would block the region’s best chance of avoiding a crippling dependence on natural gas.

That was the message presented by Gary Long, the former PSNH chairman who now heads the push in New Hampshire for the controversial Northern Pass electric-transmission project, during a meeting with The Telegraph’s editorial board Tuesday.

Even if burying the lines increases the estimated $1.4 billion cost of the project by 50 percent – it “would be amazing if it’s only that,” Long said – then the project becomes “uneconomic.”

Representatives of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests argued during a Telegraph editorial board Oct. 8 that burying the lines along highways or rail lines is the most likely way that Northern Pass will come to fruition.

Gary Long argued Tuesday that killing Northern Pass because of concerns about its appearance as it cuts through the North Country, the major reason for opposition during two years of hot debate, is a long-term mistake for the region. The 1,200-megawatt project is important for New England electricity users, he said, because it provides a reliable and relatively inexpensive source of electricity that doesn’t directly generate pollution.

Long argued, as he has for years, that New England’s increasing reliance on natural gas to provide our electricity leaves the region vulnerable to brownouts during high-usage winter and summer months, partly because only two major pipelines bring natural gas into the region.

He said the coming retirement of Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant and a number of coal-fired plants, including New England’s biggest, Brayton Point in Massachusetts, increases this vulnerability. “There are 3,300 megawatts of power plants retiring and another 5,000 megawatts at risk,” he said.

Long said the vulnerability is such that ISO-New England, the organization that oversees the region’s electric grid, is paying some power plants to store extra oil so they can fire up on short notice this winter in case bad weather closes down some other plants or major transmission lines.

This, combined with an increase in power usage as the nation comes out of the recession, means New England’s historical surplus in energy production may be coming to an end. He shared copies of an Oct. 17 memo sent to members of the ISO-New England Reliability Committee that said the next auction of contracts of electricity generation, set for February to cover production three years down the road, points to “a deficiency of 1,547 megawatts.”

“These are not the exact values … but it is indicative that the region will require new capacity” as of 2017, said the memo, signed by Stephen Rourke, vice president of system planning for ISO-New England.

Since no nuclear or fossil-fuel power plants are likely to be built, large wind farms draw opposition, and solar in New England remains tiny, Long said, the best way to avoid further reliance on the single fuel of natural gas is to use electricity from Quebec. By some calculations, Quebec hydropower equals more than all the power production in New England combined, and the province is eager to connect with New York and New England to sell that power.

“The way New England has evolved over the last 15 years … has been away from everything except from natural gas and some renewables. So New England is starting to turn to Canada,” Long said. “As the other states look at these issues, they’re not talking about underground – they’re talking about how do we get the power, period.”

As for the environmental aspect, Long noted that one of the task force recommendations in the state’s Carbon Action Plan, which was released in 2009 to provide a blueprint for reducing the state’s contribution to climate change, is to “enable importation of Canadian hydro and wind generation.”

Long was one of two dozen people who served on the panel that drew up that plan under former Gov. John Lynch, along with a number of industry, political and environmental officials.

Source:  By DAVID BROOKS, Staff Writer | Nashua Telegraph | October 30, 2013 | www.nashuatelegraph.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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