Energy giant National Grid has joined forces with a major builder of transmission lines to announce plans for an underwater line that would bring hydro power from Canada and wind power from Northern Maine into the New England grid.
The $1 billion Maine Green Line, announced on Tuesday, is the latest entrant in a growing list of transmission projects designed to lower energy costs in New England. The question is, will any of them get built?
The consensus at the annual energy summit hosted by the Business and Industry Association was that energy projects are getting more difficult to site in New England given changes in state law and the growing level of grass-roots resistance to virtually every project proposed.
Thomas Kiley, president and CEO of the Northeast Gas Association, presented a dizzying array of new projects on the drawing board to a capacity crowd at the Center of New Hampshire on Wednesday.
At one end of the spectrum is the Maine Green Line, a hybrid land-and-sea project that would initially transmit 1,000 megawatts of wind from northern Maine, supplemented by imports of hydropower from eastern Canada, through underwater cable to Boston.
That project is just beginning a complicated regulatory review and even if approved wouldn’t go live until 2020.
At the other end of the timeline is the Constitution Pipeline, a brand new 124-mile natural gas pipeline that will extend from the shale gas fields of eastern Pennsylvania through upstate New York and into the New England system in western Massachusetts.
That project has cleared its environmental review with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and has been declared a reliability project, meaning the 10 percent of properties along the approved route not yet acquired can be obtained by eminent domain if necessary.
Construction on the Constitution Pipeline could start in 2015, but opponents have promised civil disobedience to stop it if necessary.
In the middle of the approval process are gas pipelines like the project Kinder-Morgan has proposed through Southern New Hampshire, and the Northern Pass project to bring more hydroelectricity into New England from Quebec, both of which face well-organized opposition.
And the opposition is not limited to natural gas or hydro-electric projects. Kiley alluded to the Cape Wind project off the shore of Cape Cod, which has been in the works for more than a decade.
Even as groups like Environment New Hampshire fight for more wind projects, the equally well-organized NH WindWatch opposes them.
“It is enormously difficult to site energy infrastructure in the Northeast,” Kiley said.
Michael Harrington, a former commissioner of the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission and now an independent energy consultant, put it this way: “It’s so difficult to build in New England we are now BANANAS,” he said in an interview between presentations.
BANANA is an acronym for “Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything.”
Jim Roche, BIA president and host of the event, said despite the many hurdles, the need for new energy infrastructure is imperative.
“The high cost of electricity in New Hampshire has already kept many business from moving here,” he said. “We’re at the point now where existing employers are going to take existing jobs elsewhere.”
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