Northern Pass Transmission has won a high-stakes state-sponsored contest to provide Massachusetts with enough clean power to light up a million homes over 20 years.
The 192-mile, 1,090-megawatt line planned through the center of New Hampshire will transport power exclusively from Hydro-Quebec dams and reservoirs, Department of Energy Resources commissioner Judith Judson announced today.
The long-anticipated decision hands lucrative long-term power deals to project developer Eversource and to Hydro-Quebec, its partner in the $1.6 billion project. The negotiated contracts must be approved by the Department of Public Utilities.
Eversource in 2017 submitted two bids in the Massachusetts Clean Energy RFP – one for 100 percent hydro, and a second that would blend the hydro with wind power under development by Gaz Metro and Boralex.
The “100-percent hydro” option was found to provide the most benefit to consumers while best meeting the state’s aggressive emission-reduction goals, said Judson.
The decision spells disappointment for four other transmission developers who submitted bids in response to Gov. Charlie Baker’s 2016 Energy Diversity Act. The law called for competitive procurements of 9,450,000 megawatt-hours of clean energy.
The Northern Pass selection will lead to clean energy pricing that is competitive with carbon-emitting fossil fuels, said Judson. She said the projects were evaluated on the basis of their ability to reduce emissions, benefit ratepayers, and meet other criteria spelled out in the solicitation.
Northern Pass proposes to go into service by the end of 2020. It has gained major permits on both sides of the international border, but still needs approval from New Hampshire’s Site Evaluation Committee.
Dozens of proposals were received in July for new solar, wind, small hydro, storage, and even offshore wind generation –but the most challenging and capital-intensive projects were for new transmission lines to connect resources in Canada, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York with load centers in southern New England.
Competition for the Massachusetts contracts has been fierce. Major New England transmission proposals were submitted by Central Maine Power and Avangrid; by TDI New England and Blackstone, by National Grid, and by Emera. The status of those projects is now unclear. The Central Maine Power proposal offered the shortest route and cheapest capital price, and the TDI project was nearly as advanced in its permitting as Northern Pass.
Judson said its was an “extremely competitive process involving very strong proposals,” but that Northern Pass “rose to the top” based upon its ability to meet criteria outlined in the 2016 energy law.
Northern Pass was selected by an evaluation team with representatives from Massachusetts utilities Eversource, National Grid, and Unitil, and from the Department of Energy Resources. The process was overseen by an independent evaluator, said Judson.
Eversource and National Grid, which own Massachusetts electric utilities and also submitted clean energy proposals, agreed to abide by a standard of conduct that barred internal discussion of the state-sponsored selection process.
The Northern Pass partners will now start their contract negotiations with Massachusetts utilities. Judson said information on pricing will be revealed when utility regulators open a public docket. Peregrine Energy Group, the independent evaluator, will also submit a report on the selection process.
Eversource issued a statement celebrating the decision, and noted that “more than 80 percent of the line will be located along existing transmission corridors or buried along roadways, eliminating potential view impacts in and around the White Mountain National Forest.”
The Conservation Law Foundation, which has fought Northern Pass since its inception, said the Massachusetts process was “corrupted by the heavy hand of our state’s largest utility,” and amounts to a “slap in the face” to affected communities and project opponents in New Hampshire.
The CLF said it will be an “active participant” in the Mass. DPU process, and continue to fight Northern Pass in the Granite State.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers issued a statement saying Northern Pass “not only brings tremendous clean energy benefits to our region, but will also provide opportunity for thousands of working families in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.”
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