Talk can be cheap, energy is expensive

Energy seized the headlines again last week as the New England governors and Eastern Canadian premiers met in New Hampshire to discuss the most important issue shared by residents on both sides of the border.  It was an obvious topic, with Canada’s plentiful hydropower resources and New England’s increasing need for energy. Our energy predicament is serious and continues to gain national attention; but, there was a glimmer of hope from the conference – both the New England Governors and the Eastern Canadian Premiers agreed that hydropower will likely be part of New England’s energy future.

Elsewhere in New England, however, opposition continues to many viable options whether it’s hydro, natural gas, wind projects or policy initiatives that would promote energy development. Even a heralded plan for a new North Country LNG plant appears to be off the table.  Clearly, there is still much work to be done to bring New England closer to a cleaner, more secure energy future.

Public input and scrutiny of energy projects are essential elements of the public permitting processes and the harsh reality is that time is not on New England’s side.  Another potentially cold and expensive winter will soon be here, poised again to challenge the region.  Chances are New England’s energy problems will still be a topic of discussion when the governors and premiers meet again next year.

Keeping America’s lights on
(The Hill)

N.E. govs., Canadian officials meet, talk energy in the future
(Union Leader)

Energy-Starved ‘Planet Of The Apes’ What Greens Want
(Investor’s Business Daily)

Hollis gas pipeline meeting has 100 participants, and just about 100 thumbs down
(Nashua Telegraph)

Gov. Deval Patrick says Mass. clean energy bill ‘hangs in the balance right now’
(Boston Business Journal)

Groveton: Proposed Natural Gas Plant Pulled
(Caledonian Record)

Clean energy gets priority at N.H. conference
(AP via Portland Press Herald)

Not Much For “Kremlin Watchers” At Meeting Between N.E. Governors And Canadian Premiers
(NHPR)

ISO-NE and NEPOOL file proposal with FERC to implement a Winter Reliability Program for winter 2014/2015
(ISO Newswire)

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Get the Facts: 5 Misconceptions about Northern Pass

Myths vs. Facts: 5 Common Misconceptions about the Northern Pass

Myth #1: New Hampshire doesn’t need the power

FACT: Some opponents claim New Hampshire produces more energy than it uses, exporting the excess out-of-state. When people hear this, they often ask, “Then why do we need Northern Pass?”

The fact is we are part of a single regional system for generating and transmitting electricity.  We’re also part of one market that sets the price for that electricity. That system and market are operated by the nonprofit Independent System Operator (ISO) New England.  This means that all New England states share power across their borders, and the price that New Hampshire residents pay for the electricity they use is largely determined by the market price of all the energy in the regional “pool,” not just on what’s available in New Hampshire.

In the past year, a number of power plants within the New England grid announced they will soon shut down, shrinking the amount of power available on the grid. In February, ISO New England announced that in a few years, the region’s power plants won’t make enough energy to guarantee grid reliability—meaning there might not be enough power to keep everyone’s lights on all the time. The result will be higher prices for the energy produced in the region and more money spent to import energy to make up the difference. This will eventually drive the cost of energy up for consumers throughout the pool, including New Hampshire.

New England is already facing energy challenges before any of these plants retire. Just last year, wholesale electricity prices shot up 55 percent.  This past winter, PSNH had to burn stored oil and turn on backup generators that use expensive jet fuel to meet demand when natural gas wasn’t available to run power plants.  This was also the most expensive winter in recent memory.  New Englanders paid $5.1 billion to heat and power their homes between December and February.  The region spent $5.2 billion in all of 2012.

Myth #2: New Hampshire won’t see any of the power or benefit from the project

FACT: Northern Pass will carry clean hydropower from the New Hampshire border with Canada, south to where it will be distributed throughout the regional grid from a substation in Deerfield, New Hampshire. A portion of the energy will be used in New Hampshire, as well as the other New England states.

In our regional energy system, the price of electricity is based on how much power is available to everyone in all of the New England states. When a new source of low-cost energy is added, it lowers the price of electricity for everyone. An energy market study showed that the added power from Northern Pass will lower energy costs by about $300 million a year throughout New England, and that New Hampshire will save between $20 million and $35 million annually on energy costs as a result.

Northern Pass will also generate $28 million annually in additional tax revenue for New Hampshire, based on 2011 tax rates, adding up to more than $1 billion over the life of the project. When a company builds something, whether it’s a store or a transmission tower, it increases the value of the property— and the property taxes owed to that community. Each town along the route, the counties along the route, and the state will all get additional revenue each year and for years to come once Northern Pass is built. That includes $7.5 million annually paid directly to the state education fund.  This additional revenue is generated without increasing the costs of any government services.

Myth #3: The project will “cut a swath through some of New Hampshire’s most scenic landscapes.”

FACT: The above quote, from a professional opposition group’s website, is an example of the misleading messages being delivered to people in New Hampshire about Northern Pass.

Now let’s look at the facts.

Nearly 80 percent of the route will be built along existing power line corridors, where one or more power lines have existed for many decades.  It makes sense to use a corridor already committed to this type of use, and it will not require the clearing of a new path through the vast majority of the route. PSNH currently manages the vegetation in these rights-of-way using environmentally sound methods and without the use of herbicides, and Northern Pass will use those same methods.

There are two portions of the route—a total of 8 miles—that will be buried under public roads.

A portion of the route requires a new transmission corridor, commonly referred to as a “right-of-way.”  This new corridor was developed in collaboration with willing landowners through land purchases and easements. Wherever practical, the Northern Pass route was sited in areas where the lines will be less visible.

The Northern Pass structure heights are designed based on National Electric Safety Code (NESC) requirements and are influenced by topography. For example, if the land is hilly, the structures may need to be taller to comply with the design requirements. You may have heard some groups say the structures will be “up to 155 feet.” Only one Northern Pass structure is that tall. The most common height for the Northern Pass DC structures is between 85-90 feet through the northern-most part of the route and 85-95 feet from Dummer to Franklin.  In Franklin, the energy is converted to Alternating Current (AC). Between Franklin and Deerfield, the most common structure height is 80 feet.  Taller structures are necessary in some places to cross rivers, roadways, other lines or structures, or to meet NESC requirements.

Many people are concerned about the potential impact to the White Mountain National Forest, which Northern Pass crosses for 11 miles. The project will not need a new route through this region, but will use an existing right-of-way where power lines have stood for more than 50 years. This part of the project must be approved by the U.S. Forest Service. Our application can be viewed online.

You can take a view the entire Northern Pass proposal, including the route, structure heights, right-of-way widths and even view simulations that show what the project will look like when complete. It’s all available on our website, www.northernpass.us.

Myth #4: Northern Pass will harm the environment

FACT: Northern Pass believes it has proposed a transmission line route that takes into consideration New Hampshire’s unique landscape. Whenever possible, lines are proposed to be sited in low-lying areas and valleys. Nearly 80 percent of the route is within existing rights-of-way that have long supported their own important and diverse ecosystem. Overhead lines are seen as an environmentally friendly option in many cases because they allow the flow of power over and around sensitive areas, like wetlands, vernal pools and streams, with little disturbance. When opponents mention Northern Pass’ impact on the environment, they’re often referring to the view impact.

Opponents tend to ignore or dismiss the fact that Northern Pass has tremendous environmental benefits.  When low-carbon sources like hydropower are added to the system, it means the grid relies less on polluting forms of energy, like coal or oil. By adding 1,200 megawatts of clean energy, Northern Pass will reduce regional carbon emissions by up to 5 million tons a year. That’s equal to the amount of CO2 emissions released from 900,000 cars.

Myth #5: Northern Pass will only create “temporary jobs” and these jobs won’t go to NH workers anyway

FACT: Northern Pass expects to create 1,200 jobs during construction. There is a Project Labor Agreement in place that says contractors working on the project must first seek New Hampshire workers for these jobs. For many of the professions needed, like linemen or builders, all of the work they do is “temporary.” They work on a project until the job is complete and then move on to the next assignment. Many workers tell us how much they welcome the opportunity to work in their home state of New Hampshire, instead of traveling out of state for work.

Northern Pass also formed a Jobs Creation Fund to further improve economic development after Northern Pass is complete. This $7.5 million fund will be monitored by a board of local leaders who will direct the money into local businesses and projects to help put people to work.

There are many skilled New Hampshire workers, contractors, and businesses looking to work on this $1.4 billion renewable energy project. The money these workers spend in communities along the route will spur economic growth and give a boost to the overall New Hampshire economy. Studies also indicate that the project will create 200 permanent jobs in New Hampshire as a result of the energy cost savings Northern Pass will generate.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

More fuel for our economy

Whether relaxing on a hot day by the pool or seeking relief in the comfort of an air-conditioned home, it’s easy to forget how important electricity is to our daily lives. Yet when the price of that electricity rises, the added cost can have a noticeable effect on our economy.

Homeowners saddled with higher electricity bills have less money to spend on other things, and businesseTop 10 Energy Prices.NoTexts both large and small will delay purchases and new hires if they are forced to spend more to keep the lights on. This is an issue of great importance to New Hampshire, since our state has some of the highest energy costs in the nation.

We again saw this week a call for action to solve this crisis as the New England governors prepare to meet with the Eastern Canadian premiers. Canadian hydropower continues to garner interest as a way to provide a base load supply of energy to compliment new sources of clean energy, like wind and solar, as well as serve as an alternative energy source to natural gas, on which New England is largely dependent. Debate also continues in Massachusetts on a clean energy bill and the natural gas pipeline companies discussing potential pipeline expansion.

No matter the energy source, there is a growing consensus that adding more energy will lead to lower energy costs for everyone. When residents and business owners spend less on energy, that’s more money they can put back into the economy and spend on other things.

(The links below are referenced in the above communication)

Region faces major spike in cost of energy
(Portsmouth Herald)

Electricity, gas shortage a real threat
(Portsmouth Herald)

America’s highest power bills
(Wall St. Cheat Sheet)

Another View – Tiler Eaton: Northern Pass project would help, not hurt, NH’s economy
(New Hampshire Union Leader)

Letter: Embrace hydroelectric power
(Concord Monitor)

PSNH president eyes energy crunch
(Portsmouth Herald)

Moving New England to a clean energy future
(Boston Globe)

NH gas pipeline expansion pushed
(New Hampshire Union Leader)

Natural gas pipeline plan creates rift in Massachusetts
(New York Times)

Obama’s carbon emission reduction plan not bad for business
(Hartford Business Journal)

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Energy Issues Heat Up the Headlines

Even under the heavy blanket of summer humidity, we can’t stop talking about last winter.  The lessons learned just a few months ago about the vulnerability of our electrical grid were front and center at a forum in Manchester last Monday.  The headlines from that event sum up the regional situation in stark fashion:

summer rates chart

Summer ’14 residential electricity prices are projected higher than last year. Source: EIA.gov

No relief from New England energy costs in near future

New England energy officials warn of possible power crisis; governors infrastructure initiative could be the solution

New England leaders take on impending electric crisis

Panel discusses energy solutions in New England as extra winter costs are tallied

The implications of this crisis on New England’s economy are far reaching.  As one panelist pointed out, the cost of energy in the winter months is dangerously high and, “We just can’t allow New England to become an economy that only operates nine months out of the year.”

Yet, as efforts to relieve this strain try to gain traction, the situation continues to worsen.

Federal regulators are now investigating possible price manipulation in the impending closure of the Brayton Point Power Plant in Massachusetts – a retirement that has the potential to significantly increase electricity prices in New England.

Construction on a new natural-gas fired power plant in Salem, Massachusetts is facing another potential setback, delaying completion of the facility and possibly bringing about rolling blackouts to areas of New England.

At every step, opponents are trying to block a plan for a new natural gas pipeline in New England.  Even the governors’ attempt to expand the region’s infrastructure and relieve supply constraints is being questioned by certain environmental and industry groups.

Energy officials believe a market-based “solution has not come forward” to solve this crisis.  What’s more, potential solutions that have come forward continue to get sidetracked by professional opposition groups.  The clock is ticking and action is needed to keep our grid—and our economy—on track.

No relief from New England energy costs in near future
(New Hampshire Union Leader)

New England energy officials warn of possible power crisis; governors infrastructure initiative could be the solution
(Concord Monitor)

New England leaders take on impending electric crisis
(Portsmouth Herald)

Panel discusses energy solutions in New England as extra winter costs are tallied
(Nashua Telegraph)

Our View: A costly power play with Brayton Point?
(Taunton Daily Gazette)

Industry group rejects plan that would help ensure Salem power plant’s financing
(Boston Business Journal)

Energy: the most important issue affecting real estate
(New Hampshire Business Review)

Overwhelming opposition to natural gas pipeline at town meetings in Pepperell and Groton
(Nashua Telegraph)

New Englanders at Odds Over Proposal for Power, Gas Lines
(Engineering News-Record)

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Update: Service on Morse Mountain Cell Tower

AT&T wireless has signed on as the first cellular service provider to use the newly-constructed communications tower atop Morse Mountain, in Groveton.

With a lease agreement recently signed, Northeast Wireless Networks, on behalf of AT&T will soon start installing equipment on the structure.  Construction is expected to take two weeks with full service coming on line later this summer.

The 195-foot tall communications tower helps fill a gap in wireless cell phone and internet service in New Hampshire’s North Country and Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.  The calling equipment will also improve safety and emergency response, benefiting both the local community and tourists.

Discussions are ongoing with other cellular service carriers as well as with local communities to use the tower to enhance first responder communication.

The communication tower is a top priority for the Northern Community Investment Corporation and was made possible with the collaboration of the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the Northern Borders Regional Commission, the Northern Pass project, and Public Service of New Hampshire.

For a previous journal post on this project, click here

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Breaking the Traffic Jam

There is no question that New England faces serious challenges meeting its energy needs – and that solving this crisis can’t be put off any longer.  Just to our south, the regional grid operator, ISO-NE, is warning of possible rolling blackouts within two years.

New England states are taking a serious look at how they approach energy production and use.  New Hampshire is working on a state energy strategy.  Vermont has released a first ever report on the state’s clean energy industry intended to help direct future development.  And Massachusetts is taking up several pieces of legislation to add more renewables to that state’s energy portfolio.  These undertakings set a backdrop for a host of proposed energy projects aimed at replacing the sources of power that are going off line by the end of the decade.

But in the way of all of this stands opposition to nearly every solution.  In order to realize a secure and diverse energy future, the public and policy makers must work through this snarled traffic jam of varying opposition that’s blocking the path.

An energy crisis in the offing?
(Foster’s Daily Democrat)

Rolling blackouts in Greater Boston? It could happen sooner than you think
(Boston Business Journal)

N.H. devising new energy plan
(Portsmouth Herald)

Vermont Gov. Shumlin Talks About Renewable Energy
(AP via Caledonian Record)

Finding common ground on solar
(Boston Globe)

Patrick administration is not proposing a pipeline
(Boston Globe)

March against pipeline expansion to step off July 6 in Richmond
(Berkshire Eagle)

Environmental Group: Governors’ Natural Gas Proposal Too Expensive, Rushed
(NHPR)

Prosperity requires energy security
(Nashua Telegraph)

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Northern Pass route is secure and respectful of property rights

One of the many advantages of our proposed project is the use of existing electric transmission and public rights of way to locate the transmission lines that will bring clean hydroelectric power to New Hampshire and New England.  More than 80 percent of the project will be located in these rights of way where power lines and public infrastructure exist today.

In addition, we have purchased or leased from willing property owners the land necessary to complete the project’s route in the North Country.

That’s important to keep in mind as some project opponents raise the false specter of eminent domain.

To be clear, the proposed route is well-established and does not in any way depend on any use of eminent domain.

It is respectful of private property rights – and has been developed predicated on New Hampshire law, which does not allow the use of eminent domain for projects like Northern Pass.

As the region collectively seeks answers to our serious energy supply challenges, Northern Pass remains a viable part of the solution that does not need to employ eminent domain.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Energy: A global discussion

“Think Globally.  Act Locally.”  This phrase worked its way into the American vernacular on bumper stickers in the 1990s, encouraging people to be aware of how their actions, however small, affect the world around them.

EIA.2012.Ren.Gen.Country.Graph

The above graph shows the top five countries that get their electricity from renewable sources, as a percentage of their total electricity generation, compared with the U.S. Source: EIA.gov

Locally, New England is feeling the ripple effects of an energy transformation.  The discussion about how and from where the region should seek new sources of power is generating debate.  Wind?  Solar?  Natural gas?  Globally, many similar discussions are taking place.

Growing demand in Asia is being challenged by a lack of energy supply and infrastructure.  The European Union, much like the U.S., is trying to meet ambitious carbon reductions while giving member countries flexibility in attaining that goal.

Germany presents a particularly interesting model as it touts its renewable energy projects as tourist destinations while it also contemplates the use of ‘fracking’ to extract gas and oil reserves.

There appears to be no single place that offers an energy utopia, and efforts continue at an intense pace to reform the way we get, use, and view energy sources and consumption, both globally and locally.

The end of the coal era in Massachusetts
(Boston Globe)

More Ocean Off Mass. Open For Wind Energy
(AP via WBUR)

Official at Groton meeting: Politics driving pipeline proposal
(Lowell Sun)

Wind turbines: the whooshing we have to have
(Sydney Morning Herald)

EU Needs Low-Carbon Energy Union, Ministers’ Advisory Panel Says
(Bloomberg)

Sustainable Energy Hub for Asia Launched
(AP via ABC News)

Germany sells guidebooks on renewable energy sites
(The Guardian)

Germany Leans Toward Allowing Fracking
(New York Times)

World Gets 22% of Electricity From Renewable Energy
(Wall Street Journal)

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Tell me, what would you do?

The race is on in New Hampshire.  Last week, candidates for governor, U.S. Senate, the U.S. House and the New Hampshire Legislature filed their papers.  You’ll see more and more of them over the summer months as these hopefuls work to win your favor.  Energy is a topic that will – and should – be a part of their campaigns.

Because New Hampshire is a part of the New England electricity grid, voters here need to be aware of what’s happening throughout the region – a region in the midst of an emerging energy crisis.

New sources of power are desperately needed. Five transmission projects have been proposed as a way to connect New England with renewable resources to the north, and three natural gas pipeline expansion projects are being discussed to increase the region’s fuel capacity.

We’ve already seen the consequences of relying too heavily on one fuel – natural gas – without having the infrastructure to meet cold-weather demand (for a brief explanation on what happened this winter, click here).   In addition, nearly a quarter of the generation capacity in the region stands at risk of retiring by 2020. This looming closure of existing power plants has prompted New England’s power grid operator to warn that the “situation is becoming more dire.” In addition, New England must also place a greater emphasis on developing clean power sources to meet its energy needs in light of newly-unveiled federal policies.

Who’s going to pay for this necessary energy development? You need look no further than the solar boom in Massachusetts to understand where policy makers stand.  The promise of money from electric customers is encouraging some developers, as both the state of Massachusetts and the New England States Committee on Electricity (NESCOE) have, separately, suggested that utility customers share the cost of building new infrastructure to lessen the risk of such significant investment.

It’s essential to work quickly to avoid a deeper energy crisis, while also thoroughly vetting this slate of projects to ensure customers get value and power.  So when you see a candidate on the campaign trail this summer, ask them, “What’s your solution and who do you think should pay for it?

Electric-power crisis in the making?
(Foster’s Daily Democrat)

Guest viewpoint: Dramatic change needed for energy consumers
(Springfield Republican)

Special Report: Vermont smack in the middle of crucial electricity supply and demand
(VT Digger)

Pipeline to the future
(Worcester Telegram  & Gazette)

After Coal: The Fracking Paradox
(Valley Advocate)

Mass. pipeline plan stirs hope and alarm
(Boston Globe)

Utilities discuss how EPA power plant rule will affect transmission
(Electric Light & Power via Transmission Hub)

GDF SUEZ, environmental groups challenge New England pipeline plans
(SNL)

Solar bill compromise reached
(CommonWealth Magazine)

New England States Committee on Electricity – Summary of Stakeholder Input
(NESCOE.com)

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Under Pressure

The White House last week unveiled a plan to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s existing power plants.  The Clean Power Plan gives states flexibility in achieving target reductions – including a nearly 50% cut for New Hampshire.

EPA state goals

This chart, compiled by Financial Times based on EPA data, shows individual states’ carbon reduction targets. Source: Financial Times via EPA data

While the New England region may be well prepared to meet the new standards, through participation in the cap-and-trade program known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the Clean Power Plan will, no doubt, influence decisions about where and how we get our power. As it is, existing oil and coal plants in the region are aging and retiringLower-carbon sources of generation are being proposed to fill the gap left by shuttered power plants.  But we are still a long way from realizing our cleaner energy future.

Some projects find themselves stuck between opponents and regulators.  The melting pot of solutions is stirred by questions like “what’s really green, what’s reliable, and what should the public be expected to pay?” Even differing technologies are battling it out and, in some cases, squeezing one another out of viability.

Developers, policy makers, and industry analysts all point, time and again, to a dynamic energy future that relies on many diverse sources which deliver lower costs and greater reliability.  But we won’t realize those attributes if the disagreements of the few continue to stifle projects that stand to benefit everyone.

States would see widely different requirements under EPA’s CO2 rule
(SNL)

N.H. Likely Has Proposed Carbon Limits ‘In The Bag’
(NHPR)

Mt. Tom coal plant to close in fall
(Boston Globe)

Possible biomass plant proposed for VY site
(Brattleboro Reformer)

The gas-fired power plant planned for Salem likely won’t be done in time
(Boston Business Journal)

Group challenges Maine, New England gas-line expansion plan
(Portland Press Herald)

Lawmakers pledge to fight gas pipeline
(Greenfield Recorder)

The Potential Downside of Natural Gas
(New York Times)

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off