File under non-fiction

The story line is almost rote by now – electricity prices are high and volatile (they dropped from a near-record high in February to a near record low in April). A variety of forces contributes to this phenomenon, but the primary cause is New England’s constrained access to sources of power. Proposed projects that could help face controversy that can potentially slow progress. The changing dynamic of the grid puts future prices and stability into question. There is growing consensus, not just in New England but nationally, around a common vision of a cleaner energy future. But as the debate over projects and policies continues, that reality of high power prices is becoming a major deterrent to economic growth in the region.

iso april prices

This ISO-New England chart shows wholesale power and natural gas prices over the last dozen years. The last three years have seen the most volatile swings from record lows to record highs.

Wholesale price of electricity rose 13 percent, report says
New Haven Register, 20 May 2015

It’s Our Aging Energy Infrastructure, Stupid.
Forbes, 21 May 2015

Wholesale electricity prices and demand in New England
ISO-Newswire, 21 May 2015

Natural gas pipeline battle hammers New England ratepayers
Watchdog.org, 20 May 2015

Obama climate rules will double coal plant closures: Study
CNBC, 22 May 2015

Guest Opinion: Addressing the high cost of energy in Massachusetts
The Herald News, 20 May 2015

Southern Company subsidiary furthers renewable energy leadership by acquiring 103-megawatt Georgia solar project
Market Watch, 21 May 2015

Massachusetts natural gas pipeline investment plan questioned
Platts, 18 May 2015

Charles Arlinghaus: New Hampshire has sunk to the economic bottom
New Hampshire Union Leader, 19 May 2015

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Energy front and center

What will our energy future look like and how will we get there? These are questions being publically pondered not only in New England but also across the country. Policy makers and regulators at the local and national levels face a complicated mix of challenges: increase energy supplies, meet high environmental standards, ensure reliability, integrate new technologies, keep costs low, and consider the concerns of project opponents.

Building the compromise necessary to achieve those goals is critical. Affordable, reliable energy is vital to our economic success.

 

Time to upgrade U.S. energy infrastructure
The Hill, 14 May 2015

“Years of local opposition to a broad array of energy infrastructure projects—natural gas, offshore wind, nuclear or otherwise—has exacerbated the problem, leaving the region with the highest electricity prices in the nation.”

Why LePage took his energy agenda to Congress
Bangor Daily News, 13 May 2015

“Any projects to get Canadian hydropower or more natural gas into Maine’s energy grid require some form of federal oversight, which is why Maine’s governor testified Wednesday before a U.S. House subcommittee, asking to ease permitting on natural gas pipelines, international power transmission projects and domestic hydropower dams.”

Law creates Vermont’s first renewable energy standards
VTDigger, 15 May 2015

“The bill incentivizes the build-out of 400 megawatts of new renewable energy generation by 2032, according to the Shumlin administration. It also encourages utilities to reduce customers’ fossil fuel consumption through the use of heat pumps and electric cars.”

Susquehanna-Roseland power line, a $1.4 billion project, switched on
Lehigh Valley Live, 13 May 2015

“It cost $1.4 billion and is designed to bolster electricity reliability for the power grid run by Pennsylvania-based PJM Interconnection that serves 61 million people in all or parts of 13 states plus the District of Columbia.”

U.S. natural gas projects face Keystone-like resistance
USA Today, 17 May 2014

“‘These are things that pipeline developers have had to deal with for a long time. But we’ve seen a change in the debate. I hesitate to put it this way, but call it the Keystone-ization of every pipeline project that’s out there, that if you can stop one permit, you can stop the development of fossil fuels. That’s changing the way we have to manage these projects.'”

A Bipartisan Approach to Energy
Real Clear Policy, 15 May 2015

“With the QER, Congress has an opportunity to move beyond the distracting and highly partisan Keystone XL pipeline debate and focus instead on urgently needed improvements to America’s aging energy systems.”

NH moves up to 21st in magazine’s ‘Best & Worst States for Business’ list
New Hampshire Union Leader, 10 May 2015

“’If they were, our ranking would very likely be much worse,’ he said. ‘New England businesses and residents paid $2 billion more for electricity during the winter just ended than we did during the winter of 2011-12, a more normal winter with a balanced supply of energy to meet demand.’”

 

 

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Energy is good for business

It’s tough to do business without affordable, reliable electricity. We’ve heard more and more businesses and opinion leaders make this point, urging New England to address these energy challenges before they further harm the region’s economic competitiveness.

Across the region, there is a desire to invest in various kinds of energy infrastructure. There is now a clear consensus that new and diverse energy sources will help alleviate this critical issue – and deliver a potential host of other benefits. From jobs and tax revenue to carbon reduction and reliability, building a strong energy economy is central to maintaining a strong overall economy.energy jobs

 

Paul Markwardt: More energy needed to power NH
New Hampshire Union Leader, 9 May 2015

“…the undeniable fact is that without a major focus on bringing more power supply to the grid, the cost of electricity – essentially, the cost of doing business – will continue to increase, harming the competitiveness of New Hampshire businesses in U.S. and global markets.”

Charles M. Arlinghaus: New Hampshire is being ruined by too many BANANAS
New Hampshire Union Leader, 5 May 2015

“Slowly but surely the dynamism that used to be our job market has turned to stagnation. Mediocre job growth means people don’t move here much, younger people can’t stay even if they want to, and too many Granite Staters have to work in Boston or some other place at the end of a horrific commute. . . And the biggest hole in our competitive armor is electricity.”

Solar installation firm to open second NH office
New Hampshire Business Review, 4 May 2015

“The new office reflects the increased competition and growth of the solar energy industry in New Hampshire. Last week, SolarCity, the nation’s largest installer of residential solar energy systems, said it would soon be opening an office in Manchester and hiring as many as 100 people.”

Transmission line upgrades would add jobs, tax revenue, study finds
Albany Times Union, 6 May 2015

“Transmission line upgrades by National Grid would add $20 million to the tax base in the Capital Region and lead to 264 new permanent jobs locally, according to a new study commissioned by the utility.”

Maine wind energy advocates unveil study touting industry’s benefits
Bangor Daily News, 5 May 2015

“Among other things, the study found carbon dioxide emissions in 2013 decreased by 490,000 tons because of wind-generated power from Maine. According to Payne, that’s the equivalent to the pollution from 94,000 Maine automobiles.”

View: Nuclear energy faces market crunch
Lower Hudson, 5 May 2015

“Nuclear energy plants in New York also employ more than 3,440 highly skilled employees with an annual payroll of $274 million. They contribute more than $55 million in state and local taxes, and are critical to the economic livelihood of communities across the state.”

NH moves up to 21st in magazine’s ‘Best & Worst States for Business’ list
New Hampshire Union Leader, 10 May 2015

“Jim Roche, president of the state’s Business and Industry Association, noted that energy costs were not a factor in the rankings. . . ‘If they were, our ranking would very likely be much worse,’ he said. ‘New England businesses and residents paid $2 billion more for electricity during the winter just ended than we did during the winter of 2011-12, a more normal winter with a balanced supply of energy to meet demand.’”

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Fundraising Letter Misrepresents Northern Pass Project

route wrong

Incorrect map used in Fundraising letter: Chichester not on route

Some New Hampshire residents recently received a letter from the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests (the Forest Society) asking them to “give generously” to fight the current Northern Pass transmission line project. This campaign aims to raise $475,000 to fund further opposition to the project.

There is inaccurate information about the project that we felt an obligation to clarify so that residents can fully evaluate the facts associated with Northern Pass.

This recent fundraising letter misrepresents the actual Northern Pass route and leaves out important details about the project:

  • According to the Forest Society map included in the letter, the town of Chichester is on the proposed route. Chichester is not along the proposed route and hasn’t been since 2013.
  • The letter states that the project wants to “build more than 40 miles of new transmission
    route correct

    Actual map of proposed route: See full map on project website

    line in northern New Hampshire,” but fails to mention that 8 miles of this section will be constructed underground, under public roadways, and that the remaining miles are on land either owned by Northern Pass or leased from willing landowners.

  • The fundraising letter states that the project wants to “cross three conserved Forest Society Reservations,” but does not tell the reader that those are areas where an electric transmission or transportation corridor already exist today.
  • The letter states that the project poses a “threat to property rights,” but also explains (correctly) that Northern Pass “cannot use the state’s power of eminent domain to take land…,” a contradiction that the Forest Society has repeated on numerous occasions.
  • The letter states that the project as proposed would “build more than 1,500 towers as high as 145 feet…” yet fails to provide any context, leaving readers with a skewed vision of what the project may look like. Along the entire 187 miles of the proposed route, the project includes four (4) structures at 145 feet, and one (1) structure at 155 feet. The majority of the structures in the current proposal are between 85 and 95 feet. Missing, too, is a reminder that almost 80 percent of the proposed route is located along existing transmission corridors, where other power lines already exist.

While we are disappointed that the public is receiving inaccurate information about this important clean energy project, we appreciate the opportunity to correct these misrepresentations via our website, Facebook page, and the many face-to-face meetings we are having across New Hampshire. A comprehensive public permitting process is underway at the federal level, and a state process will soon begin here in New Hampshire. Both of these review processes will consider the facts associated with the proposed project, solicit public input, and determine whether the Northern Pass project satisfies the siting requirements outlined by the Department of Energy and the New Hampshire siting laws governing new energy projects.

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Springing innovation

The first days of May marked some milestones in the energy industry. Solar energy giant Solar City announced it will begin operating in New Hampshire, potentially making this clean energy source more affordable for many residents. Solar may also become more reliable, thanks to newly announced Tesla batteries that claim to store electricity more affordably than others. And Last week off the Rhode Island coast, America’s first off-shore wind project broke ground.

New England’s clean energy expansion comes with some questions yet to be answered – what sources of power should back up the intermittent nature of wind and solar? How will these sources, especially wind energy, reach the grid? These points and more are before New England elected officials as they look to relieve the region’s energy crisis, recently agreeing to work within their own states on energy policy while also collaborating on meeting the region’s energy needs.

Renewable chart EIA

This chart from the Energy Information Administration shows solar and wind power making up more of the nation’s renewable energy supply – with the continued backing of other “base load” renewables like hydropower and biomass. Source: EIA.gov

Solar Energy Giant Moves into N.H. Market
NHPR, 28 May 2015

Tesla’s New Battery Will Make Lithium Ion the New AA
Wired, 1 May 2015

Standing Tall: R.I. pioneers ocean energy
Providence Journal, 2 May 2015

Page: Hang on to clean energy
Times Argus, 5 May 2015

Region’s high energy demands draw New England leaders to Hartford
Masslive.com, 23 April 2015

N.E. Governors Change Course on Paying for Energy Projects
Hartford Courant, April 23 2015

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Updated: Northern Pass clarifies news article

*The article referenced here was updated late on Thursday afternoon, 4/30, to reflect this clarification.

An article published today in the New Haven Register incorrectly paraphrased Eversource officials as stating that Northern Pass Transmission is “negotiating” with New Hampshire elected officials, including the Governor. To be clear, we are not involved in any such negotiations regarding the Northern Pass project.

We continue to solicit input from a broad range of stakeholders, including landowners along the route, municipalities, businesses, environmental groups, and elected officials, as we consider adjustments to the project that will provide substantial New Hampshire benefits.

As part of the state and federal approval processes, there will be formal consideration of any potential adjustments to the Northern Pass project. In the meantime, we will continue our outreach and discussions throughout New Hampshire.

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“Do nothing” is no option

A look across recent headlines shows that concerns about New England’s short and long term energy future are shared across the region – as is the   approach to solutions. Ratepayers and business owners are burdened. And while there are projects that are in the works, strides in energy efficiency and continued discussions among policy makers, there are also significant obstacles to overcome. Against this backdrop, the call is growing louder – doing nothing is no longer an option.

Massachusetts energy costs well above national average in 2014
Boston Globe, 13 April 2015

Year-end data from 2014 recently highlighted by the Associated Industries of Massachusetts showed the supply cost of electricity was 39 percent higher for households and 79 percent higher for industrial customers than the national average.”

Energy prices, exports temper optimism in N.E.
Boston Globe, 15 April 2015

“Revenues have grown for retailers, manufacturers and consultants across New England since January, but energy price increases and slowing profits from exports due to the strong dollar tempered overall optimism, according to a new report by the Federal Reserve.”

Energy project findiul_04182015_headlineng enough NH support to win federal approval say Kinder Morgan
New Hampshire Union Leader, 18 April 2015

“’We could move forward with what we have today. We don’t need any more contracts to move forward with the project,’ Cole said. ‘The 800,000 is based on what we would like to have to justify the project in its entirety. We want to get as many contracts as we can to make the project more economically viable.’”

 

Northern Pass aims to complete state permitting procemonitor_04182015_headliness by end of 2016
Concord Monitor, 18 April 2015

“Northern Pass then plans to finalize its proposed route, before heading into the state permittingprocess overseen by the newly reformed New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee.”

 

Energy efficiency cut New England prices by 24% in winter 2014: report
Platts, 16 April 2015

“Efficiency programs suppressed electric demand by 13.7% from January through March 2014, lowering payments to generators by $1.49 billion, the report said.”

Energy projects raise concerns
Brattleboro Reformer, 12 April 2015

“Vermont officials have pushed hard for renewable-energy development, but the issue of where to build those facilities remains vexing.”

Maine governor: Wind power is too expensive
AP via Seacoast Online, 4 April 2015

“The governor wants to move Maine instead toward a greater reliance on hydropower and is again pushing to modify the state’s policies to facilitate the purchase of power from large-scale projects in Canada. His administration is also launching another bid to revamp the state’s renewable targets to include the goal of lower cost to ratepayers.”

Opinion: NIMBY hinders renewable energy
Burlington Free Press, 16 April 2015burlpress_04162015_headline

“…NIMBY (not in my back yard)-ism against all forms of energy production within the state’s borders (which there appears to be an abundance of these days) is far from the best way to ensure Vermont’s environmental and aesthetic future. In fact, some forms of renewable energy production, in particular both commercial and individual solar and wind arrays, can provide a large benefit to Vermont that should not be overlooked.”

Time to pick NE power: Major projects need attention
Union Leader, 11 April 2015

“Those businesses that can’t expand or relocate elsewhere will not be expanding here, either. Instead, they will need to ‘redirect more resources’ to pay the higher energy bills.”

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Camera Tricks & Credibility

There is more than the eye can see in opponents’ latest video

Image from video produced by Northern Pass opposition group

Image from video produced by Northern Pass opposition group

Actual current photo of playground and existing transmission corridor in same location

Last week, a Maine-based company called Conservation Media Group released a blatantly misleading video that uses heavily doctored images in an attempt to pressure Concord city officials into opposing the project. The video does not identify who is paying for the spot. The partners in this deceptive video are only revealed by clicking on a link and scrolling to the bottom of a separate page. These partners include the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests and the Appalachian Mountain Club.

This is not the first time professional opposition groups have produced a misleading video, but it is arguably the most egregious. A number of sections of this video are inaccurate, misleading or manipulative, including shots where existing power lines were removed from the image.

Northern Pass has hired an independent firm to prepare professional view impact assessments as part of its New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee approval process. The opposition groups that produced this latest video have made no effort to meet such professional standards.

Instead, and unfortunately, opponents have taken the unethical approach of doctoring photographs and misrepresenting facts in an attempt to further mislead the public. New Hampshire and the region face tremendous challenges in the cost of electricity, lack of fuel diversity, and dwindling energy supplies. Residents and ratepayers deserve better than to have those issues distorted for political or fundraising purposes.

Here are some examples of the deceptive nature of this latest video by opposition groups:

The Playground:

The scene that is apparently most intended to shock viewers also happens to be the most blatantly inaccurate. At the 42-second mark, we see a string of structures pop up around a small playground.

Image from video misleads viewer by digitally removing power lines that exist today

Image from video misleads viewer by digitally removing power lines that exist today

Image from video gives viewer the false impression that Northern Pass structures will be built in an area where power lines do not exist today

Image from video gives viewer the false impression that Northern Pass structures will be built in an area where power lines do not exist today

Truth is, as seen below in an undoctored image, that playground was built directly underneath several power lines that have been there for decades and are clearly visible today. These power lines do not appear in the video because the video producers deliberately photoshopped those lines out of the shot.

Actual photo of playground and existing transmission corridor

Actual photo of playground and existing transmission corridor

The Structures:

At the 15-second mark, a string of transmission structures pop up from the ground. These are not the same kind of structures that will be used in Concord, nor is it clear this land is even located in Concord. A factual representation of the Concord structures has been provided to Concord by Northern Pass and is posted on the city’s website. During the same scene, “1500 Towers” appears on screen, leaving the casual observer with the impression that this is the number of structures to be built in Concord. In fact, this is a reference to the total number of structures along the entire 187 mile Northern Pass proposed route. Not the 8.1 miles in Concord.

Image from video

Image from video

The Location of the Line:

The New Hampshire State House is shown at the 33-second mark as the video discusses possible impact to the city, however, the Northern Pass line will not be visible from the state Capitol grounds, nor from any portion of the downtown area. The closest the project will come to the State House is 2.3 miles, and that section of the project is within a commercially developed area.

Image from video

Image from video

Use of Locations Not Along the Route:

At both the 28 and 30-second marks of the video, the viewer is given the impression that the Northern Pass line will be visible from the Canterbury Shaker Village and the Tilton Arch in Northfield. Neither location is in Concord, as the text implies, and neither location will have a view of the Northern Pass line.

Image from video

Image from video

Image from video

Image from video

The Mystery Transmission Corridor:

The video also includes images of questionable origin, including at the 1:04-mark. While we cannot definitively say where this shot was taken, we do know this is not a right-of-way in New Hampshire.

Image from video shows unknown transmission corridor not affiliated with Northern Pass (structure design or location)

Image from video shows unknown transmission corridor not affiliated with Northern Pass (structure design or location)

Tucker’s Turn: Concord on YouTube

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Seeking balance

The latest word from the region’s grid operator – the folks who keep the lights on and our phones charged up – is that New England made out OK this winter. ISO-NE’s winter operations summary finds a number of factors combined to keep the system in check, but it also warns that many uncertainties will likely contribute to high prices and supply constraints going forward.2012-2015_Wholesale Energy Market Value

These unknowns are in the background as utilities in New Hampshire and elsewhere announce lower energy service rates for the summer months – and they’re behind a major push by New England’s business leaders to advocate for new energy infrastructure projects.

Discussion around such projects goes beyond major proposals for natural gas pipelines and clean energy transmission. Policy makers across the region are contemplating the best way to incorporate both small and large scale renewable energy projects as New England strives for a secure and diverse energy mix.

 

New England power system performed well through winter 2014/2015
ISO Newswire, 7 April 2015

Electricity rates dropping in near term
Portsmouth Herald, 3 April 2015

Business leaders seek support from governors over energy projects
Union Leader, 9 April 2015

‘Relieving the Energy Crisis’ event set for April 17
NHBR, 7 April 2015

New England’s energy brokers must look beyond natural gas
Boston Globe, 9 April 2015

Maine governor: Wind power is too expensive
AP via Portsmouth Herald, 4 April 2015

Solar advocates say cap on incentives is blocking projects
Bourne Courier, 9 April 2015

Maine’s energy forecast: Partly sunny, clouded by questions
Portland Press Herald, 5 April 2015

 

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New England’s calls to action

Last week’s headlines indicate that the nation’s move toward new energy policies shows no sign of slowing down. The U.S. pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 28 percent. In New Hampshire, a new solar project is near completion, and yet this type of energy source still has some challenges to overcome before it can see long-term success in our neighboring states.

The debate over siting continues in Vermont and Massachusetts, despite continued arguments that energy infrastructure must be added to address the strain of ever-increasing energy costs. While there will continue to be questions about the hows and whys, we are seeing more elected officials, business leaders, opinion makers and others across the region call for solutions to these energy problems.

U.S. promises to cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to 28 percent by 2025
WBUR, 31 March 2015

Peterborough solar array to be completed next month
New Hampshire Union Leader, 2 April, 2015

Maine’s energy forecast: partly sunny, clouded by questions
Portland Press Herald, 5 April 2015

Mass solar projects could soon reach limit
Boston Globe, 30 March 2015

Lawmakers hear from both sides on energy siting policy
VT Digger, 25 March 2015

Politicians, activists demand federal regulators revoke pipeline approval
Boston Globe, 2 April 2015

My Turn: What we need is more supply
Concord Monitor, 1 April 2015

Energy is a big concern for Guinta
Conway Daily Sun, 1 April 2015

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