Posted on November 30th, 2016 by

  • Coal is expected to make a comeback across the country this winter, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). In New England, projected natural gas price increases and pipeline constraints could cause the region’s Independent System Operator to rely more heavily on coal-powered generation.
  • Will the use of more coal in 2016-2017 have an impact on climate goals? New England carbon emissions increased 7 percent in 2015 (see graphic below), largely due to an increase in fossil fuel use after the Vermont Yankee nuclear power station retired.
  • How bad is the natural gas supply crunch during New England’s winters? At a recent energy forum, it was noted that the Northeast saw natural gas shortages 90 times last year, leaving the region’s markets on some winter days with the most costly natural gas in the country.
  • Our energy system depends on both reliable infrastructure and having reliable sources of energy. Here in New Hampshire, investments are being made to infrastructure, but this editorial says we still need more reliable power sources.

co2emissions-increase-chart

 

Quick Links:

Coal-fired generation projected to surpass natural gas this winter

Power Magazine, 22 November 2016

Coal may surpass natural gas as most common electricity generation fuel this winter

U.S. Energy Information Administration, 18 November 2016

Region told pipeline squeeze may push up power prices

Vermont Digger, 20 November 2016

New England faces an energy crunch

Providence Journal, 24 November 2016

Blackout Friday: Make NH power grid more reliable

Union Leader, 24 November 2016

 


Posted on November 23rd, 2016 by

  • Energy Leaders from Canada and New England called for a balanced approach to managing the regional demand for energy at a meeting hosted by the New England Canada Business Council. Leaders also addressed the retirement of some of the region’s major power plants, natural gas constraints and the intermittent nature of renewables.
  • ISO-NE sounded alarm bells last week about the impact that constraints on the region’s natural gas pipeline infrastructure may have on the delivery of clean, reliable power.
  • Eversource’s CEO is talking about plans to pursue aggressively a number of initiatives, including a stepped-up commitment to energy-efficiency programs, an expansion of its solar-power capabilities, and increased use of hydropower to help meet the challenges of climate change.
  • Maine’s energy director, one of the most respected voices in the industry, announced he is stepping down. He cited challenges to regional efforts to expand natural gas pipelines as a factor in his departure.
  • Eversource is in the process of selling its remaining power plants in New Hampshire. The forthcoming auction will complete the state’s electric utility restructuring, as approved by the Legislature in the 1990s, which aims to reduce costs by having the free market, not regulated utilities, responsible for energy production.

Quick Links:

Canada’s take on Northern Pass

NH Business Review, 10 November 2016

Examining the future of New England’s energy

NECN, 18 November 2016

Jim Judge’s goal is to make Eversource ‘a catalyst for clean energy’

Upstart Business Journal, 15 November 2016

Power grid operator sounds alarm bells

Commonwealth Magazine, 17 November 2016

Governor’s respected energy chief to step down, partly because of lobbyist influence

Portland Press Herald, 16 November 2016

Deadlines set for Eversource to sell all of its power plants

Union Leader, 15 November 2016

 


Posted on November 17th, 2016 by

  • Top ranking officials from the regions independent system operator have expressed concern for New England’s overreliance on natural gas and future retirements of non-gas resources, with Vice President Peter Brandien calling this coming winter his “last best year.”
  • ISO-NE President and CEO Gordan van Welie made headlines when he called New England’s energy situation “precarious” at a discussion of New England’s power markets and infrastructure, arguing energy leaders’ top priority should be ensuring adequate supply.
  • Given New England states share a single power grid, The New England Council encourages the region’s leaders and energy stakeholders to take a more comprehensive, holistic approach to tackling our energy challenges.
  • Wind projects in Vermont that would bring much-needed renewable energy to the region are withering under stiff opposition.
  • Northern Pass has announced the Project is focusing efforts on a Massachusetts RFP in the spring soliciting clean, large-scale hydropower to satisfy the regions’ growing demand with a clean, renewable source of energy.
  • A new assessment of the Eastern U.S. grid shows it will be able to handle 30 percent renewables within 10 years, but only with substantial upgrades to the transmission system.

The highlights:

Forecast calls for cold winter with volatile temperatures

SNL, 11 October 2016

Three New England states move on 460 MW of renewables

Platts, 26 October 2016

NH firms taking part in $129m transmission line construction

NHBR, 26 October 2016

N.H. regulators authorize Northern Pass Transmission to begin operations as public utility

Electric Light&Power, 19 October 2016

Canadian Hydro: A Lifeline for Northeastern Clean Energy Goals?

Greentechmedia, 13 October 2016

Regulators reject Eversource’s funding proposal for natural gas

Concord Monitor, 8 October 2016


Posted on October 25th, 2016 by

Eversource was notified yesterday that our Northern Pass Transmission project was not chosen as part of the three-state Clean Energy RFP (request for proposals).  We recognize that this RFP was primarily focused on satisfying Class 1 renewable energy (wind and solar) requirements of the participating states, and NPT was among other project proposals that did not strictly meet that criteria.

We are now focusing our efforts on the next round of contracting immediately around the corner — most specifically in Massachusetts.  We are encouraged that Governor Baker and the Legislature have spoken by passing a landmark law that enables long-term contracting for large-scale hydro projects and requires an RFP to take place in the spring of 2017.  Northern Pass is well positioned to respond to the region’s call for clean, large-scale hydropower.

“We are pleased with the key approvals the project continues to receive, and look forward to participating in the April solicitation for large-scale hydroelectricity,” said Bill Quinlan, President of Eversource NH Operations.  “The region’s energy landscape is shifting quickly.  Northern Pass, with its 1,090 MWs of clean hydro-power, and permitting well underway on both sides of the border, is in a strong position to play an important role in helping the region achieve a cleaner energy future.”

“New England is leading the U.S. in transition to a clean energy future and Hydro-Québec, as your long-standing ally in the energy sector, is happy to be a part of that future,” said Steve Demers, Vice President, Business Development, Acquisitions and Strategy for Hydro-Québec.  “With the Northern Pass project, Hydro-Québec will be in a position to greatly increase its supply of clean hydropower to New England, helping to keep electricity prices stable and bringing the region closer to meeting its emission reduction goals.”

We know that a mix of clean energy sources will be needed to solve our region’s energy challenges given our strong commitment to reducing carbon emissions, as well as the planned base load generation retirements on the horizon.  We are pleased to see the states moving ahead with Class 1 renewables (solar and wind) as part of this solicitation. However, significantly more is needed and Northern Pass is designed to meet that need.

ISO-New England has identified the region’s electricity supply situation as “precarious” in winter and we know the time to act is now.  Northern Pass will provide substantial reliability, economic and environmental benefits to the region.

Northern Pass will bring its clean, reliable hydroelectricity from Hydro-Québec’s existing resources over a high-voltage transmission line extending from Des Cantons substation in Québec to Deerfield, New Hampshire where the line will interconnect to the New England electric system.  The power delivered by Northern Pass will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 3.3 million tons a year, the equivalent of taking about 690,000 cars off the road.

Beyond helping to meet regional clean energy goals, Northern Pass will deliver unique and substantial benefits to New Hampshire, including a power purchase agreement that will dedicate a specific portion of Northern Pass’s clean hydroelectricity to Eversource New Hampshire customers, 2,600 construction jobs with a commitment to hire New Hampshire workers first, over $600 million in new tax revenue, and $200 million for New Hampshire economic, community development and clean energy initiatives through the Forward NH Fund.


Posted on October 17th, 2016 by

The New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission (NHPUC) announced on Friday, October 14 that Northern Pass has the technical, managerial, and financial expertise to operate as a public utility once the project is fully permitted, and that it is in the public good for the project to do so.

As a public utility, Northern Pass operations will be subject to the jurisdiction of the NHPUC once the project is in service.  This is consistent with how other transmission owners operate in New Hampshire.

“This approval is another milestone for the project, which promises to deliver significant environmental and economic benefits, as well as energy cost savings to New Hampshire,” said Bill Quinlan of Eversource.  “We look forward to continuing to move through the state and federal siting processes with the goal of making the benefits of Northern Pass a reality for the state’s energy consumers.”

In addition to granting Northern Pass public utility status, the NHPUC order formalizes Northern Pass’ commitment to provide $20 million ($2 million a year for 10 years) for programs or initiatives approved by the NHPUC that advance clean energy innovation, community betterment, and economic development in New Hampshire, including energy efficiency programs.  The funding for these initiatives will come from the Forward NH Fund, which will be established by Northern Pass to provide unique benefits to New Hampshire.

This approval by the NHPUC follows another key regulatory milestone for Northern Pass.  In July, Northern Pass was granted an I.3.9 permit from the regional grid operator, ISO New England, which officially determined that the clean energy project can safely and reliably interconnect with the regional electric grid.

You can view the NHPUC order on Public Utility Status here.


Posted on October 16th, 2016 by

A new emergency radio transmissions antenna in the North Country is enhancing public safety by providing service in areas that were previously dead-zones. The new equipment has made it possible for first responders to dispatch and receive critical information during an incident in areas where service was historically limited.

“We appreciate the enhanced radio service that is possible thanks to funding from Northern Pass,” said Gerry Marcou, Coös County Sherriff. “The new technology facilitates our deputies’ work to protect the citizens of Coos County, making our police force more efficient and our community safer.”

Before this new equipment was installed on Morse Mountain cell tower in Groveton, there were areas where first responders were unable to communicate with each other at all. The new technology has made it possible for first responders to use portable radios at the scene of an incident. The new radio system went live in September, providing greatly enhanced radio communications to Whitefield, Dalton, Jefferson, Lancaster, Northumberland, Stark, Stratford and Lunenburg, Vermont.

“If we are responding to an emergency inside a home and something changes drastically, we are able to immediately call for back-up,” said Steven Jones, Assistant Fire Chief of Lancaster. “With this system, we have seen a significant improvement in the efficiency of our communications.”

Additionally, the new equipment is making it easier for communities to call for and provide mutual aid during major emergency events.

“The majority of our firefighters are volunteers,” Jones said. “Prior to the installation of the radio equipment, if a volunteer firefighter lived in a dead zone, they wouldn’t get the call. Thanks to this emergency radio equipment, we are able to direct our personnel to an emergency more quickly and efficiently.”

The Northern Pass Transmission Project, as part of its Forward NH Plan, funded the installation of the public safety service antenna, and will continue to pay the associated annual rental expense. This new emergency radio equipment will build upon the success in filling gaps in the region’s broadband and cellular coverage achieved with the construction of the Morse Mountain cell tower, which was also funded in part by the Northern Pass project.

The emergency radio equipment is one of a number of commitments by Northern Pass as part of its Forward New Hampshire plan. The project also funded the recent installation of LED streetlights in Lancaster and an electric vehicle charging station at Roger’s Campground in Lancaster.


Posted on October 11th, 2016 by

Eversource representatives will be in Concord on Tuesday to discuss the Northern Pass route selection, the Forward NH Plan, benefits to New Hampshire and the Tri-State Clean Energy RFP application.

The representatives will appear before the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) as part of its ongoing review of Northern Pass, known as Technical Sessions. These informal hearings are an opportunity for the parties involved in the Northern Pass state review process to ask questions the project.

The project experts include:

William J. Quinlan is the Eversource President of New Hampshire Operations and is responsible for ensuring the safe and reliable delivery of electricity to more than 500,000 Eversource customers in New Hampshire, as well as overseeing the construction, operation, and maintenance of Eversource’s New Hampshire electricity infrastructure.

Kenneth B. Bowes joined Northeast Utilities in 1984 and today serves as Eversource Vice President of Engineering. Mr. Bowes is responsible for engineering activities for Eversource’s electric transmission and distribution system. He manages the distributed generation, micro-grid, new technology, and R&D activities for the company, and executes the System Resiliency Program and Distributed Energy Resources projects.

Northern Pass, through its Forward NH Plan, will bring considerable benefits to New Hampshire including approximately $3.8 billion in jobs programs, energy savings, tax revenue, an increase in New Hampshire’s GDP, investment in clean energy and the environment and other benefits. Other key points about Northern Pass, its route and its benefits include:

  • Northern Pass is designed to bring a reliable source of competitively priced, clean, renewable hydropower into the region, thereby delivering energy savings as well as environmental and economic benefits to New Hampshire and the New England region
  • The project was originally designed as an all overhead line, but the design was modified in 2013 and again in 2015 to address New Hampshire stakeholder input, including concerns over impacts on population centers and scenic views
  • The project, as proposed, includes 60 miles of underground construction, 52 of which will be in the White Mountain National Forest, Franconia Notch region and near the Appalachian Trail, eliminating any potential visual impacts in those areas
  • The project, as proposed, provides the appropriate balance among several important considerations, including project costs, public concerns over iconic view sheds, environmental and economic impacts, as well as technical feasibility and the availability of land rights necessary to support the Project
  • Underground construction of the entire project would disrupt this balance and render the Project uneconomic
  • Northern Pass is committed to a “New Hampshire First” approach, which will ensure that new jobs created by the project are made available to New Hampshire workers first
  • The project will improve the Coös Transmission Loop, which will enhance the electric system in the North Country and unlock up to 100 megawatts of existing and future sources of renewable energy for the state and region
  • Northern Pass has submitted a proposal to the Tri-State Clean Energy RFP. New Hampshire customers will not bear any of the expenses but will still experience the benefits of the project

You can find additional information about the benefits of the project, as well as the pre-filed testimony from the above experts, on the Northern Pass website. Technical Sessions will continue throughout September. View a schedule of all the Technical Sessions here.

*Editor’s Note: Quinlan and Bowes have adopted James Muntz’s testimony, who previously submitted testimony as part of the application to the SEC.


Posted on September 30th, 2016 by

A Northern Pass expert will answer questions today about the project’s aesthetics and the efforts the project has made to reduce potential view impacts.

This session is similar to others that have been held in September as part of the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee’s ongoing review of Northern Pass, known as Technical Sessions. These informal hearings are an opportunity for the parties involved in the Northern Pass state review process to ask questions of the project. Thus far, a number of experts have been available to discuss a wide range of topics related to the project.

The expert scheduled to speak today is Terrence DeWan, the Principal and Founder of Terrence J. DeWan & Associates—a landscape architecture and planning firm located in Yarmouth, Maine. Over his career, Mr. DeWan has prepared more than 80 visual impact assessments on a wide variety of projects throughout New England, including power generation facilities, electrical transmission lines and substations, as well as the visual impact assessment for the Northern Pass Transmission Project.

Some of the key points that may be discussed include:

  • A visual impact assessment, or VIA, is a systematic analysis of possible changes to the visible landscape resulting from proposed development activity, and the investigation of possible means to avoid, minimize or mitigate the effects of the change
  • The Northern Pass VIA methodology follows a systematic path of inventory, analysis, and determination of effect. It is based upon established criteria developed by federal and state agencies over the past several decades
  • Scenic resources are defined as publicly accessible places that have been recognized by local, regional, state, or national authorities for their scenic or recreation quality, and are visited by the general public, in part for the use, observation, enjoyment, and appreciation of natural, cultural, or visual qualities.  All scenic resources that were identified within the Northern Pass project study area were mapped and added to a database for further evaluation
  • Of the 525 scenic resources identified within three miles of the proposed Northern Pass route, none had overall visual impacts that were characterized as ‘high’, based on the observations and methodology used
  • A significant number of mitigation measures have been incorporated into the planning and design of Northern Pass, including:
    • Locating portions of the Project underground to avoid sensitive scenic resources, such as the White Mountain National Forest
    • Using existing road rights-of-way (ROW) for the underground sections to minimize the need for new cleared transmission corridors
    • Co-locating the majority of the transmission line in existing transmission corridors to minimize the amount of new corridors
    • Using weathering steel monopole structures in certain areas, which are generally darker in color and have a hue that is more commonly found in the landscape, resulting in a decrease in color contrasts with the surrounding landscape. Monopole structures also have a thinner profile and a simpler appearance than lattice structures
    • Locating new transmission structures in proximity to existing structures in certain locations to maintain the same spacing and avoid irregular linear patterns that can be caused by adjacent conductors being out of synch with each other
    • Matching the materials used for both the relocated 115 kV structures and the proposed transmission structures to minimize contrasts in color and texture, and contribute to a sense of visual continuity within the corridor
    • Relocating existing transmission and distribution lines within the existing corridors to provide adequate clearance for the proposed structures and minimize the amount of clearing necessary for their installation
  • Northern Pass as a whole will not be a dominant feature in the landscape. The views from most of the scenic resources already contain evidence of existing human development, often prominently visible from the key observation points
  • Northern Pass will not result in unreasonable adverse effects on aesthetics, to either the six subareas that were identified or to the approximately 900 square-mile Project Study Area as a whole

You can find additional information about the aesthetic aspects of the project, as well as Mr. Dewan’s pre-filed testimony from, on the Northern Pass website. Technical Sessions will continue into October. View a schedule of all the Technical Sessions here.

 


Posted on September 20th, 2016 by

Northern Pass experts will be available on Tuesday to answer questions about how the project relates to the local and regional environment. They will discuss environmental studies related to the project as well as how Northern Pass is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The experts will appear before the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee as part of its ongoing review of the project, known as Technical Sessions. These informal hearings are an opportunity for the parties involved in the Northern Pass state review process to ask questions of the project.

The project experts include:

Robert Varney, is President of Normandeau Associates, an environmental science consulting firm based in Bedford.  Mr. Varney has worked on a number of climate, clean energy, and conservation initiatives throughout his career; and he served as the Regional Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency for New England and as the Commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services from 1989 to 2001.

Jake Tinus is Project Manager in the Environmental Studies and Permitting Global Practice for Burns & McDonnell Engineering and has 15 years of experience related to permitting and monitoring projects that involve altering and restoring wetlands, water bodies, and other natural resources. He has previously consulted on these issues for the New Hampshire Department of Transportation.

Lee Carbonneau is Senior Principal Scientist in the Wetlands/Terrestrial Group and assistant project manager for Normandeau Associates, where she also serves as the permitting lead for Northern Pass. She has worked in the natural resource field for her entire professional career and has worked on more than100 projects with Narmandeau Associates. Ms. Carbonneau is a Professional Wetland Scientist with the Society of Wetland Scientists, and a Certified Wetland Scientist with the New Hampshire Association of Natural Resource Scientists.

Dennis Magee is Vice President at Normandeau Associates and conducted analysis on the potential impacts Northern Pass could have on rare plants and rare or unusual natural communities. Mr. Magee has more than 40 years of experience as a botanist, has authored four reference books on vegetation, and has been a principal investigator or program manager on several hundred projects occurring in offshore coastal, intertidal, riverine, lacustrine, freshwater wetland, and terrestrial environments.

Dr. Sarah Barnum is a Senior Wildlife Ecologist at Normandeau Associates and holds a Ph.D. in Planning, with an emphasis in conservation. She has more than 20 years of professional experience, including working on the Deer Project for Vermont Fish and Wildlife, as an environmental planner for the Colorado Department of Transportation, and as the Vice President of Conservation for New Hampshire Audubon. She is author of the report “Northern Pass Transmission Project Wildlife Report and Impact Assessment October 2015.”

Hydropower from Canada is one of the lowest greenhouse gas-emitting energy options available. Emissions from hydropower are similar to those of wind energy, 5 times less than solar, 50 times less than natural gas, and 70 times less than coal. Other key points about the environmental impact of Northern Pass include:

  • Northern Pass will improve air quality, public health and the environment, and help address climate change by reducing pollutants, such as NOx, SO2, and CO2 emissions, that affect New Hampshire and the New England region, consistent with national, regional, and state air quality and climate change goals
  • More than 83 percent of the proposed route will be along existing transmission corridors or will be buried under public roadways, thus resulting in reduced potential environmental and visual effects
  • Northern Pass has planned, routed, designed, and engineered the project to protect water quality by carefully avoiding resource impacts, and minimizing impacts where total avoidance is not possible. The project will follow NHDES and EPA requirements regarding water quality, and employ best management practices
  • Avoidance and minimization of impacts to wetlands, streams, vernal pools, and other natural and cultural resources was an essential element of route selection, project design, and developing the construction management plan
  • Northern Pass is focused on avoiding and minimizing potential impacts to wildlife throughout the course of route selection, siting, and design. The project has developed extensive wildlife impact avoidance and minimization measures, and will comply with any additional permit conditions. These conditions will be included in the project plans and construction management plans, and environmental monitors will be responsible for ensuring that construction contractors abide by these measures and conditions
  • Unavoidable impacts to habitat resources will be mitigated through habitat restoration, conservation, and protection, including proposing to place parcels with wildlife habitat value under conservation easements

If more time is needed, the panel of environmental experts will meet again on Thursday, September 22. You can find additional information about the environmental aspects of the project, as well as the pre-filed testimony from the above experts, on the Northern Pass website. Technical Sessions will continue throughout September. View a schedule of all the Technical Sessions here.


Posted on September 19th, 2016 by

Northern Pass experts will be in Concord on Monday to answer questions about the orderly development of the project, including Northern Pass’ property tax impact and environmental issues.

The experts will appear before the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee as part of its ongoing review of the project, known as Technical Sessions. These informal hearings are an opportunity for the parties involved in the Northern Pass state review process to ask questions of the project.

The project experts include:

Robert Varney, the President of Normandeau Associates, an environmental science consulting firm based in Bedford, NH.  Mr. Varney has worked on a number of climate, clean energy, and conservation initiatives throughout his career, and served as the Regional Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency for New England and as the Commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services from 1989 to 2001.

Lisa Shapiro is the Chief Economist at Gallagher, Callahan & Gartrell in Concord, N.H., and has approximately 20 years of experience in analyzing New Hampshire property taxes.  She provided the Northern Pass Transmission Project with information on the estimated property tax payments to New Hampshire communities, and the direct impacts on local communities generated by the construction and operation of the project.

Dr. James Chalmers is the Principal of Chalmers & Associations LLC in Billings, Montana, and is an economist, appraiser, and nationally recognized expert in assessing the impacts of large-scale infrastructure projects on the value of real estate.

Mitch Nichols, the Founder and President of Nichols Tourism Group in Bellingham, Washington, has more than 20 years of experience working with and analyzing tourism destinations across the country. He has worked with numerous states, including New Hampshire, to develop a long-range tourism strategic plan and an assessment of its identity in the tourism marketplace.

Some key points regarding Northern Pass and its relation to orderly development include:

  • By using transmission corridors and existing roadways for more than 83 percent of the route and locating substantial portions of the project underground, Northern Pass is following sound planning and environmental principles that reinforces local patterns of development and minimizes environmental impacts
  • Of the 32 miles of new right-of-way (ROW) along the 192-mile route, 24 are in a working forest and forest management within this area will continue uninterrupted after construction
  • Northern Pass will improve air quality, public health and the environment, and help address climate change by reducing pollutants such as NOx, SO2, and CO2 emissions that affect New Hampshire and the New England region, consistent with national, regional, and state air quality and climate change goals
  • Infrastructure associated with Northern Pass will increase the local tax base across the 31 host communities by approximately 11 percent
  • There is no evidence that high-voltage transmission lines result in consistent measurable effects on property values. Where there are effects, they are small and decrease rapidly with distance
  • Northern Pass will not have a measurable effect on New Hampshire’s tourism industry
  • There are no published studies that address the quantitative impacts of transmission lines to a destination’s tourism industry
  • It is the collective mix of destination attributes that influences visitors’ choice of destination, and the presence of power lines is of very low importance in that mix
  • The project will not interfere with the orderly development of the region and any potential effect on land use is minimal. The project’s impact on the local economy and jobs is positive

You can find additional information about construction of the project, as well as the pre-filed testimony from the above experts, on the Northern Pass website. Technical Sessions will continue throughout September. You can find a schedule for all the Technical Sessions here.