New Hampshire Public Radio (NHPR) aired a series this week about the Northern Pass project that included a discussion of the region’s energy needs, what impact the project might have on local real estate and how Northern Pass compares to an existing New Hampshire transmission line, commonly referred to as “Phase II.”
Here are some of the highlights in the series that caught our attention:
- The state of the energy market created the need for projects like Phase II and Northern Pass. Part 1 in the series notes that Phase II was proposed to help address the region’s over-dependence on oil; Northern Pass will help address the region’s current over-dependence on natural gas.
- New England’s power grid could soon face an energy shortfall.
With older power plants retiring, the regional energy market needs more sources of power. The story notes, “This year, for the first time in the market’s eight year history, there might not be enough plants signed up to deliver in 2017.”
- Hydro-Québec has clean, renewable hydropower to spare and wants to export to the United States. However, getting it to New England requires transmission lines like the Northern Pass project.
- Impact on property values is minimal. Thomas Jackson, a PhD. real estate expert who has studied how transmission lines affect property values, noted: “… some of the studies found really minimal impacts on property values.” Property owners may have concerns, he said, “but a lot of times they don’t get born out in the marketplace.”
- Local real estate agents weighed in. Part 2 includes the perspective of Hopkinton Realtor Judy Hampe who, the article notes, has sold property near the Phase II for 20 years. Hampe said the studies don’t tell her much, but that she believes “there’s always a buyer for everything.”
We found it helpful that NHPR used the example of the Phase II line when considering Northern Pass. Built in the 1980s, Phase II connects Québec’s vast hydroelectric resources with New England’s power grid, much like Northern Pass is proposing to do. We previously noted the important role Phase II currently plays in keeping the lights on as one of the largest single sources of energy in the region. We also shared the story of Willie Minot, whose family has operated a farm since 1799 on land where Phase II was built more than two decades ago.
The series did not address several distinctions that we think deserve attention.
- Like Phase II, Northern Pass will be built mainly within existing rights-of-way where power lines are already located.
- Phase II is 100 percent overhead lines, but Northern Pass uses underground technology for two sections of the project.
- Part 3 mentions other transmission line proposals that would be located underground, yet fails to note that these conceptual projects are years away from obtaining important permits needed to begin construction.
- Northern Pass has a federally approved payment agreement with Hydro-Quebec and has secured a route without the need to use eminent domain, unlike projects like the Champlain-Hudson Power Express. Some people may not realize the uniqueness of
- Northern Pass, compared to other proposed projects: Northern Pass is entirely funded by its investors. Customers will receive the energy, environmental, and economic benefits of the project but will not be charged for its development. Northern Pass is a project that, unlike others, will not increase the cost of power but will instead reduce those costs.
While we don’t agree with every perspective included in the series, we appreciate that NHPR and New Hampshire residents are discussing the energy challenges facing our state and the possible solutions. We think Northern Pass can be one of those solutions. As stated in the NHPR piece, “It’s increasingly clear that New England will need more power soon and with transmission lines being proposed all around the Northeast, Canadian hydro is likely to play a role.”