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.