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:
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.
The economist who conducted the study on the benefits of adding clean, affordable hydropower to the New England grid will speak about her research and the project’s benefits on Friday. The session is part of the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee’s (SEC) ongoing review of Northern Pass, and is an opportunity for the parties involved to ask questions of the project in an informal setting.
Julia Frayer, a Managing Director with London Economics, specializes in analysis related to energy infrastructure, such as electric generation facilities, natural gas-related infrastructure, and electricity transmission and distribution systems. She has also conducted extensive research in issues pertaining to cross-border transmission investment in North America. On Friday, Frayer will be available to answer questions about a study she conducted on the impacts of adding 1,090 megawatts of Canadian hydropower into the New England regional electric grid.
Key points about Northern Pass’ market benefits include:
New England electricity rates are among the highest in the nation, due in part to overreliance on natural gas to generate electricity. According to the regional grid operator ISO New England, more than 45 percent of the region’s electric generating capacity consists of natural gas-fired power plants. That percentage is expected to grow in coming years as older power plants retire and more natural gas-fired plants come online. This over-reliance causes severe price volatility, particularly in winter when there is increased need for natural gas for home heating, driving up overall prices for New England. Northern Pass will diversify the region’s energy mix and ease the volatility experienced in recent years, which in turn will stabilize energy costs for the region.
Northern Pass will also help the region meet clean energy goals, such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
Technical Sessions will continue throughout September. You can find a schedule for all the Technical Sessions here.
Northern Pass and Eversource were proud to join the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) today to announce eight grants totaling nearly $1 million to restore New Hampshire’s forest and freshwater habitat. The grants were funded through Partners for New Hampshire’s Fish and Wildlife, a partnership between Eversource and NFWF.
“The recipients of these grants are focused on action-based projects that are making a real difference in improving and preserving New Hampshire’s valued wildlife and waterways,” said Ellen Angley, Vice President/Supply Chain, Environmental Affairs and Property Management at Eversource. “We’ve been pleased to see the grant recipients working directly with their communities and other organizations to produce beneficial results, and look forward to seeing the positive impacts these new grants will help to achieve.”
Collectively, the eight conservation grants announced today will open 175 miles of streams for Eastern Brook Trout through modification and replacement of culverts and other barriers, will improve habitat for New England cottontail, American woodcock, and golden-winged warblers on 852 acres of forestland, and reduce polluted runoff from entering streams, including 47 tons of sediment and 41 tons of phosphorus.
“We are extremely pleased with the impact this partnership has had in its first year, and the grants we are announcing today will build on that success here in New Hampshire,” said Amanda Bassow, Northeastern Regional Director of NFWF. “The contribution from Eversource also has had ripple effects throughout New England, providing the seed funding to grow a larger public-private initiative that is accelerating the restoration of our northern forests and rivers.”
The grant recipients are:
These grants were solicited competitively through NFWF’s New England Forests and Rivers Fund, of which Partners for New Hampshire Fish and Wildlife is a major contributor, and were evaluated by a technical review committee composed of government, academic and other experts. Funding decisions were based on the project’s potential to achieve long-term, measurable conservation outcomes that match the program’s goals.
The New England Forests and Rivers Fund is awarding a total of 16 grants today throughout New England, eight of which include work in New Hampshire (listed above). In addition to funding from Eversource’s Partners for New Hampshire’s Fish and Wildlife, major funding for the New England Forests and Rivers Fund is provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service.
About the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
Chartered by Congress in 1984, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) protects and restores the nation’s fish, wildlife, plants and habitats. Working with federal agencies, corporations, foundations and individual partners, NFWF has funded more than 4,500 organizations and committed more than $3.5 billion to conservation projects. Learn more at www.nfwf.org.
Northern Pass announced on Thursday it is part of a new effort that will bring more than $4.5 million in land conservation and restoration grants to New Hampshire. Called Partners for New Hampshire’s Fish and Wildlife, this program is aimed at restoring and sustaining healthy forests and rivers throughout the state.
From the beginning, Northern Pass has sought to form partnerships with local communities and organizations to support efforts that strengthen New Hampshire’s economy. We believe this new partnership represents a significant commitment to build upon New Hampshire’s strengths as a place where wildlife can thrive.
Over the next two years, Partners for New Hampshire’s Fish and Wildlife will focus on supporting cost-effective, hands-on conservation projects around the state. Projects will be selected based on their ability to achieve long-term, measurable outcomes that meet the program’s goals. These goals include:
Partners for New Hampshire’s Fish and Wildlife is the result of a partnership between the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and Northern Pass’ parent company, Eversource. Northern Pass has committed $3 million to the partnership. NFWF and its funding partners are committing an additional $1.5 million, boosting the total conservation impact to at least $4.5 million. Through NFWF’s efforts, there is the potential for more funding from additional partners.
NFWF has already granted funding to two early action projects. In Londonderry and Dover, NFWF has granted $200,000 for protecting and rebuilding habitat for early successional species, or those animals that thrive in young forests, like the New England cottontail and the American woodcock. Overseen by the Wildlife Management Institute, the funding for this project will go toward restoring roughly 30 acres in both communities, as well as provide educational materials about the project to Londonderry High School and Middle School through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Schoolyard Habitat program.
In addition, the Connecticut River Watershed Council, Inc., will use a $180,000 grant toward its Eastern Brook Trout Aquatic Organism Passage project, which will reopen more than 10 miles of fish habitat in Haverhill and create 20 miles of interconnected habitat for the Eastern Brook Trout—a threatened species.
Other partners for these projects include New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, the Town of Londonderry, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Trout Unlimited, New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, and the Town of Haverhill.
In the coming two years, NFWF will continue to solicit additional grant applications from other projects around the state. The next round of proposals will be awarded this summer.
As the state’s largest proposed clean energy project, Northern Pass is proud to be part of a partnership that seeks to protect and strengthen our state’s most treasured and unique habitats. We look forward to seeing the results of the important conservation efforts that will be fostered by this partnership.
Continued weather extremes, including two bouts of a “polar vortex,” have exposed a major weakness in the way we generate electricity in New England. The problems created by our limited access to natural gas, which produces more than half of the region’s electricity during normal conditions, have gotten the attention of the nation’s top energy official. The region’s maxed-out natural gas capacity has also prompted New England’s governors to ask the region’s grid operator, ISO-New England, to help implement a plan that would have electricity customers pay the bill for additional energy projects.
Here are just a few of the headlines addressing these issues in recent weeks:
U.S. Energy Secretary Plans To Review New England’s Natural Gas Shortage
As the Hartford Courant reports, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is calling for a review of New England’s natural gas shortage.
Editorial: Wanted: New Natural Gas Pipelines
The Concord Monitor editorial page calls on New England’s governors to be proactive in their attempts to bring more natural gas to the region and educate the public about region’s need for more energy sources.
PSNH Power Key to Region’s Energy Security
PSNH’s Bill Quinlan writes an Op-Ed that appeared in many New Hampshire newspapers, including the Portsmouth Herald, about the importance of energy diversity under extreme circumstances.
Frozen Northeast Getting Gouged by Natural Gas Prices
Bloomberg Business Week takes a look at the effect natural gas pipeline constraints is having on the cost of natural gas – and in turn energy prices – in the Northeast.
Ratepayers Would Pick Up Gas Pipeline Tab Under New England Governors’ Proposal
The Union Leader reports on a recent letter the New England governors wrote to the region’s grid operator, recognizing the need for more energy projects and asking for help in devising a customer cost-sharing structure to pay for those investments.
‘Must run’ Coal Plant to Shut Down in 2017
Massachusetts’ Brayton Point coal-fired power plant will close in 2017 despite the objections and “must run” status issued by ISO-New England. The Boston Globe reports on the effect the plant’s closing may have on the regional grid.
Can Natural Gas Weather the Storm?
One Forbes analyst challenges New England’s – and America’s – natural gas future given the volatility exposed under this winter’s condition.
A Lot of Gas but Not Here: How Should New England Deal With its Natural Gas Appetite?
The Bangor Daily Sun works to explain New England’s complicated energy problems and how the governors’ proposal to increase pipeline and infrastructure may or may not address them.
As New England’s governors have recognized, the region needs a new and diverse energy sources. That includes both additional natural gas pipeline capacity and transmission infrastructure to connect New England with renewable, clean power projects. The problems we are seeing this winter will only get worse in the coming years with the retirement of several aging power plants, yet as the Concord Monitor pointed out, any potential solution will take years to develop and will likely face great opposition. This week’s news shows us, however, that both local and national leaders have recognized that building a diversity of new energy projects is our best bet in achieving a clean, reliable energy future.
Public Invited to Attend Workshops on the State Process and Criteria for Siting Energy Facilities
During the first two weeks of December, the New Hampshire Office of Energy and Planning (OEP) will be holding five workshops around the state to gather input from the public on the processes and criteria used by the state’s Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) to determine whether to permit the construction and operation of energy facilities. These include wind generation projects, natural gas pipelines, and electric transmission lines. This is an extremely complicated technical and legal issue that needs an informed discussion about how the SEC has performed over the years, how other states address the siting of energy projects, and what the possible repercussions of any potential changes would mean for the state’s energy future.
Northern Pass is just one project that could be affected by changes in the siting process and criteria. All energy projects proposed in the future may be caught up in such a change as well, a change which could have a ripple effect on jobs, energy costs and economic development for years to come. While this issue is complicated, your voice is important to effectively shape New Hampshire’s energy future. We ask you to consider attending one of the citizen workshops listed below. If you’d like to learn more about these workshops or want to attend, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Workshops begin with sign-in at 5 p.m., and discussion begins at 6 p.m. They will end at approximately 9:30 p.m. Space is limited to 150-200 people depending on the site. You must pre-register to participate, and you may only sign up for one location.
To REGISTER for a Citizen Workshop: click here
December 3: Manchester Memorial High School Cafeteria
December 4: Groveton High School Gymnasium
December 5: Keene Recreation Center
December 9: Town of Newington Main Hall
December 10: Plymouth Regional High School in Plymouth
Why is this important?
Northern Pass must obtain a number of state and federal permits before it can begin construction. One of these permits is a Certificate of Site and Facility, which grants state authority to proposed energy facilities to move forward. This certificate is given by the Site Evaluation Committee.
The SEC was formed in 1971 by the Legislature to regulate the siting of large electric generating stations and transmission lines. It reviews a developer’s financial, technical and managerial ability to construct and operate a project. It also considers whether the project’s development would unduly interfere with “orderly development of the region” or have an “unreasonable adverse effect” on a number of factors, including historic sites, air and water quality, and the public health and safety.
Northern Pass will bring 1,200 megawatts of Canadian hydropower into New Hampshire through a 300 kV high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission line, so it must go before the Site Evaluation Committee for approval. This is expected to happen sometime in 2014.
This well-established process is facing changes because of a bill passed earlier this year aimed at overhauling the system.
Senate Bill 99, also known as SB 99, required the Office of Energy and Planning to hire an outside consulting group to generate reports on the SEC process and its energy facility siting criteria. The consultants were not hired until the end of September and are required to produce two full reports by the end of the year. We feel this is an unrealistic timeline for such a complex and critical undertaking.
The SB 99 citizen workshops have been scheduled as part of this process and are being widely advertised. People are being asked to come and answer questions on complex regulatory topics before the questions that will be asked have even been written. This approach is flawed; more time is needed for the consultants to do an adequate job for any useful information to come out of the workshops.
We have no issue with reviewing government regulations, especially in light of the recent Business Industry Association report calling for a streamlined SEC process. But at a time when clean sources of power are needed in New England, it is troubling that SB 99 could result in making the process harder for all energy projects, including Northern Pass. We feel that both New Hampshire and the SEC process are not well-served by a SB 99 process that lacks sufficient time, resources, and expertise in the siting process. The discussion should also provide a meaningful perspective on energy supply issues that are of critical importance to New Hampshire.
What’s at stake?
As it stands, the Legislature’s deadlines, and the efforts of the OEP and its consultants to meet those deadlines, have created a dilemma for those who support a strong and stable energy future for New Hampshire. How do we work within a flawed process and avoid a situation that could produce unreliable data from these workshops, and which would then would then be used by legislators who are determined to prevent the construction of energy projects in New Hampshire?
That is why people with a wide range of opinions should be present at these workshops – not just people opposed to energy projects – to give the state the information it needs to determine whether New Hampshire should change the siting process that has served it well for many years.
The purpose of SB 99 is to review New Hampshire’s current permitting process for energy facility projects, but it has the potential to adversely change the way in which energy projects are sited in New Hampshire. Despite many siting professionals’ opinions that New Hampshire’s current process works well, opponents of energy projects see SB 99 as an opportunity to create new regulatory hurdles to stop energy development in New Hampshire. Permitting is a major aspect of any energy project, and adding additional costs, time and regulatory uncertainty has the effect of driving away energy development in our state.
The SB 99 consultant responsible for carrying out the studies is surveying New Hampshire citizens about their views on energy development and permitting. Your opinion is very important to ensure that permitting of energy projects remains fair and considers the views of all New Hampshire citizens – not just those that oppose energy projects.
What the project will look like and where it will be visible are among the most common questions we hear from residents and landowners. These discussions, unfortunately, are often subject to misinformation, speculation, and inaccurate conclusions of what the actual visual impact of the project will be.
Fortunately, a process is in place to provide clear, factual answers. The state and federal permitting process require professional view impact assessments produced by independent experts. The public deserves no less than a thorough analysis done by such experts, and based on accurate data.
We raise this issue because, yet again, the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) is providing misleading information to the public about the potential visual impacts of the project. The AMC recently released a series of videos that claim to show the project’s visual impacts. In reality, the videos do not conform to any widely accepted visual assessment methodologies, and do not offer an accurate visual assessment of the project.
AMC suggests that the videos depict the “highest visual impacts” within a ½ mile of the project, with no qualification of the nature of that visibility, other than the potential number of structures visible. In accepted visual impact assessment methodologies, visibility alone is not considered to be an adverse or unacceptable impact. That determination is made by considering additional factors such as viewing distance, how much of the individual structures are visible, the height, type and color of those structures, the context within which the structures are viewed, and the sensitivity of the resource or viewing locations. In addition, no explanation was provided to indicate how “tower visibility” was determined or whether the video accounted for topography and tree heights (It did not).
Rather than provide this important data and analysis, the AMC video instead relies on generalities and overly broad assertions that are not supported by facts and ignore the methodologies commonly employed by visual experts.
It’s disappointing, but not surprising, that AMC has opted to again mislead the public on this issue. The organization has made its opposition to Northern Pass publicly known in many forums, and has used the project as a fundraising tool. The AMC has a clear bias and we believe it is incapable of providing a fair analysis of the project.
The federal and state permitting processes, which require Northern Pass to use professional visual experts and accepted methodologies, will provide the public with an accurate, clear, factual assessment of the visual impacts of the project.
Whether it is wind, solar, new transmission lines, or a power plant – all energy projects carry impacts of varying degrees. Northern Pass is no different, but the public consideration of the project’s impacts, including its tremendous energy, economic, and environmental benefits, must be based on facts.
“New England needs new energy sources soon, and Northern Pass’ offer of relatively green, relatively cheap Canadian hydropower is one of the best available options. It would be a mistake not to pursue it.” – Boston Globe Editorial September 15th 2013
The need to shift the region’s electricity production toward cleaner and more sustainable resources has been part of the energy conversation in New England for more than a decade. We see Northern Pass as part of the long-term plan to move toward renewable sources by importing 1,200 megawatts of low-cost, renewable hydropower. This energy, when it enters the marketplace, will be available to off-set energy generation from the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas, helping the region reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.
One of the region’s most prominent newspapers, the Boston Globe, pointed to Northern Pass’ environmental benefits in an editorial this weekend endorsing the project. The editors are concerned about the need for new energy sources as older fossil-fuel burning plants retire in coming decades. Like us here at Northern Pass, they see wind and solar as part of the equation, but realize it is not a reliable enough source to be the only solution.
The Boston Globe notes that “over the lifespan of the dam, hydropower adds much less CO2 to the environment than fossil fuels, and the Northern Pass project will help New England reduce its carbon footprint significantly — especially if it’s supplemented by other renewables.”
The newspaper also recognizes that New England’s growing reliance on natural gas, a dependence that the region’s power grid operator has termed its most critical challenge. “As of 2011, over half of all of the region’s current power comes from natural gas, which is relatively difficult to transport and nearly impossible to store at power plants,” the Globe says. “This situation also leaves New England dangerously susceptible to price changes.”
By adding Northern Pass’ steady stream of hydropower to the New England power mix, there will be a cleaner source of low-cost energy available to smooth out price volatility during times of peak usage when demand is up and gas supplies are tight.
New Hampshire is part of the New England energy grid, which means concerns about our energy future are also the concerns of those living in Maine, Massachusetts or Vermont. The commitment to use more renewable energy sources has been made across all six states. Northern Pass believes it can be part of the region’s shift toward renewable energy, fewer greenhouse gas emissions and a more secure energy future.
You can read the entire Boston Globe editorial here.
New Hampshire residents have a long history of supporting environmentally responsible policy and being ahead of the rest of the country when it comes to addressing the challenges of climate change. The state is a member of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and it supports using more renewable energy sources.
Recently, Entergy Corporation announced it will cease operations at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant next year, taking its 600 megawatts of carbon-free energy production out of the New England power grid. On Sunday, Entergy’s Pilgrim nuclear plant in Massachusetts was taken offline for a second time in three weeks because of a steam leak, temporarily removing its nearly 700 megawatts of carbon-free energy production out of the power grid system.
Because natural gas is the predominant power fuel in the region, the temporary shutdown of Pilgrim and the soon-to-be permanent loss of Vermont Yankee will result in an even greater reliance on natural gas and a related increase in greenhouse gas emissions.
We recently wrote a journal post about Vermont Yankee and its effect on the region’s growing dependence on natural gas. This past winter, newspapers from the New York Times to the New Hampshire Union Leader also wrote about the region’s heavy reliance on natural gas and the concern of ISO New England that it could drive up electricity costs and put the reliability of the region’s power grid at risk.
We believe the hydroelectric energy transmitted by the Northern Pass will provide much-needed diversity, lessening price volatility and the chance of spot shortages. It will bring into the region 1,200 megawatts of clean, renewable energy, which would more than off-set the loss of Vermont Yankee, and it will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 5 million tons annually; the equivalent of taking 900,000 cars off the road.
We aren’t the only ones who agree that Canadian hydropower will bring us cleaner air and reduced carbon emissions. In 2009, we saw representatives from the business community, environmental and conservation groups and the energy industry come together and craft a comprehensive New Hampshire Climate Action Plan that was meant to guide state policy in future years.
In that plan, a majority of members recommended building high voltage power lines connecting New Hampshire to hydropower plants in Canada. Page 44 of the Climate Action Task Force’s final report notes:
“To the extent that it reduces or does not raise electricity rates to the consumer, high voltage transmission lines should be built to import clean power generated from Canadian hydro and wind sources as a complementary policy to developing non-CO2-emitting generation in New Hampshire.”
President of NH Renewable Energy Policy Development Gary A. Long said the Northern Pass will move New Hampshire and the region toward a cleaner and more stable energy future. As we continue to see an over-reliance on a single fossil fuel, it is more important than ever to consider our energy future and support projects like Northern Pass.
*This post was revised to include the direct quote from the New Hampshire Climate Action Plan
Last week’s heat wave brought considerable pressure on New England’s energy grid and underscored the need to develop new sources of clean, reliable, low-cost energy. The six day long heat wave nearly broke records for demand both in New Hampshire and across the region. On the hottest day of the week, Friday, New England’s energy demand peaked at 27,377 megawatts, only 800 megawatts short of the all-time record. On the same day in New Hampshire, energy demand peaked at 2,210 megawatts, only 40 megawatts short of the all-time state record.
This prolonged period of high demand led to calls from ISO-New England to conserve electricity, created volatile swings in energy prices throughout the week, and brought significant changes to the region’s normal fuel mix. Energy prices fluctuated regularly from its normal average of about $38 per megawatt/hour to prices five to ten times greater, and, at one point even reached prices more than 17 times greater at over $600 per megawatt/hour.
Near record demand and high prices meant the costliest generation sources across the region were called on to keep the grid running. Oil-fired generation, which is rarely dispatched due to its high fuel costs, was called on heavily throughout the week. At one point during the heat wave, more than 3,500 megawatts of oil-fired generation in New England was running (more than 70% of the region’s oil-fired capacity), making it the third most used generation source behind only natural gas and nuclear and well ahead of coal, hydro, and all renewable generation sources.
New sources of clean, reliable, low-cost energy, like that of the Northern Pass project, would help the region better manage the grid through periods of high demand like last week. The 1200 megawatts of clean hydroelectric power of the Northern Pass would displace the need to call on some higher price, carbon emitting generation alternatives and provide a measure of price stability during a time when price spikes and volatility are common. The operation of the existing Hydro Quebec “Phase II” HVDC transmission line during last week’s heat wave provides an ideal example of the potential value of the Northern Pass during a period of high demand. The HQ Phase II line, which transports the same type of hydroelectric power that Northern Pass proposes to deliver, was the single largest source of energy for New England each day of the heat wave.
*Real time energy grid data from ISO to Go mobile application.