Northern Pass had a landmark year in 2016, reaching a number of milestones key to the project’s approval. The Department of Energy (DOE) received public comments and held a series of public hearings throughout New Hampshire. At the state level, the NH Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) took comments from the public, held a number of public hearings, and advanced the process through Technical Sessions and decisions on motions.
Looking ahead to 2017, the SEC will hold adjudicative hearings in the spring, and is expected to make a final decision on the project no later than September 30. The DOE is expected to release its final Environmental Impact Statement sometime next year, as well.
Below is a recap of 2016 milestones to highlight how far the project has come this year. We look forward to 2017, with Northern Pass on track to complete all permitting processes.
The DOE held public hearings throughout the state in March to gather input on its draft Environmental Impact Statement on Northern Pass.
The SEC held 12 public information sessions and public hearings on Northern Pass throughout the state and in communities along the route from January through June. Northern Pass also organized a series of bus tours of the route for the SEC and interveners in coordination with these hearings.
The discovery phase of the state permitting process began in April, requiring Northern Pass to provide documents to the Counsel for the Public and the interveners to the Northern Pass SEC docket. This process continued into August and concluded with Northern Pass staff providing more than 1,250 data responses.
In the fall, the SEC began its first round of Technical Sessions, which provided an informal opportunity for the parties involved in the Northern Pass state review process to ask questions of project experts. There were 21 session held, covering a wide range of topics related to the project, including construction, project benefits, aesthetics, and economic and environmental impact.
Northern Pass secured a key regulatory approval in July when ISO New England officially determined that the clean energy project can reliably interconnect with the regional electric grid. By approving the project’s I.3.9 application, ISO New England determined Northern Pass will not have a significant, adverse effect on the reliability or operating characteristics of the regional grid and its participants.
The New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission (NHPUC) announced in October 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. The agreement includes 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.
In the Community
Business leaders from across the state representing 50 companies announced their support for Northern Pass in March. In a joint statement to the Site Evaluation Committee, the diverse group of New Hampshire businesses, including some of the state’s largest employers, urged elected officials to join them in support of the project.
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) announced eight conservation, restoration and research grants in August 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 Northern Pass, Eversource and NFWF. Collectively, these projects will open 175 miles of streams for Eastern Brook Trout, 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.
Roger’s Campground in Lancaster unveiled the North Country’s first electric vehicle charging station in May, made possible through funding from Northern Pass and the Forward NH Plan.
In July, Lancaster became the first North Country town to install energy-efficient LED street lights, reducing energy consumption by 60 percent. Switching from conventional to LED street lights was funded by the Forward NH Plan.
Emergency responders saw an improvement to their radio communications system in eight communities in northern New Hampshire and Vermont this summer thanks to the installation of a new emergency radio antenna. The antenna, which was funded by Northern Pass, enables police to communicate via radio in areas where radio signal was previously unavailable.
Project Work and Construction
In April, Northern Pass announced the major contractors and material suppliers who will execute the engineering, design and construction of the Northern Pass transmission line once the project receives state and federal permits. Later that month, Northern Pass contractors began field work along the proposed route that continued through the rest of the year. Geotechnical work included soil boring tests along the proposed route to log soil characteristics, and archeological field work included shovel test sampling for historical artifacts, as is required under the National Historic Preservation Act, Section 106 process and by the SEC.
Other Key Decisions
The New Hampshire Superior Court ruled in favor of Northern Pass in May and unequivocally dismissed claims by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests that use of public highways was subject to the Forest Society’s approval.
In June, Eversource and Hydro-Québec reached a significant agreement that ensures Eversource customers in New Hampshire will receive a substantial supply of clean energy from the Northern Pass hydroelectric transmission project. The power purchase agreement, or PPA, is expected to deliver additional benefits that, when combined with the lowering of market power prices, bring the total estimated energy cost savings for New Hampshire customers to more than $1 billion.
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.
The New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) will hold another Technical Session in Concord today as part of its ongoing review of Northern Pass. These sessions are an informal opportunity for the parties involved in the Northern Pass state review process to ask questions of the project.
Today’s session will focus on the project’s finances, and will include testimony from Michael Ausere, Vice President of Energy Planning and Economics for Eversource. He will speak about Northern Pass’ financial capability to construct and operate the project, as well as the Transmission Service Agreement (TSA), which was approved in 2011 by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and outlines the agreement between Northern Pass and Hydro-Québec’s subsidiary, Hydro Renewable Energy Inc. (HRE). You can read the FERC order here.
Other important facts include:
To read more about the financial aspects of the project, go to Northern Pass’ application to the NH Site Evaluation Committee:
Vol. I, ES
Vol. I, Sec. (h) (5) p. 50
Vol II, Ausere Testimony
Technical Sessions will continue throughout September. You can read about the previous session here, which covered system stability and reliability, and public health and safety. You can also find a schedule for all the technical sessions here.
As part of the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee’s (SEC) continued review of the Northern Pass transmission project, the SEC began its Technical Sessions on Tuesday in Concord. These sessions are an informal opportunity for the parties involved in the Northern Pass state review process to ask questions of project experts.
The first session will include a discussion about the project’s impact on system stability and reliability, and regional grid operator ISO New England’s 1.3.9 approval process. In the afternoon, the session will continue with a discussion about the public health and safety impacts of the project, specifically electric and magnetic fields (EMFs) and environmental sound. Testimony from the public health and safety panel will continue tomorrow, September 7 if more time is needed. The technical sessions are expected to continue throughout the month of September. You can find the agenda for these sessions here.
Robert Andrew is the Director of System Planning for Eversource and has more than 35 years of experience in the electrical generation and distribution industry. He will be available to answer questions about ISO New England’s approval of the project’s I.3.9 application in July, and other important facts about Northern Pass’s impact on system stability and reliability, including:
Dr. William Bailey is the Principal Scientist at the Center for Occupational and Environmental Health Risk Assessment at Exponent, Inc., and is recognized nationally and internationally for his expertise in the potential effects of EMFs. His testimony will focus on his evaluation of the potential effects of the Northern Pass Transmission Project on public health and safety.
Dr. Gary Johnson is a Senior Managing Scientist in Exponent’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science practice who has extensive experience with transmission and distribution systems and has published 35 papers on EMFs and related subjects. He will be available to speak about his modeling of the electric and magnetic fields, audible noise, and radio noise from the existing lines and from the Northern Pass Transmission Project.
Douglas Bell is Senior Principal Consultant and President at Cavanaugh Tocci Associates, Inc., and has 25 years of experience evaluating environmental sound. He will be available to answer questions about the sound surveys he conducted along the proposed Northern Pass route.
Other important facts related to Northern Pass’ potential impact on public health and safety include:
If you have more questions about EMFs, we’ve compiled information about AC and DC EMFs on our website:
EMF, Alternating Current Fact Sheet: http://www.northernpass.us/assets/FNH_ALTERNATING_CURRENT_FINAL.pdf
EMF, Direct Current Fact Sheet: http://www.northernpass.us/assets/FNH_DIRECT_CURRENT_FINAL.pdf
For more information about the Northern Pass experts mentioned above and the research they’ve done on this project, you can find their pre-filed testimony within the Northern Pass application to the NH Site Evaluation Committee, Vol. I, Sec. (i)(6)
Northern Pass has secured a key regulatory approval this week as ISO New England officially determined that the clean energy project can reliably interconnect with the regional electric grid.
By approving the project’s I.3.9 application*, ISO New England determined Northern Pass will not have a significant, adverse effect on the reliability or operating characteristics of the regional grid and its participants. All energy projects must secure this approval in order to be connected to the New England grid.
Northern Pass is a proposed transmission line that will carry 1,090 megawatts of clean, reliable hydroelectric power to New Hampshire and New England. The project is currently in the midst of state and federal permitting processes.
*In 2014, ISO New England approved the I.3.9 application for the project’s original 1,200 megawatt proposal.