No Evidence of Negative Impact on Regional Travel Demand
Tourism is an important part of New Hampshire’s economy, representing about 10 percent of the jobs in the state. A study conducted by Nichols Tourism Group and submitted to the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee as part of the Northern Pass application, shows that there are a number of issues that influence a visitor’s decision on where they will travel, but there is very little evidence to show that the location of transmission lines is one.
Using data collected by Plymouth State University’s Institute for New Hampshire Studies and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, as well as interviews with representatives from the state’s tourism industry and a prospective visitor’s survey, the Nichols report concludes that tourists consider a range of factors when deciding where to travel, such as how easy it is to access the destination, the range of activities available, offering new or improved attractions, marketing, weather, and the overall value for the money.
There is a lack of empirical evidence that transmission lines influence tourism, as no known studies of transmission line development shows a quantifiable impact on the tourism industry. The Nichols Tourism Group said that during the group’s own work on more than 250 assignments studying a wide range of tourist destinations, they found no indication transmission lines have an impact on tourism.
“Never in the prior 20 years of planning work has any concern been raised regarding the presence of power lines and their possible negative influence on visitor demand,” the report said.
A Look at a Project in Maine
Neighboring Maine provides strong evidence that supports the conclusions in the Nichols Report. The Maine Power Reliability Program (MPRP) is a $1.4 billion project constructed between 2010 and 2015 that included power line and substation upgrades in 75 communities, including popular southern coastal towns, Western Maine foothills, and quaint Down East communities. According to the Maine Office of Tourism, the state set tourism records in 2015 and in 2016, with a 10 percent increase in tourism spending over the two years.
Data collected from 2015 show that one of the largest growth areas was in outdoor recreation, particularly travel packages that include outdoor activities like hiking, boating and winter sports. The increase in tourism was statewide, with data from 2016 showing revenue increased in every county in the state. The rise was not limited to years of and after completion on MPRP. Tourism spending has been on the rise in Maine since 2012, which was during construction, and the number of tourism-related businesses grew in years 2008 to 2013, including years when the project was in development.
Maine travel experts attribute the increase in visitors and tourism spending to good weather, low gas prices, helping destinations develop better experiences for visitors, and a national marketing campaign. This conclusion is in line with the conclusions reached by the Nichols Tourism Group on what motivates visitation and drives tourism revenue.
Tourism Industry and Tourists Agree
Who better to ask about the decisions that influence their travel than the people most likely to visit New Hampshire?
A survey of active travelers from the seven Northeast states showed the majority were seeking good value for their money, a range of things to do, and convenience, like good cell service and being close to home. While the survey points to possible barriers, the research showed that when a place has much to offer, the collective power of the destination far outweighs concerns regarding power lines.
Nichols also spoke with members of New Hampshire’s tourism industry about the factors that influence business performance. They included weather, the economy, gas prices, exchange rates for Canadian visitors, and changing interests of the younger generation. No one said that past large infrastructure projects had been a significant factor influencing the state’s travel industry, the Nichols’ report found.
You can find the story about Maine’s record-setting tourism years below.
Nichols Tourism Group Study
We’re always paying attention to the ups and downs in the energy market and how those changes can affect our lives. Lately, there have been plenty of stories to catch our attention.
Here in New Hampshire, we’re prepared for all that comes with the winter season – namely snow storms and frigid temperatures. While this winter hasn’t disappointed with a healthy share of storms and cold spells thus far, the region’s energy grid, in a change from years past, has been constrained and challenged. The region’s growing reliance on natural gas has led to wild prices spikes in wholesale energy costs and caused reliability challenges that are having real impacts on businesses and residential customers in New Hampshire and beyond. Here’s a rundown on what’s been making news on this issue in recent weeks:
Region’s Electric Grid Feeling Cold Weather Demand
The Union Leader looks at how a cold spell in early December caused a dramatic spike in energy prices.
New England Narrowly Escapes Power Outages
Forbes.com shows how the cold spell forced ISO New England, operators of the region’s energy grid, to use emergency measures to keep the power on.
Energy Supplier Suspended from Region’s Power Grid
Recent instability in the market is hitting home as one independent energy supplier was suspended after being unable to meet its commitment to New Hampshire customers. [Union Leader]
Natural Gas Volatility Creating Challenges at Gorham Mill
After soaring natural gas prices caused a three day shutdown at the Gorham Paper and Tissue Mill in December, the plant announced plans to reduce its operations and workforce last week, citing continued concerns with energy costs.
More Customer Impact: When Cheaper Energy Isn’t
Union Leader Reporter Dave Solomon looks at how seasonal changes in energy prices impact customers shopping for energy from independent suppliers and how it’s important to read the fine print.
Natural Gas Prices in Region Spike
The Boston Globe’s Erin Ailworth reports on how a spike in natural gas prices this winter has sent wholesale electricity prices soaring.
New England Energy Prices 40% above US Average
Energy experts believe New England is at a competitive disadvantage due to high electricity prices driven by lack of pipeline infrastructure.
How do we calm the energy storm created by this wild weather? There is no simple answer, but rather a need for a diverse solution. New England’s six governors recognized this last month when they signed an agreement to improve transmission and natural gas pipeline infrastructure as they also look for new sources of clean, renewable energy. By adding new and diverse reliable energy sources to the regional grid, New England consumers will be less affected by the fickle and limited supply of natural gas during key times of the year. The weather may get better, but the reality of our imbalanced energy portfolio will only become clearer in the seasons and years to come.
- The winter weather of late has not only impacted energy prices, but also has shifted the mix of fuels we use to generate electricity. This bar graph compares the region’s fuel mix for 2013 with a two week period in December when cold temperatures constrained gas supplies. During this period, coal usage more than doubled compared to the annual average for 2013. Nuclear and oil also saw an uptick in usage. While coal, oil, and nuclear plants were available to keep the lights on this winter, many are at risk of retiring over the next several years.
This year has been an exciting and busy time for the project. In June, we announced an improved route in New Hampshire’s North Country that was developed in response to concerns about potential visual impacts and property rights. The new route is now located in a far less populated area of the North Country and more than 80 percent of the entire route will be built in existing rights-of-way or located underground.
As 2013 comes to a close, we would like to share some of this year’s other highlights:
- Announced the creation of the North Country Jobs Creation Fund. This $7.5-million fund will be used to help boost economic growth beyond the 1,200 jobs Northern Pass will create during construction. This money will be administered locally and go to projects that people in the North Country know will help job seekers and businesses.
- Sponsored a communication tower in Groveton that will expand cellular and broadband service in the North Country
- Completed a series of four U.S. Department of Energy scoping meetings, moving the project further along in the federal permitting process
- Hosted hundreds of people at our 16 open houses along the route, giving residents the chance to ask questions and review detailed maps, view simulations, and jobs and tax revenue information
- Responded to thousands of inquiries from New Hampshire residents – via phone and e-mail on our Project Hotline
- Posted key information about the project and regional energy issues, and provided regular updates through social media, like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube
- Met face-to-face with residents and business owners along the route (roughly half of them north of the Notch), giving people a chance to ask project experts questions specific to their property
- Gave presentations to Rotary Clubs and Chambers of Commerce across the state, going directly to business and community leaders to provide project updates, answer their questions and get their input
- Held jobs meetings with workers and business owners across New Hampshire about the opportunities that will be available once construction begins
As we head into the new year, we will continue engaging with New Hampshire residents and those who live and work along the proposed route. We encourage those who have questions about the project, or who want to lend their support, to reach out through one of the many lines of communication we have set up. Call us 1-800-286-7305, email us, or check out our website.
Thanks to all who have supported Northern Pass – your efforts have helped make 2013 a very successful year!
Natural Gas is the dominant source (> 40 percent) of electrical energy production in New England. It is currently cheap, due in part to a relatively new gas extraction technique known as “fracking.”
A recent Cornell University study argues that emissions associated with fracking extraction are deeply concerning:
“…shale gas is worse than conventional gas and is, in fact, worse than coal and worse than oil…”
Link to study.
The Northern Pass will result in a more diversified energy portfolio in New England, substituting up to 1,200 megawatts of hydroelectric energy for a like amount fossil-fuel energy.
The Concord Monitor published an interview with PSNH President Gary Long in today’s paper. The questions cover everything from the price of renewable energy to the siting of the proposed transmission line.
You’re doing this at a time when demand is falling rather than rising. Is that unusual? We take the idea of trying to reduce carbon very seriously. The state has a goal of trying to reduce carbon from all sources by 80 percent by 2050. If there wasn’t a business opportunity, this wouldn’t be happening, but if there wasn’t policy that requires a greener, cleaner energy future, we wouldn’t be doing this. . . . We’re not looking for major new sources to meet the power needs; we’re looking for major new sources to meet the “green power” needs.
Two corrections to consider while reading the article: the tax base increase in the City of Franklin is $250 million, not $5 million; also, late in the article it refers to a $250 billion project – it should read “million” not billion.
PSNH president looks to future flow of power