Across New Hampshire, we have spoken to many people who like the substantial benefits Northern Pass offers and who support our efforts to bring clean, affordable hydropower into the region. We appreciate this support and wanted to thank those who have added their voice to the growing consensus that we need to invest in our energy infrastructure and move closer toward a cleaner, more affordable energy future. Here are just a few of the supportive words we’ve heard from people around the state:
“The electrical power plants are shutting down, getting old, and our electric bills are skyrocketing. We need something new. We need to get the power. … My neighbors are all like, ‘My energy bill is so high. I’m paying so much for electric.’ I’m like, ‘Well then, we need to do Northern Pass. Otherwise, they’re just going to keep going up.’” – Cheryl Ulm of Laconia
“The power coming through Northern Pass is clean power, generated from water turbines in Canada. This is exactly the kind of clean, sustainable energy strategy we’ve identified as a priority for New Hampshire.” – State Senator Lou D’Allesandro
“The ‘Forward NH’ Plan proposes to balance the energy deficit in New England by delivering clean, renewable, hydroelectric power to New Hampshire and the region while addressing environmental impact concerns. Equally important, the project promises to provide unmistakably clear benefits to New Hampshire by bringing low-cost electricity directly to the state’s residents and businesses, creating hundreds of jobs, and providing millions in tax revenue to local communities.” – Paul Markwardt, VP and Deputy GM of Nashua-based BAE Systems
“Berlin represents a third of the county’s residents and even though the line will not be going through Berlin, don’t forget a lot of those laborers and a lot of those electricians and apprentice candidates will come from the Berlin/Gorham area. The recreational opportunities – many of those folks will come from the Berlin/Gorham area. I don’t downplay the fact that in my community, it’s going to have a pretty significant positive effect. It’s really going to make the glass a lot more than half full.” – Berlin Mayor Paul Grenier
We’ve also received support from a number of the state’s newspapers, particularly for our efforts in addressing concerns about potential view impact and providing substantial benefits unique to New Hampshire. Here is what these newspapers have been saying:
“Northern Pass, Seacoast Reliability Project and the divestiture of power plants are all now progressing because Eversource has listened to stakeholders, respected their testimony and changed the projects to address their concerns. Getting these projects built in a manner that provides wide economic benefits while protecting property values and scenic beauty is vital for New Hampshire and New England, because our energy costs, already high, will increase again this winter and in successive winters until the region increases its electrical capacity.” – Foster’s Daily Democrat and Portsmouth Herald
“Environmentalists who say they favor “green power” such as hydro should warm to a plan that eliminates above-ground lines in the national forest. North Country residents and small businesses should embrace a plan with substantial immediate and long-term benefits. Businesses large and small throughout New Hampshire are already hailing a plan that provides some relief from high electricity costs. Northern Pass and Eversource have made the compromise they needed to make. It is time for on-the-fence politicians and understandably skeptical North Country partisans to do likewise.” – New Hampshire Union Leader
“To ensure reliability and guarantee that the region’s remaining coal plants run as little as possible, we support the Northern Pass project, which does less to exacerbate climate change than fossil fuel options.” – Concord Monitor
Support for Northern Pass continues to grow! An independent issues survey released earlier this week finds the strongest support yet for the project, with 46 percent of New Hampshire residents supporting the project and just 35 percent opposing it. The results are in line with what we have been hearing through our outreach efforts in recent months, and offer further proof that – the more people learn about Northern Pass, the more likely they are to support it.
Reading into the data gives a clearer picture of what kind of energy future New Hampshire residents want and how they want to get there. For instance:
These results will no doubt prompt policy makers to reconsider some of the popular misconceptions surrounding energy projects, and the actual concerns expressed by the public.
This chart, taken from the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce 2014 Public Opinion Survey, shows growing support and declining opposition to Northern Pass. Source: Greater Nashua Chamber
New England’s governors have called for the construction of both new natural gas pipeline and transmission lines, and they envision utility customers paying for these projects. The potential for public funding for the construction of energy projects is now, as one Vermont official predicted, drawing developers “out of the woodwork” with costly proposals designed to help New England meet its energy goals. It is clear these projects are needed, yet it’s also evident that the public has concerns about picking up the tab.
And here is where Northern Pass is different. As proposed, Northern Pass is a “merchant” or “participant-funded” project. This means that, under the current plan, customers won’t pay for the construction of the line. The cost of building long-distance underground transmission lines (five to ten times higher than overhead construction) has the potential to make a participant-funded projects uneconomic. This is one of the reasons why just 0.5 percent of all transmission lines in the country are underground.
New Hampshire residents have spoken. They want to add new sources of clean, renewable energy to the grid, and in a cost-efficient manner. Northern Pass will not only connect our grid to a major source of hydropower, it can also plug New Hampshire into its energy future.
All six New England governors commit to joint energy infrastructure agenda – Bangor Daily News
New England States Committee on Electricity Letter to ISO New England – Request for help in developing “tariff filings related to electric and natural gas infrastructure in New England.”
New England States Debate Sharing Costs For New Power Lines – Vermont Public Radio
Companies want to build multimillion-dollar power lines through Maine – Portland Press Herald
Out of Sight, Out of Mind 2012 – Edison Electric Institute
Power outages often spur questions around burying power lines – US Energy Information Administration
Think back to your sixth grade science class and what you learned about problem solving. First, you had to identify the problem. Then you came up with ideas on how to solve that problem. After that, you got to work on solutions.
New Hampshire and New England have identified the problem: our energy portfolio is dangerously reliant on natural gas, putting customers at risk for unpredictable prices because of pipeline constraints. And with several power plants retiring in the next few years, there may be a shortfall of available energy.
Energy developers and policy makers are coming up with ways to solve this problem, proposing new generation, transmission projects, and natural gas pipeline expansions. While all new energy projects face challenges, they should each be weighed as part of a broad solution to ensure there’ll be enough power to meet our near- and long-term needs.
Report: Gas pipeline not enough to avert New England energy crisis
The New England governors are looking for ways to pay for significant natural gas pipeline, seeking an additional billion cubic feet of capacity a day available to the region. But as this Union Leader article points out, that won’t be enough. One analyst writes, “Electricity prices have routinely doubled this winter … These prices have closed New England mills for weeks on end, strained home budgets and burdened New England’s economy uniquely among regions in the nation.” (Read the analyst report from Competitive Energy Services referenced in the article here.)
Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline owner wants to retrofit pipeline to bring gas from south (Bangor Daily News) & Tennessee Gas launches open season for New England pipe expansion (Platts)
These two articles show natural gas suppliers that have proposed building off of existing infrastructure to bring more natural gas to New England, a region that has been suffering from pipeline constraints. But neither of these plans alone will be enough to lower prices and fill the projected deficit of energy in the region.
Quadrupling solar energy use in Mass.
The state of Massachusetts recently announced its intent to double the amount of solar energy it generates from 400 megawatts to 1,600 megawatts at a cost of as much $1billion over the next 20 years. That works out to be a little more than dollar a month per utility customer. But as MA Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan says in this NECN interview, doing nothing will be far more costly than investing in solar and other renewable sources.
UPDATE: Energy Developers Critical, Environmentalists Hopeful On SEC Reform
Last week we drew your attention to a new bill, SB 245, which spells out reforms to the Site Evaluation Committee. The first hearing on that bill was Wednesday and this NHPR report sums up what happened. There was also a hearing on SB 200, which would mandate burying transmission lines along state transportation corridors. The AP report on that can be found here
We are constantly reminded of the fact that there is no one solution. In order to build a diverse, reliable and, preferably, clean portfolio, New England will need to welcome a diverse set of reliable and clean energy sources. We believe Northern Pass should be a part of that.
For the first time in several weeks the big news on the energy front isn’t about the cold weather – though that’s likely to return before the winter is through. This week’s biggest energy story looks a little further into the future. Three years to be exact, when the region’s grid operator says there will be a shortfall of the energy we’re likely to need.
This scenario is years in the making and will take years to solve. Market conditions, aging facilities, and a lack of new energy projects on the horizon are all factors that add up to a shortfall. Power plants are closing but, because of the regulatory process and other hurdles, projects that could make up for their loss are still years from coming online.
We need more sources of power, we need them to be diverse and renewable, and we need to be working on them now. Here’s a look at the problems darkening New England’s energy outlook:
The Nashua Telegraph’s “Granite Geek” takes a comprehensive look at all the factors that played into this year’s energy futures auction and the projected 2017 capacity shortfall.
The capacity shortfall anticipated for 2017 will have an impact on prices for most utility consumers. NHPR explains the relationship between the lower supply and higher energy costs.
New England will lose 600 megawatts of power when the Vermont Yankee power plant shuts down this year. The company that owns that plant, and another in Massachusetts, warns in this Forbes article that the region’s over-reliance on a single fuel source like natural gas threatens the viability of other power producers.
Despite warnings of blackouts and other complications, the owners of Brayton Point in Massachusetts have set a closing date of June 1st, 2017. As reported on South Coast Today, the company expects other projects would come on line that would eliminate the need to keep running.
There are as many as 10 proposals for new or expanded natural gas pipeline in New England, but much of that new energy won’t be available until 2018 at the earliest. Meanwhile, as Bloomberg Businessweek points out, power plants use of natural gas has jumped from producing 30% of our electricity in 2001 to 52% today, without a single new pipeline being built.
In the next five years, New Hampshire and the rest of New England will have some big decisions to make about the region’s energy grid. How will we stabilize natural gas prices in a region so dependent on the fuel for home heating and electricity generation? Will there be support for building clean energy projects, like wind farms or transmission lines that carry Canadian hydropower? And who will pay for these expensive infrastructure projects, investors or customers?
In this video, Northern Pass spokeswoman Lauren Collins delves into these issues and some of the possible solutions, including how Northern Pass can help. As it’s currently proposed, Northern Pass will be built at no cost to consumers. In light of recent proposals that have New England utility customers funding new energy projects, Northern Pass is a unique opportunity for New Hampshire.
When you walk in a room and flip the switch, it’s good to know that the light will turn on – as it will tomorrow, next week, next year, in five years. That’s the goal of the forward capacity market. It’s a way to guarantee that the power we need will be there several years from now.
Every year, the region’s grid operator, ISO-New England, estimates how much power we’ll need three years down the road. The ISO holds a Forward Capacity Market (FCM) auction where power generators and developers bid to supply electricity, a.k.a “capacity,” to meet that future customer demand. Up until now, each FCM auction has yielded a surplus of capacity – more than enough to meet that anticipated demand – but that has changed dramatically.
For the first time since the auction started, New England is looking at a shortfall. This week’s regional FCM auction ended with a slight shortfall from power generators to meet the expected demand for capacity in 2017.
“The region abruptly went from a capacity surplus and low prices in previous auctions to a capacity shortfall and relatively high prices,” said Gordon Van Welie CEO of ISO-New England, in announcing the auction results. “The slim capacity margin and the resulting auction prices are a clear signal to the marketplace that the region needs more power generation and demand reduction capacity.”
From a Northern Pass perspective, the FCM auction’s shortfall is the latest and perhaps most significant sign of the major energy challenges facing New England. Driving those challenges is the planned retirement of about 10 percent of the region’s power generation capacity. This includes the announced closings of various power generators in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont, and the likely retirement of even more. In fact, ISO New England has projected that the region needs about 6,000 megawatts of new sources of energy to ensure we’ll have enough to meet demand.
The need for new sources of clean, low-cost energy, like that of the Northern Pass, is strikingly clear. No other proposal in New England is as far along as the Northern Pass is to delivering 1,200 megawatts of energy that will help meet our future needs. The project will also add critical fuel diversity to New England, which currently relies on natural gas to produce more than half its power, making the region vulnerable to supply constraints and price fluctuations.
The energy exists – clean, renewable Canadian hydropower. Northern Pass can bring it to the grid; and, today it’s clear we need that to happen as soon as possible.