The health of the economy is a constant concern for people who live in the North Country. As paper mills and other companies have closed down, the region has turned to other industries to keep their economy moving. The tourism and hospitality industry is one, providing hundreds of jobs in hotels, inns, restaurants, gas stations and local stores. Summer, fall foliage, and ski and snowmobile season are all busy times for these North Country businesses, but as anyone from up north will tell you, tourism sharply drops in the late fall and in spring.
Getting through these lean times can be a challenge for both workers and businesses owners. Having something else to draw people to the region besides tourism, such as large-scale construction projects, can help, according to Scott Labnon, owner of the Town & Country Inn and Resort in Shelburne. In this video, Labnon talks about how large construction projects helped give a boost to his family business. During construction of the Burgess biomass plant and the federal prison in Berlin, the Town & Country saw an uptick in business in their restaurant and lounge. This kept the Inn busy during typically slow times and led to the hiring of more staff.
Northern Pass will be one of the largest construction projects in New Hampshire, requiring hundreds of workers. Like these other projects, Northern Pass will bring more business into local communities.
“I’m sure all the diners and restaurants along the Route 3 corridor heading up to Colebrook would see a big influx,” said Labnon.
Watch the video to hear more of what Labnon has to say about the economic boost large construction projects have brought to the North Country.
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
Low temps and high energy prices highlight challenges facing regional energy grid
The past week has brought us some typical New England winter weather, including bitterly cold temperatures and a good deal of snow. These wintry conditions are what we have come to expect this time of year, but it’s been anything but normal on the region’s energy grid.
The region relies heavily on natural gas as a fuel source for electricity, but natural gas supplies are tight because of limited space on the pipeline supplying New England. This has led to price spikes on the wholesale market. Normal prices of $30 to $40 per megawatt hour have increased up to 5 times the normal cost and fluctuated between $100 to $200 per megawatt hour.
In one instance this past weekend, prices rose to $1,000 per megawatt hour and grid operators, ISO-New England, was forced to implement a series of emergency measures to maintain the reliability of the grid and avoid power outages. It asked for a delay in any routine maintenance or testing that would affect power generation or transmission, and on Saturday, it tapped emergency reserves and bought the power it needed from the New York energy grid.
With limited gas supplies and rising prices, power generators are increasing their use of coal and oil to keep the lights on. In fact, the region “maxed out” all the available coal and nuclear resources in the region for prolonged stretches during the past week. This should make New Englanders take note – especially our elected leaders and policy makers. The region is anticipating several high-profile coal and nuclear plants will close in the come years, like Vermont Yankee and Brayton Point.
The operation of the grid during the conditions of the past week adds further to the mounting evidence that New England needs to develop new sources of clean, low-cost, and reliable energy. Northern Pass is a proposed transmission line that would bring clean, renewable hydropower from Canada into the New England power grid, and we believe is part of the region’s energy solution.
Here’s how Northern Pass can help New England meet its clean energy goals:
ICYMI: Recent news about New England’s energy supply crunch
“Region’s electric grid feeling strain of cold-weather demand” New Hampshire Union Leader, Dec. 18
“It’s time to list to the region’s energy experts,” The Salem News, Dec. 17
“New England narrowly escapes power outages,” Forbes Magazine online, Dec. 15
“NE Governors’ game-plan for energy boost,” Hartford Courant, Dec. 13
“Tight pipelines hinder natural gas chance,” New Hampshire Union Leader, Dec. 11
“Is Boston the new Japan?” Real Clear Energy, Dec. 9
“The horrible lack of planning that could force New England into a serious energy crisis this winter,” Forbes Magazine, Dec. 5
A Massachusetts coal-fired power plant is heading toward retirement, making it the latest in a series of New England power plants to announce it will close its doors. The closing is seen by many as another step toward reaching New England’s clean energy goals; however, energy officials are concerned that these plant closings will threaten the region’s ability to make the power it needs to reliably meet the electricity demands.
Brayton Point Power Station in Somerset filed papers on Oct. 7 indicating it will no longer provide power to the New England energy grid after May 2017. When it closes, 1,500 megawatts of power generation capacity will be removed from the New England grid. Marcia Blomberg, a spokeswoman for ISO New England, told the Boston Globe that the New England power grid operator is studying potential effects of Brayton Point’s retirement and indicated it could ask Brayton remain open.
“We can’t prevent a resource from retiring, but if our study shows that a resource is needed for reliability,” she said, “they don’t have to stay, but we can ask.”
One of ISO-New England’s main roles is to project the region’s energy needs in the years ahead, as well as analyzing whether the region has the generation capacity to meet those needs. . Following a recent review of 2017-2018, an ISO memo reported a projected shortfall. If all the plants set to close retire as planned, the memo states, the New England grid will fall 1,540 megawatts below its capacity requirements, meaning the region’s available power plants could no longer provide enough power to reliably meet demand.
The ISO-New England memo says the forecast “is indicative that the region will require new capacity to satisfy” New England’s energy needs.
Another indication that New England will require additional sources of energy is last winter’s natural gas supply crunch. As we wrote about in a previous post, ISO-New England came close to imposing blackouts last winter due to constraints on the supply of natural gas that the region depends on for electrical generation.
“If we had lost one more big generator or a transmission line, we would have had to resort to our emergency procedures,” Executive Vice President and CEO for ISO-New England Vamsi Chadalavada told the New Hampshire Union Leader. “Those procedures are to call on help from neighboring areas, then to call for voluntary conservation, and if that’s not sufficient, to institute controlled power outages … We came quite close.”
If New England’s power grid was strained during a normal winter, the recent announcement that Brayton Point will retire – as well as other power plants like Vermont Yankee – only adds to concerns that New England is coming close to being unable to meet its energy needs.
Looking further into the future, ISO-New England projects roughly 25 percent of New England’s power plants are headed for retirement by 2020, representing 8,300 megawatts of electricity generation. ISO-New England estimates that more than 5,000 megawatts of new generation will be needed to meet the region’s needs, but where that energy will come from is uncertain.
We believe that providing access to the 1,200 megawatts of clean hydropower from the Northern Pass can help fill this energy gap. The project will provide a base load source of clean, renewable energy available for regular use and during times of peak demand. Shifting from fossil fuels to more renewable sources of energy is a positive step for New England, but as older power plants close, new energy projects like Northern Pass must be developed to ensure there is enough power for the millions of homes and businesses throughout New Hampshire and New England.
We were pleased to participate in a project update and site tour today for the Groveton Cell Tower project atop Morse Mountain. This much needed project will boost broadband and cellular coverage in the Groveton area and help economic development efforts in the region. We’d like to thank the many project partners and stakeholders that helped move this great project forward and we look forward to working collaboratively on more community initiatives in the future.
A news release distributed by the project partners on today’s update and site tour is posted below.
North Country Communication Tower near Completion
Northern Pass, NCIC, PSNH and others mark project milestone
Groveton, NH (October 21, 2013) – Communications in New Hampshire’s North Country will see a marked improvement with the completion of a new multi-use communication tower. Construction of the structure on the summit of Morse Mountain in Groveton is nearly complete, marking a major achievement in the challenge to fill existing gaps in the area’s broadband and cellular coverage. Members of the area media were provided today with a tour of the site where construction is underway.
“Communication projects like this are comparable to the building of our highway system many years ago,” said Gary Long, on behalf of Northern Pass, a project sponsor. “They bring economic and educational opportunities to communities in need.”
In the future, the 195 foot high structure will host cellular calling equipment that will improve safety and emergency response, benefiting the local community as well as tourists in the region. Internet service is also expected to benefit, by strengthening an existing wireless network.
“The future is getting brighter for Groveton,” said Jon Freeman, president of the Northern Community Investment Corporation (NCIC). “Our area businesses will see tremendous benefit from this project. It is difficult to compete in today’s economy without cell service and high-speed Internet. Now, with the structure nearly complete, our goal is in sight.”
Freeman thanked the partners who worked to secure funding and approval for the communications tower, including the Economic Development Administration, the Northern Borders Regional Commission, the Northern Pass project and Public Service of New Hampshire, which provided substantial funds that allowed the project to move forward.
“We are delighted to be part of this important initiative,” said Gary Long. “It takes a collaborative effort to turn big ideas into big successes. This was a great team effort, and Northern Pass is looking forward to more opportunities like this in the future.”
The tower infrastructure will be completed this month. Equipment used to communicate with PSNH crews will be placed on it soon, and it is expected that area fire and law enforcement communication gear may soon follow. There are plans next spring to install equipment to strengthen an existing network that provides Internet service – and, several national wireless networks are considering utilizing the tower to expand service in the area.
Groveton Regional Economic Action Team (GREAT)
Northern Border Regional Commission
Northern Community Investment Corporation (NCIC)
Northern Pass Transmission LLC
Public Service of New Hampshire
U.S. Economic Development Administration
“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.
The project recently announced a $7.5 million jobs creation fund aimed specifically at increasing employment in the North Country. The announcement of the fund follows months of discussions with local leaders and business people about the economic challenges in Coös County, and how the project can bring additional value to the area that is above and beyond the construction jobs and tax benefits associated with the project.
The fund will be managed by an advisory group made up of Coös County business and economic development leaders and elected officials and will ultimately decide what jobs creation efforts will be funded, and at what amounts.
Gary Long, President of Renewable Energy Development for New Hampshire, along with Former State Senator John Gallus and Allen Bouthillier of A.B. Logging announced the creation of the fund at an event in Lancaster at A.B. Logging on August 19th.
Over the past several weeks there has been a steady stream of news reports from across New England regarding the region’s over-reliance on natural gas and the serious challenges it caused the electric grid this winter.
We share the concerns that ISO-New England and others have expressed. With our over-reliance on natural gas now threatening the reliability of the region’s energy grid, the need for the Northern Pass project is clear, and we are working hard to advance the project so that it will help to address this critical issue.
The project’s top priorities in developing a new route have and continue to be to bring forth the best proposal for New Hampshire, and to address the concerns raised with our first routing proposal regarding the project’s potential effect on views. Our work to achieve these goals continues.
Although we have identified a new route which meets our project requirements, we believe it is in the best of interest of landowners, communities, and all stakeholders for us to continue to build on the details of this proposal and to take the time now to make some additional refinements before we begin the formal public review processes at both the state and federal levels.
It is clear now, more than ever, that the region needs new sources of clean, low cost power to diversify our power supply and secure our energy future. The Northern Pass will help to provide that energy diversity, while creating new jobs and tax revenue for New Hampshire – all at no cost to customers.
At a meeting of ISO-New England’s Consumer Liaison Group last week, officials again warned of the risks associated with the region’s over-reliance on natural gas. This most recent warning, however, was considerably more serious than ISO-NE leadership has shared previously.
In a Sunday news story, Vamsi Chadalavada, ISO-NE Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, told Dave Solomon of the New Hampshire Union Leader that ISO had come close to imposing blackouts due to constraints on the supply of natural gas that fuels most the region’s power plants.
“If we had lost one more big generator or a transmission line, we would have had to resort to our emergency procedures,” said Vamsi Chadalavada, executive vice president and chief operating officer for the Independent System Operator of the New England power grid (ISO-NE), based in Holyoke, Mass. “Those procedures are to call on help from neighboring areas, then to call for voluntary conservation, and if that’s not sufficient, to institute controlled power outages … We came quite close.”
In another Sunday news story, Nashua Telegraph writer David Brooks reported similar comments from New Hampshire Public Utilities Commissioner Michael Harrington, who stated, “This was a normal January and February, yet we came very close to having rolling blackouts. What happens if we have a very cold winter? We could be in trouble.”
While this issue of New England’s over-reliance on natural gas has been making news since last summer, it’s clear the close call the region experienced this winter is bringing this issue into greater focus.
Diversifying the region’s energy portfolio must be a major component of any solution to address this issue, as well as considering New England’s pipeline capacity. Northern Pass will not only bring diversity to the region’s energy portfolio, but will also drive down energy costs while creating jobs and millions in new tax revenues in New Hampshire. Given the short term risks to the grid that are now becoming apparent, the ability for Northern Pass be in operation as soon as late 2016 to mid-2017 provides further value to New England.
It is interesting to consider this recent news and the prospect of blackouts in New England at a time when some continue to claim Northern Pass is not needed. The facts tell a different story. More than ever, we need new sources of clean, low cost power to diversify our power supply and secure our energy future. Simply put, energy diversity equals energy security. Northern Pass will help provide that diversity to our energy portfolio while creating new jobs and tax revenue for New Hampshire – all at no cost to customers.
The board of directors of the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce recently endorsed the Northern Pass project and Chamber President Chris Williams published a guest commentary in Sunday’s Nashua Telegraph detailing why the group believes the project is good for New Hampshire businesses and residents.
In his commentary, Williams cites the need for fuel diversity, lower energy costs, and clean energy as the key drivers behind the Chamber’s support for the project:
“This project is anticipated to bring lower-cost energy to New Hampshire that is environmentally sound and provides more diversity to New England’s long-term energy landscape.”
The Greater Nashua Chamber joins the Greater Manchester Chamber in supporting Northern Pass. The Greater Nashua and Manchester Chambers are the two largest Chambers in New Hampshire.