It was a big year for Northern Pass. In 2015, we announced the Forward NH Plan and a unveiled a redesigned route that includes underground along roads in and around the White Mountain National Forest and Franconia Notch region. The plan has nearly $4 billion in benefits for New Hampshire and the region, including reduced energy costs, increased tax revenues for New Hampshire communities, a $2.1 billion boost to the state economy and the creation of 2,400 jobs.
Northern Pass also filed its application with the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (SEC), the state’s siting authority for significant energy projects. We held five Public Information Sessions where residents learned more about the project and submitted comments to the SEC, and we met with municipalities and residents along the route throughout the fall, answering their questions and gathering their feedback.
As the year comes to a close and we prepare for 2016, we wanted to look at the milestones Northern Pass has already reached, and also provide you with information about the next steps the project will take.
January 29: The Coös County Jobs Creation Association announces its members made up of local residents and business owners.
March 26: Northern Pass partners with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to create the $3 million Partners for New Hampshire’s Fish and Wildlife. The program aims to protect and restore healthy forests and rivers throughout the state through grants to local organizations doing work to sustain local habitats.
July 21: The Department of Energy releases its draft Environmental Impact Statement, examining the potential impact the project could have on the environment and economy. It shows overall potential visual impact of the project will be low to very low, that Northern Pass will generate $564 million in economic output during construction, and will reduce regional carbon emissions by 8 percent.
August 18: Northern Pass announces the Forward NH Plan, which includes 52 additional miles of underground line, for a total of 60 miles underground, and nearly $4 billion in benefits.
August 31: Hydro-Québec and Eversource Energy reaffirm their commitment to bring clean, competitively-priced electricity to New Hampshire and the region.
September 2-10: Northern Pass held a series of pre-application Public Information Sessions in all five counties where the project will be located as part of our SEC filing process.
October 19: Northern Pass files its application with the SEC.
November 12: The U.S. Department of Energy releases a supplement to the draft Environmental Impact Statement, which focused on the portions of the route that include additional underground lines.
December 7: The SEC votes unanimously that the Northern Pass application is complete.
December 18: The SEC issues a written order officially deeming the Northern Pass application complete and moving the project forward in the state permitting process.
The New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) process will continue with five post-application Public Information Sessions in January.
The Department of Energy will also host a series of public hearings where residents can comment on the draft Environmental Impact Statement on Northern Pass. The times and locations will be announced soon.
Includes an improved route with additional underground line and more benefits for New Hampshire.
Today we announced significant changes to the Northern Pass project as part of a newly unveiled Forward New Hampshire Plan. This major development eliminates potential view impacts in around the White Mountain National Forest, the Appalachian Trail, and Franconia Notch area by burying an additional 52 miles of line – for a total of 60 miles of underground line – and eliminating more than 400 structures in this region.
These route changes and the entire Forward NH Plan are the results of conversations we’ve had with people across New Hampshire. They are part of a balanced solution that provides clean, affordable energy our region needs and unique benefits to New Hampshire while also addressing the concerns about potential view impacts.
Beyond additional burial, the Forward NH Plan will deliver more than $3 billion in direct economic benefit to New Hampshire, including 2,400 jobs during construction, $80 million annually in lower energy costs for New Hampshire – as well as additional energy costs savings from a Power Purchase Agreement for Eversource NH customers – $30 million in annual tax benefits and a more than $2 billion increase in the state’s economic activity. The project will also create a $200 million “Forward NH Fund” dedicated to supporting initiatives in tourism, economic development, community investment, and clean energy innovations, with an emphasis on North Country opportunities.
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
Grid Operator Finds Clean Energy Project Can Reliably Interconnect to New England
Manchester, NH (December 31, 2013) The Northern Pass, a proposed transmission line carrying low-cost renewable hydroelectric power to New Hampshire and New England, today cleared a major regulatory milestone by securing “I.3.9 approval” by ISO New England, the operators of the region’s power grid .
“We are pleased with ISO New England’s findings on this issue as it’s the culmination of years of hard work by our project team,” said Mike Skelton, Northern Pass spokesperson. “We look forward to continuing this progress as the federal and state permitting processes continue in 2014.”
The I.3.9 process determines whether Northern Pass can reliably interconnect with the New England grid. By approving the project’s I.3.9 application, ISO New England determined Northern Pass will have no significant, adverse effect on the reliability or operating characteristics of the regional energy grid and its participants. All energy projects must secure this approval in order to be connected to the regional power grid.
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
Recently, the New England Power Generators Association (NEPGA) filed a complaint with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) regarding concerns it has with the design of ISO New England’s Forward Capacity Market. The complaint also includes several important comments from the trade group on the state of the regional energy market and its future reliability.
In the complaint, NEPGA states New England is facing an “impending reliability crisis” and that the regional energy market is in “distress” as the retirement of existing power plants is expected to create a “shortfall of more than 1500 megawatts in the next forward capacity auction,” which is a process ISO uses to incent development of assets needed for future energy needs.
NEPGA also states that absent changes to the market, it expects “the continuing retirement of economic resources, erosion of critical fuel diversity in the region, higher long term costs to consumers.”
We are pleased to see NEPGA is finally recognizing the significant challenges facing the regional energy market. We have made the case for more than two years that New England’s growing over-reliance on natural gas and the projected loss of 8000 megawatts of generation assets threatens the reliable operation of the grid and exposes customers to volatile prices and higher costs.
Northern Pass is a real and practical solution to the region’s energy challenges that will also bring direct and substantial economic benefits to New Hampshire. The project will deliver 1200 megawatts of clean, low-cost hydropower to New Hampshire, reducing energy costs and providing the region with much needed fuel diversity. Northern Pass stands alone as the only proposed source of new base load energy that is in a position to help the region meet its future energy needs.
The governors of the six New England states announced on Thursday their commitment to work together on the energy challenges that face the region. This historic agreement sets the groundwork for future energy development that will lower energy costs, ensure power grid reliability and expand the use of clean, renewable energy. In their joint statement, the governors say:
“We believe that by working together we can expand economic development, promote job growth, improve the competitiveness of our industries, enhance system reliability, and protect and increase the quality of life of our citizens. Expanding our existing efforts will ensure that we are on a course toward a transformed energy, environment, and economic future for our region that offers a model for the nation.”
We agree. This is a positive development for our region and further shows why powering New Hampshire into the future is not only a state issue, but also a regional one. Today, we released the following statement:
We are pleased to see the New England Governors working cooperatively on the significant energy challenges facing our region. There is a clear need to develop new sources of clean and reliable energy that will both lower energy costs and reduce carbon emissions. ISO-New England consistently warns that our region is over-reliant on natural gas and is about to experience the major loss of power generation through the retirement and closure of plants. We have a unique and exciting opportunity to transform our energy future.
We believe Northern Pass is an ideal fit with the goals outlined in this agreement. We understand that regional leaders must consider a multitude of options to address our energy challenges; no other project in all of New England comes closer to being able to deliver – any sooner or more economically – than Northern Pass.
We look forward to working with Governor Hassan and all of our partners in the region in the months ahead.
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.
Northern Pass stands alone as the only project in New England that requires no customer subsidy and will bring clean, low-cost hydro power along with direct and substantial economic benefits to New Hampshire. Northern Pass has a proposed route and a firm agreement with an energy supplier (Hydro Québec) to pay the project costs.
Everyone agrees that New England is in serious need of new sources of base load energy to meet future energy demands. The power grid operator, ISO New England, projects that 8,000 megawatts of generating capacity are at risk of retiring by 2020, and, in just the last month, we’ve seen actual announcements that more than 2,000 megawatts of energy will soon be gone. As a region, the ISO projects we need to construct more than 5,000 megawatts of new generation assets in the coming years to keep the grid running. Northern Pass is a large part of the solution, and yet the region must continue to look for additional new energy sources.
TDI New England, a private transmission line developer, this week announced a proposal to construct a 1,000 megawatt line to connect a yet-to-be determined energy source from Québec to New England. The proposal calls for a line placed underwater for 100 miles through Lake Champlain and then underground for 50 miles through Vermont along an undetermined route.
Instead of putting such a proposal in the perspective of the region’s larger energy challenges, some groups are using the announcement as an opportunity to attack Northern Pass and to mislead the public by making “apples to oranges” comparisons. It is an unfortunate reality that these groups, including the Conservation Law Foundation and the Forest Society, are willing to put their own special interests and fundraising campaigns before the needs of the region.
This new proposal is an interesting concept but it is disingenuous to compare it to Northern Pass. It joins other merchant project trial balloons that may never get off the ground. Northern Pass is farther along compared to this and other conceptual proposals, and is positioned very well to earn required permits and move forward. Since announcing the project three years ago and unveiling our improved route in June of this year, we’ve made significant headway toward clearing regulatory and technical hurdles, and anticipate beginning operations in 2017. There are several other fundamental differences between Northern Pass and this new TDI proposal, including:
We take it as a positive sign that others are proposing solutions to meet the region’s significant energy challenges. All proposals need to be considered, and it is clear that no single “silver bullet” project will address all the region’s challenges at once. Meanwhile, the facts are clear that Northern Pass is a legitimate project with a firm partner, proven technology, a viable route, and will bring direct and substantial economic, energy, and environmental benefits to New Hampshire and New England.