Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Granite State Power Link Makes Pitch To Littleton

Granite State Power Link Makes Pitch To Littleton

No Voiced Concerns Monday

Robert Blechl
Caledonian Record

LITTLETON — Representatives of Granite State Power Link, the 1,200-megawatt capacity transmission line proposed by National Grid to import Canadian hydro and wind power through the Northeast Kingdom into New Hampshire, made their pitch to Littleton Monday.

“Local outreach is essential for what we do with our projects,” GSPL project director Joe Rossignoli said during the regularly scheduled selectmen’s meeting.”We take the local relationship very seriously.”

The first of GSPL’s two segments is a new high-voltage direct current overhead line that would run parallel to an existing HVDC transmission line in an expanded right-of-way from the international border at Norton, Vt., through the NEK to Littleton and then to a converter station on National Grid-owned property in Monroe.

“The compelling argument is it makes use of existing transmission rights-of-way and that drives down development costs and minimizes visual and environmental impacts,” Rossignoli said of the project.

The presentation drew no voiced concerns in Littleton and one expression of support by Selectman Milton Bratz.

Referring to Northern Pass, Bratz said, “Five years ago, we took a stand against another project because of cut trees and large towers. I think this addresses the issues we have back then.”

Bratz said if his two former select board colleagues were still on the board, they would likely agree.

The GSPL differs in several respects from the proposed 1,090-megawatt, $1.6 billion Northern Pass proposal, unpopular with many in the North Country.

In addition to GSPL’s $1 billion development cost being funded by the applicant (National Grid) and its investor (Citizens Energy, of Massachusetts) and not ratepayers, the GSPL would have more capacity, would cost more than a third less, and would be almost adjacent to or within existing transmission corridors, with new towers no taller and others smaller than the ones already there.

Although Northern Pass representatives said they do not view the GSPL as a competitor, both projects are bidding for the same Massachusetts clean energy request for proposal and there can only be one winner.

Because the GSPL will have little to no visual impact and the permitting process is expected to be a smooth one, Rossignoli said he is confident of the GSPL’s chances for the Massachusetts RFP. Bids are due by July.

“Last summer we started thinking of ways to get clean energy from Quebec,” he said, adding that some fossil fuel plants in New England are closing and replacement power is needed.

The company estimates the existing right-of-way would be expanded 150 feet through segments of the Northeast Kingdom and over the Connecticut River into N.H.

In the North Country, 4.6 miles of new line would pass through Littleton and 1.2 through Monroe. Four miles in Littleton and Monroe would use an expanded right-of-way for a new DC line.

In all, five miles of line would be in Monroe, eight-tenths of a mile in Lyman, 7.4 miles in Bath, and 8.7 in Haverhill.

Only voluntary land acquisition with private landowners will be needed and eminent domain will not be used, said Rossignoli.

There will be little to no view shed impact for 106 of the 112 miles in N.H, he said.

The second GSPL segment involves upgrading approximately 107 miles of existing National Grid-owned overhead lines from Monroe to southern New Hampshire to accommodate the additional power flows from the new HVDC line.​

Monday, March 27, 2017

New Hampshire State Probe into Northern Pass Deepens

Amid Conflicting Statements, State Probes Deeper Into Northern Pass

Robert Blechl
Caledonian Record
March 27, 2017

Amid conflicting statements about federal approvals and studies questioning the need for big New England energy projects, the state’s counsel for the public is now asking the burning question – who will pay for Northern Pass?

March has been a rocky road for Eversource Energy, parent company of Northern Pass, after its partner, Hydro-Quebec, confirmed it will no longer pay for the estimated $1.6 billion development of the line in the U.S.

That reimbursement to Eversource by HQ is in a Transmission Service Agreement approved in late 2010 by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and renewed in 2014, with an expiration of February 2017 or another date the partners agree to in writing.

After HQ’s announcement, Eversource spokesman Martin Murray said the TSA remains “in full force.”

Since then, however, FERC spokesman Craig Cano has confirmed to The Caledonian-Record that HQ and Eversource will need a new approval if the financial arrangement has changed, as HQ said it has.

“If the partners develop a different cost recovery mechanism, then they would need to come back to FERC,” said Cano.

Who Pays?

On March 20, Peter Roth, counsel for the public with the office of the N.H. Attorney General, wrote Eversource attorney Marvin Bellis about who specifically will now pay for the Northern Pass line.

“I am concerned that the means for payment and assurance of profitability sought by HQ may have effects on the quantification of the benefits of the project to the people of New Hampshire,” said Roth.

Roth noted a contradiction from Eversource stating that HQ “will not pay to bury the line.” On the same day, however, HQ issued a press release stating it “will not pay for the line in the U.S.”

As proposed, the 192-mile line would see 7 miles buried in Coos County and 52 miles in Grafton County, with the rest overhead.

HQ’s statement about not paying for the line in the U.S. comes after conservation groups in Canada and Quebec’s environmental review board criticized HQ for not burying the line through the Hereford Community Forest near the U.S. border but paying to bury segments of the line in the U.S.

Roth seeks clarification on statements made by Eversource that he said contradict statements by HQ.

He is also asking Eversource to “please explain how HQ will recover the costs of transmission service for use of the project if HQ and [Eversource] are not successful in the Massachusetts RFP” and if the applicants have any responsibility to pay development costs if the project ever comes to fruition.

Roth, too, is asking Eversource to confirm that the TSA filed in 2010 is indeed “the governing agreement between [Eversource] and HQ for paying associated costs with the project and that neither [Eversource] nor HQ are seeking to renegotiate the TSA.”

Energy Studies

Both ISO-New England and the University of N.H. have issued reports that appear to contradict Eversource’s argument for the need of a large energy projects like Northern Pass.

According to the ISO-NE report in May 2015, “The EE [energy efficiency] forecast shows that the energy savings resulting from state-sponsored EE programs can be expected to cause electric energy usage to remain flat in New England as a whole, with energy use in Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont, declining by 2024 to levels below those that had been expected in the 2014 EE forecast. The EE forecast also projects that the EE savings will slow the growth in peak demand across the region.”

On March 7, UNH’s Carsey School of Public Policy issued a report stating, “New England does not need to increase energy use to continue to grow its economy. From 2005 to 2015, real state GDP in New England grew by 9.7 percent while energy use fell by 9.6 percent. Over the same time period real GDP for the entire U.S. grew by 15.2 percent, while energy use fell by 3.4 percent.”

The Carsey report states that during the current period of rapid transformation in energy markets there is significant stranded cost risk to electricity ratepayers for large infrastructure investments with uncertain return on investment.

The report concludes, “New England has adapted to higher electricity prices via improvements in energy efficiency and a transition to a less energy-intensive economy. The energy intensity of the New England economy is much lower than the national average.”

Murray said Massachusetts has a law specifically requiring its electric utilities to enter into contracts to purchase a large amount of hydro electric energy and off-shore wind energy and Northern Pass will respond to the Massachusetts RFP.

Referring to the ISO study, he said the success of the EE does not solve the supply-reliability-price challenge of replacing retiring base-load power plants that help meet demand today.​

Friday, March 10, 2017

Northern Pass - Dead or Alive?

Northern Pass: Hydro-Quebec Now Unwilling To Pay For Line In U.S.

HQ Says Relationship With NP Still Strong, Others Say Project As Proposed Likely Dead

Robert Blechl

March 10, 2017
Caledonian Record

After reports in the Quebec press Wednesday about Hydro-Quebec abandoning Northern Pass, the Canadian company responded Thursday to say it has no intention of pulling out of its relationship with Eversource Energy, its American partner.

One thing that has changed, however, and significantly, is that HQ is no longer willing to pay for the NP line in the United States and wants Massachusetts rate payers to pick up the tab.

That announcement, confirmed by Hydro-Quebec, is a break from the 2011 Transmission Service Agreement between HQ and NP parent company, Eversource Energy, that states HQ would reimburse Eversource for all development costs of the now-estimated $1.6 billion NP transmission line.

That change, in short, means HQ is unwilling to assume all the risk of the project and it now calls into question if it makes economic sense for either partner to proceed with the project as it’s currently proposed.

“Facts on the ground have changed,” said Bob Baker member of the North Country-based Responsible Energy Action LLC, a citizens’ education, advocacy and action group focused on N.H. energy policy.

“The transmission line now costs at least half a billion more than originally planned,” he said. “The capacity of the line has been reduced by 20 percent. The wholesale market price of electricity in New England is lower than its been in 13 years. So the original deal no longer makes sense. It is dead. If there is a new deal, it is slowly being revealed by reading between the inconsistent lines published by HQ and Eversource on their respective sides of the border. HQ is no longer willing to take on the risk of loss.”

HQ’s announcement came after a Wednesday story in Le Journal de Quebec stating HQ would be paying for the line in the U.S.

In a press release Thursday, HQ said “it has no intention to abandon the project” and “wishes to reiterate the position we shared with numerous Quebec media on Wednesday: Hydro-Quebec will not pay for the line in the U.S. [and] Hydro-Quebec will make sure this project is profitable for Quebecers.”

HQ said it now intends to submit the project to the request for proposals that Massachusetts will soon be issuing.

It is unclear, however, if HQ and Eversource N.H. have a renewed Transmission Service Agreement filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

In December 2013, Eversource requested an amendment to its 2011 TSA with HQ, noting delays in the project and stating, “The parties have agreed to replace the term ‘third anniversary’ with the term ‘approval deadline,’ which is defined to mean Feb. 14, 2017, or such other date to which the parties shall mutually agree in writing.”

Spokespersons at FERC said that to date there is no signed and renewed TSA between Eversource and HQ on file.

On Thursday, Eversource spokespersons Martin Murray and Kaitlyn Woods declined to say if Eversource has a renewed TSA with HQ, what the terms of it are, and if it plans to present it to investors to assure them HQ will remain committed and Northern Pass as proposed is moving forward.

Baker said just like the first TSA amendment proposed in December 2013, the parties would want to file it 60 days beforehand to get a FERC approval by February. That hasn’t happened.

In the 2011 TSA, Eversource didn’t take any real risk and the risk was mostly on HQ, said Baker.

“This is how it’s changed,” he said. “HQ now says we will only build NP if the rate payers in New England, and especially in Massachusetts, pay for the transmission line through a long-term contract where they agree to a high rate … They are not going to do the project unless they are guaranteed a payback … They don’t see the profit under the original model.”