Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Not For Sale

The Northern Pass project was rolled out early in Massachusetts and Connecticut as "affordable." In Spring 2009, a Massachusetts publication, Affordable Energy News, explained why a participant-funded (private) line was so attractive; at a conference in Hartford in October, 2010, HQ-US also touted the low costs of Northern Pass to rate-payers.

From "New Transmission Line Could Bring Canadian Hydro Power to Massachusetts," Affordable Energy News, Spring 2009.

"A frequent and often tumultuous debate around new transmission lines is who would pay for the costs associated with the new line. According to the proponents, 'the transaction proposed by the Petitioners resolves difficult and highly contentious cost allocation for new transmission. . . .
If the (proposed) HVDC Line were constructed as a Market Efficiency Upgrade and included in regional rates, the costs would be spread throughout New England, which is almost certain to create opposition'."

Instead, Hydro Quebec-US would directly pay for construction costs and receive transmission rights over the line, taking the risk of selling enough power to recover costs. Thus, the project would avoid "difficult issues regarding the benefit that different parts of the region would receive and the associated difficulties related to transmission cost allocation for a non-reliabilty project." Connecticut also supported the instant transaction and the funding mechanism, the article notes. It's easy to understand why.

(The full text of the article is here.)

On October 4, 2010, Steve Molodetz, VP of business development at HQ-US, addressed a business conference, "What's the Deal?," in Hartford CT.  Molodetz also stressed that Northern Pass would be a participant-funded venture with “zero impact on transmission rates” and no government or ratepayer subsidies, according to the report of the conference sponsor, the Connecticut Business & Industry Association (CBIA).

Mr. Molodetz's power point presentation dated 9/30/2010 may be seen here. "Benefits to New England" of Northern Pass are on page 16.

New Hampshire is not just a line on a project map, however. If the true full costs of the proposed project were calculated and borne by those in Southern New England who stand to benefit from it, Northern Pass would not be so "affordable" and attractive. These costs would far exceed compensation for NH land purchased or taken by eminent domain for new and widened ROWs. They would have to include the impacts of the 140-mile transmission line on New Hampshire tourism and recreation, real estate values, property taxes, jobs, lost income and home equity, and more.

But even if a "user-pays" or true cost internalization system were adopted, it could never compensate for what is beyond price: a pristine backcountry, the White Mountains, the Great North Woods, physical places that are ideas in the mind as well, refuges for the urban weary, for the many people in Massachusetts and Connecticut, Rhode Island, and down below who flock across our border in search of solitude and its wilderness values. These things cannot be bought; they are not for sale.