February 2, 2018

N.H. regulators reject $1.6B Northern Pass clean energy project

After two days of hearings this week, New Hampshire state regulators unanimously rejected Eversource Energy's application for its $1.6 billion Northern Pass transmission project to deliver more than 1,000 megawatts of renewable power from Hydro-Quebec to Massachusetts.

The 7-0 decision by the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee to reject the 192-mile Northern Pass proposal by Eversource (NYSE: ES) comes a week after the company was announced as the only winning bidder of Massachusetts' Clean Energy RFP seeking 20-year power purchase agreements that would help it meet ambitious clean energy goals. It represents a significant speed bump, if not outright roadblock, that could result in Massachusetts' evaluators reopening the Bay State's Clean Energy RFP and selecting one or more of the bidders previously rejected.

Among them is Central Maine Power Co.'s competing $950 million New England Clean Energy Connect proposal that also proposed tapping Hydro-Quebec to deliver more than 1,000 megawatts of hydropower to Massachusetts. CMP had acquired about a 54-mile right-of-way in western Maine from what the utility already owned to the Maine-Quebec border and its overall project consisted of 145 miles of new high voltage direct current transmission line that would tie into the existing grid to deliver the power to Massachusetts.

Eversource 'shocked and outraged'

Eversource released the following statement Thursday following the New Hampshire SEC's rejection of its Northern Pass application: "We are shocked and outraged by today's SEC outcome. The process failed to comply with New Hampshire law and did not reflect the substantial evidence on the record. As a result, the most viable near-term solution to the region's energy challenges, as well as $3 billion of N.H. job, tax and other benefits, are now in jeopardy. Clearly, the SEC process is broken and this decision sends a chilling message to any energy project contemplating development in the Granite State. We will be seeking reconsideration of the SEC's decision, as well as reviewing all options for moving this critical clean energy project forward."

Other projects waiting in the wings

More than 50 other proposals — including CMP's competing NECEC bid and Emera Inc.'s proposed 1,000MW Atlantic Canada and Southern New England project — were passed over by Massachusetts' evaluators of the RFPs. But the Bay State's selection of Eversource's Northern Pass proposal is contingent on the project gaining required regulatory approvals, including from the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities, and a final acceptance of the bid.

"If the bid selected to advance to contract negotiation at this stage does not successfully negotiate contracts, it may result in other bid(s) being selected to advance to contract negotiations," Massachusetts' evaluators stated on the Clean Energy RFP's website.

Both CMP and Emera Inc., the Halifax, Nova Scotia-based parent company of Emera Maine, have stated publicly they are proceeding with their respective projects, notwithstanding last week's rejection of their bids.

"It's important in this business to have a long-term perspective, because projects like this take a long time to develop from concept to completion," CMP spokesman John Carroll told Mainebiz in a written statement last Friday. "In this case, the possibility of moving the in-service date from 2022 to 2020 with the Northern Pass Transmission seems to have been important, maybe decisive, so we want to make sure we're well along in our planning and permitting for the next opportunity. … Interest in renewable energy is strong throughout New England, and the success of the Massachusetts' RFP may encourage other states to pursue similar proposals."

What's next?

The Associated Press reported in the Concord, N.H., Monitor, that the SEC's 7-0 rejection of Northern Pass was based on "concerns about its impact on local business, tourism and development in the region, especially in the northern part of the state."

The AP reported that the Massachusetts attorney general's office said the rejection by New Hampshire regulators raised concerns about the Bay State's ability to begin receiving Canadian hydro-power by 2020, as stated in the Northern Pass bid proposal.

"At a minimum, it appears today's development requires re-evaluation of the selection of Northern Pass. The Attorney General's Office remains committed to an open and transparent review and we will be following this closely," Chloe Gotsis, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Maura Healey, told the AP.

The AP article also reported that Hydro-Quebec said it was analyzing the N.H. decision.

The AP reported that Northern Pass had been granted permits by the Energy Department and the U.S. Forest Service, but still needed a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit related to its impact on wetlands and the power supplier, Hydro-Quebec, needs project approval from the national electric board in Canada.

Read more

Emera parent company, like CMP, to proceed with its clean energy project

CMP to proceed, despite losing Bay State clean energy bid to Northern Pass project

CMP touts $950M bid as best deal among clean energy bidders

New proposal would deliver northern Maine wind power to Boston

CMP proposing new transmission line to tap Hydro-Quebec power


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