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October 18, 2018 | last updated October 18, 2018 12:26 pm

Opponents and advocates make their final arguments on CMP's New England Clean Energy Connect

Courtesy / CMP
Courtesy / CMP
Map showing Central Maine Power's New England Clean Energy Connect transmission proposal to connect Hydro-Quebec power to the New England power grid.

Maine Public Utilities Commission held its final public witness hearing Wednesday on Central Maine Power Co.'s $950 million New England Clean Energy Connect project, at which opponents outnumbered supporters of the 145-mile transmission project to deliver hydro-power from Canada to serve customers in Massachusetts.

The 145-mile transmission corridor extends from the Quebec-Maine border through western Maine to Lewiston, where it will connect with the existing electric grid and deliver 1,200 megawatts of renewable energy to the Bay State, which selected CMP's project over other competing bidders for its Massachusetts Clean Energy RFP.

Maine Public reported that opponents characterized the project as harmful to the natural beauty of western Maine, while it would primarily benefit Massachusett's electricity customers and CMP's parent company Avangrid. Supporters included municipal officials touting property taxes that would result from the project as well as those involved in the construction trades who cited the jobs that would result from construction of the new transmission line.

Maine Public quoted Bill Berney, an engineering director at Stantec Consulting, who pointed out the CMP project would benefit Maine electricity ratepayers, too, with annual savings expected to be $40 million from lower electricity costs resulting from Hydro-Quebec power being delivered to the region's energy supply.

"It should also be noted that the boost to economic activity is fully funded by the state of Massachusetts," Berney said. "Our neighbors in Massachusetts are going to fund this project and benefit the infrastructure here in the state of Maine. I ask why don't we start Monday if Massachusetts is funding it?"

Is Hydro-Quebec project 'green-washing'?

Earlier in the day, Natural Resources Council of Maine released an analysis by environmental and renewable energy organizations that asserts the NECEC project "would not reduce carbon pollution and therefore would have no benefit for climate change. Instead the transmission line would redirect existing generation and enable Hydro-Quebec to profit from 'green-washing' dirty, fossil-fuel power. These findings directly undermine one of the central claims by CMP about why the transmission line is 'needed.'"

A link to the PDF copy of the full 70-page report can be found at the end of this story.

Key assertions made in the report include:

  • "NECEC would divert energy sales from other markets into New England; shifting flows between markets does not reduce total carbon emissions and may even increase them.
  • "Hydro-Quebec can and does buy energy from other low-priced markets and then sells its "green hydropower" into other higher-price markets, potentially creating the same impact on the environment as if Hydro-Quebec were generating power from fossil fuels directly.
  • "NECEC would suppress the development of new renewable energy generation in Maine, which, in contrast to Hydro-Quebec's market-switching strategy, actually could lower carbon emissions, help curb climate change, and provide more local jobs and economic benefits than NECEC."

Business and labor groups come out in support

A joint report by the Lewiston Sun Journal and the Portland Press Herald said a group calling itself "Mainers for Clean Energy Jobs," formed by business and labor leaders, came out Tuesday in support of CMP's NECEC project.

Bob Dudley, director of Mainers for Clean Energy Jobs, said the project would make Maine "a leader in the race against the catastrophic effects of climate change" by reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 265,000 metric tons annually.

Dana Connors, president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, and other businesses cited the thousands of good-paying jobs that would result from the project.

Members of the pro-NECEC group include Maine State Chamber of Commerce, Associated General Contractors of Maine, The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 104, Associated Builders and Contractors of Maine, E.S. Boulos Co. and Cianbro.

"Over the next 10 years, NECEC will pump $1 billion dollars into Maine's economy, including Maine electric consumers saving approximately $200 million by lowering wholesale electric costs," the group stated in a news release. "NECEC will create 1,700 jobs annually for the life of the project and 3,500 jobs at peak construction with a focus on western Maine. It was also deliver $88 million in property tax revenues for towns along its corridor and improved broadband capabilities. The project will deliver up to 1,200 megawatts of clean, renewable hydro-power from Quebec into Maine and New England. In terms of de-carbonization, that's the equivalent of taking 56,000 cars off of our roads."

What comes next

PUC commissioners attended Wednesday's hearing along with PUC staff and a transcriptionist. The public witness hearing transcript will be publicly available in the case file (Docket No. 2017-00232), which may be accessed via the PUC's online website here.

The PUC process now moves on to hearings limited to testimony by parties and individuals who've petitioned for formal intervenor status.

Read more

PUC won't decide CMP's $950M transmission line project until March

PUC cancels next week's hearings over CMP's transmission project

CMP aims to deliver Canadian hydropower to Bay State utilities by 2022

CMP, Hydro Quebec sign 20-year power contract with Massachusetts utilities

CMP to invest $22M in western Maine conservation, tourism projects

Reactions pro and con to CMP's $950M bid emerging as winner

CMP's $950M New England Clean Energy Connect bid emerges the winner

Three companies seek to block CMP's Hydro Quebec transmission project

CMP's $950M proposal selected as 'alternative' clean energy bid by Massachusetts

CMP proposing new transmission line to tap Hydro-Quebec power

DOWNLOAD PDFs

NRCM report on New England Clean Energy Connect

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