Questions Arise Over Who Would Ultimately Pay for Northern Pass

SOURCE: NH Journal: An InsideSources Publication
AUTHOR: Kyle Plantz

In the past week, there have been several questions raised about the cost of the Northern Pass project and who is poised to pick up the cost once it’s completed. It also led to some public scuffles in the media between Hydro-Québec (HQ) and its New Hampshire partner, Eversource.

On Thursday, both companies said they remain committed to the $1.6 billion project to transport 1,090 megawatts of electricity to New England from Canada to Deerfield through 192 miles of hydroelectric power lines.

“Eversource and Hydro-Québec have had a long-standing partnership to develop a transmission project that would deliver much-needed clean hydropower from Québec to New England energy consumers,” according to a statement from Eversource.

But just one day prior, in three Le Journal de Québec articles, it appeared that HQ was reassessing its financial arrangement with Eversource. One article claimed HQ would pay to bury about 60 miles of the line, mostly through the White Mountain National Forest, but refused to bury about 11 miles of the line in Canada, despite pleas from local residents.

A second article stated that HQ has assumed the risks of the project and would have to pay the entire cost. Yet, a HQ official claimed New England consumers would ultimately pay for the $500 million additional cost for burying the lines and the entire Northern Pass project — a private transmission line for the exclusive use of HQ.

The third article suggested that HQ was considering abandoning the project if it wouldn’t be profitable for Québec residents. HQ is a crown corporation, meaning it’s a business essentially owned by the Province of Québec.

On March 8, HQ spokesman Serge Abergel told 98.5 FM that his company “will not pay a penny to build the line in the United States.” He argued that Hydro-Québec wanted “the transportation costs to be borne by the American customer and that’s what the partner Eversource says too.”

But in the Northern Pass statement, the company reiterated that the cost of the project will not fall on New Hampshire customers.

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A Mess for Eversource, HydroQuebec

SOURCE: Concord Monitor
AUTHOR: Dolly McPhaul

HydroQuebec, Eversource’s partner in the Northern Pass project, is encountering problems in Canada. The Bureau of Public Hearings on the Environment is expressing concerns regarding the environmental impact of the 48 miles of lines connecting the dams to the Northern Pass project. The Nature Conservancy of Canada called the project “environmentally backward.” Another concern is the unknown profitability of the project due to the high cost of construction balanced against the decreasing energy costs in the U.S. and due to the lack of a firm supply agreement.

The recent power auction held in Massachusetts stated there was easily enough power available to meet the needs for 2020-21 and will cost ratepayers less than last year (without Northern Pass power). Eversource, despite the reduction in energy costs, helped keep the rates paid by consumers high, by raising its transmission rates to such a point the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission began an investigation.

The Champlain Hudson Power Express and the New England Clean Power Link, both competitors of Northern Pass, have received their permits and HydroQuebec is in discussions with both projects – not good news for Northern Pass.

In breaking news, HydroQuebec and Eversource were disagreeing over who will pay for the transmission construction costs in the U.S. Canadian papers published stories stating Eversource’s website claimed HydroQuebec would pay for the cost of burial construction in the U.S. (confirmed by a spokesperson at Eversource). HydroQuebec immediately issued a press release on March 8 stating: “We won’t pay a cent for the NP transmission line on the American side. American consumers will pay the transmission costs in the U.S. through their electricity rates.”

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Is Eversource’s Northern Pass Project in Trouble Despite Its Influence in New Hampshire?

SOURCE: Caledonian Record
AUTHOR: Dolly McPhaul

Eversource’s Northern Pass (NP) project seems to be incurring problems their lobbyists and influence in the NH state government may not be able to “fix.”

Eversource’s influence has been repeatedly evident with bills in the state Legislature, at the Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) during its rule making process and now during the decision making phase of the NP project.

The application for the NP was accepted by the SEC as complete, even though the NP does not have total control of its route, has 13 “blank” pages in its application and does not have sufficient information for many of its studies. This acceptance is against the committee’s own rules.

The company knows it is in trouble when, after stating repeatedly it will not cost the ratepayers of NH, it is attempting, through SB 128, to eliminate competition and to make us pay after all.

It is time the NP realizes that its project, with its antiquated towers and lines, its partner’s increasing environmental problems in Canada, a tenacious public in NH who will not tolerate above ground lines and towers, a reduction of energy needs, a reduction of energy costs, failure to be included in the sources of energy for the 2020-2021 auction, disagreement with HydroQuebec over funding, HydroQuebec’s talking with its competitors and even discussing termination of the NP project creates a very negative outlook for Eversource, the Northern Pass and its stockholders.

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Hydro Refutes Reported $500 Million Subsidy to Bury U.S. Cable

SOURCE: The Suburban
AUTHOR: Robert Frank

Hydro Quebec denies that it granted a half-billion dollar concession to its American partners to bury a 100 km stretch of high-tension line through the White Mountains, after New Hampshire residents complained that giant aerial towers would desecrate the pristine forest there.

“Massachusetts has a very keen interest in purchasing Hydro power,” spokeswoman Lynn St. Laurent told The Suburban in an interview, March 13. “It will be launching a request for proposals (RFP) in the coming weeks for 9.45 terawatt-hours [of energy].”

The provincial government’s electrical energy monopoly reportedly would reimburse the cost of burying the line through annual concessions, according to its partner, American developer Eversource’s subsidiary Northern Pass Transmission, which stated that it will recover its costs from Hydro over the 40-year term of its agreement and that it will own and operate the transmission line and related facilities.

“Most importantly, New Hampshire residents will not pay any of the cost of building or operating the Northern Pass project,” Northern Pass said on its web site.

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Is Hydro-Quebec Having Second Thoughts About Northern Pass?

SOURCE: Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests
AUTHOR: Jack Savage

There appear to be legitimate questions about whether the long-standing financial agreement between Hydro-Quebec and Eversource for the financing of the proposed Northern Pass transmission line has fallen apart due to a changing energy market.

The issue went public the week of March 6 when Quebec stakeholders began asking why the state-owned mega utility was paying to bury part of the line in the U.S., but refused to do so in Quebec. That led to a series of public statements that highlighted HQ’s desire to have New England electricity consumers pay for the cost of Northern Pass, a private transmission line for the exclusive use of HQ. Provocative headlines in Quebec papers claimed that “Hydro-Quebec is Considering Abandoning the Northern Pass Project”.

And, as reported by Robert Blechl of the Caledonian-Record, the evidence of the rift between Eversource and HQ is the absence of a renewed Transmission Services Agreement (TSA). The previous TSA, which had been renewed in 2014 to much acclaim by Eversource execs at the time, expired in February 2017. The TSA has long been touted by Eversource as the key difference between Northern Pass and a competing private transmission line project in Vermont, the New England Clean Power Link (NECPL).

The TSA is important in that it outlines how Eversource is paid to build the Northern Pass line if it is ever approved. It is unclear at this point how the absence of a TSA might impact the upcoming ‘trial’ portion of the Northern Pass docket that is before the NH Site Evaluation Committee (SEC). The SEC adjudicative process is already behind schedule, and may prove difficult to complete for any decision to be rendered by the scheduled date of September 30, 2017.

The Forest Society has asked Sen. Jeanne Shaheen to make inquiries at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) about the status of the TSA between Hydro-Quebec and Eversource. FERC must approve such TSAs.

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