Mass. RFP Looks Past Northern Pass Following SEC Denial
The State of Massachusetts has turned its eyes to an alternative transmission line proposal now that the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) has voted to deny a permit to Eversource's Northern Pass project. Late in the day on Friday, Feb. 16, the Mass. Dept. of Energy Resources (DOER) announced that they would begin negotiating with a competitor, the "New England Clean Energy Connect" (NECEC) proposal that would run through Maine to meet the purposes of the Mass Clean Energy RFP.
They did not shut the door completely on Northern Pass, giving Eversource till just March 27, 2018 to continue contract negotiations. However, the likelihood of Northern Pass getting through any appeal process by the end of March is low.
According to the DOER statement: "In light of recent developments and in order to execute long term contracts by March 27 and subsequently submit them for DPU approval by April 25, the EDCs, in coordination with DOER and with participation of the IE, took the following actions on February 14, 2018: 1. NPT Hydro was notified that the EDCs will continue conditional contract negotiations with the project, with the option of ceasing discussions with NPT Hydro and terminating its conditional selection by March 27, 2018; and 2. The New England Clean Energy Connect 100% Hydro project (“NECEC Hydro”) was offered to enter into concurrent conditional contract negotiations. If contract negotiations are not successful with NPT, the EDCs are in a position to proceed with the next best project that satisfies the policy directives contained in Section 83D, including the project’s ability to assist the Commonwealth with meeting its GWSA greenhouse gas reduction goals."
The NECEC project is a 145-mile, 1200MW transmission line proposed by Central Maine Power (a subsidiary of Avangrid) in partnership with Hydro-Quebec. Hydro-Quebec had also submitted a bid into the Mass RFP in partnership with the New England Clean Power Link, a proposal from TDI for a 1090MW line that would run under Lake Champlain and under state roads in Vermont. National Grid also submitted a bit involving wind power out of Quebec that would be transmitted along their proposed Granite State Power Link, a 1200MW overhead line that would run through Vermont and New Hampshire.
Should Massachusetts close a contract with the Maine NECEC project, it may well spell the end for Northern Pass regardless of the outcome of any regulatory appeal at the New Hampshire SEC. Over the course of the nearly eight years that Eversource has been pushing Northern Pass it became clear that Hydro-Quebec was not prepared to go forward without a guaranteed contract, such as the Mass RFP, for the energy. In October 2016, Northern Pass was left out of another such contract, the New England Clean Energy RFP in favor of other renewable energy projects.
Press coverage of the Massachusetts decision to begin negotiating with the Maine project includes: