And New England Customers Will Pick Up the Entire $48 Million Cost

For years the City of Concord has been asking Northern Pass to agree to bury the high-voltage transmission line that would run through our Capital City. Northern Pass has said no. This  drove the City of Concord, where some transmission towers would be taller than the State House, to intervene in the Site Evaluation Committee proceedings that will decide whether Northern Pass can be built.

All Concord wants is for Northern Pass to agree to bury eight miles of transmission. Northern Pass has always said that would be too expensive.

So the announcement last week by Northern Pass’s partner Hydro Quebec that it had agreed to bury 11 miles of the project’s transmission line in Canada was startling.

Worse, Hydro Quebec assured the people of Quebec that they shouldn’t be concerned about the price tag because New England ratepayers will bear the entire $48 million cost of burying the lines.

That’s right. If Northern Pass is approved by the Site Evaluation Committee and ever becomes operational, the entire cost of constructing 192 miles of new transmission lines in New Hampshire and 49 miles in Quebec will be recouped as part of the price we will pay for the hydro power transmitted from Quebec into the New England market.   

It’s hard to reconcile why it’s acceptable for New Hampshire cosumers to pay for burying 11 miles of the Canadian transmission line with Northern Pass’s position that burying eight miles in Concord, New Hampshire would break the project’s back.

The new additional cost of burying the transmission lines in Quebec also makes it even less likely that New Hampshire businesses and families will see any reduction in electric rates from Northern Pass. That’s because the additional cost of the Canadian burial makes it more improbable that the power transmitted over Northern Pass could be sold into the New England forward capacity market, and any possible benefit to New Hampshire consumers from Northern Pass depends entirely on the power it transmits qualifying to be sold into the forward capacity market.  Even without the additional $48 million in cost for burial in Quebec, it's very possible that this power could not be sold into the forward capacity market due to the overall cost of the project, according to the electricity markets expert for the Office of Public Counsel, Dr. Samuel Newell.   

Northern Pass acknowledges there will be adverse impacts to New Hampshire from the Northern Pass project – the company just contends they aren’t unreasonable adverse impacts. In previous blogs I’ve questioned how the very modest rate reduction predicted by Northern Pass’s own expert justifies its negative impacts.

Dr. Newell’s testimony made it clear that it’s  likely that Northern Pass won’t lower our monthly bills by one cent, so now  there’s a new question – how can the Site Evaluation Committee approve Northern Pass without a guaranty it will lower electric rates for New Hampshire businesses and families?