The Hippo


May 31, 2020








Northern Pass Progress in 2017

In January, the Supreme Court ruled it was allowed to use public highways to bury transmission lines. 
In March the state Department of Environmental Services issued four key permits. 
In April, the state Department of Transportation issued its final report recommending the project to the SEC. 
In June, the Public Utilities Commission approved a plan for the transmission lines to cross certain public lands and public waters. 
In July, Eversource and Hydro-Quebec submitted two proposals in response to the Massachusetts Clean Energy solicitation, both of which would use Northern Pass to deliver clean energy into the New England grid.
In August, the DOE issued its final environmental impact statement.
The SEC hosted the last of 26 public comment sessions held in the state over Northern Pass. 
The DOE finalized a Programmatic Agreement that prescribes the steps necessary to review historic resources.
Eversource reached a Project Labor Agreement with local unions such as the IBEW to affirm its commitment to hiring local workers first.
The U.S. Forest Service issued a draft record of decision recommending the Northern Pass be allowed to bury 11 miles of transmission lines through the White Mountain National Forest.
In November, the DOE issued a Presidential Permit allowing transmission lines be built at the U.S./Canada border in Pittsburg.
In December, the SEC concluded the final adjudicative hearings.
The Province of Quebec gave approval for Hydro-Quebec to build transmission lines at the U.S./Canada border.

Changes in energy
A look at energy developments in the past year, plus what’s in store

By Ryan Lessard

 In the past year, solar has expanded, biomass has shrunk and the Northern Pass, a major hydropower project, has come to be just one step away from final approval. Meanwhile, Eversource finalized the sale of its power plants, and environmentalists have already scored some legislative victories in the Statehouse related to the regional carbon trade program. Looking ahead, some settlement money may be used to add electric car charge stations, and major solar installations are due to significantly increase the state’s solar portfolio.

Last year
At the end of 2016, New Hampshire was generating 54 megawatts from solar panels, both commercial and residential. By the end of the third quarter of 2017, that had risen to 67 megawatts. And 2018 is shaping up to be another big growth year for solar power, according to Rob Werner, the state director of the League of Conservation Voters.
“That’s a good indication of continued growth,” Werner said.
But other forms of renewable energy didn’t fare so well. Biomass in particular, which mostly consists of low-grade wood chips, was hit hard in 2017. Two plants that burned biofuel shut down: Concord Steam and Indeck Energy in Alexandria. That put a significant strain on the low-grade wood market, which relies on biomass plants and paper mills to sell the product and had already been struggling after a number of New England paper plants shut down in recent years.
Hunter Carbee, a procurement forester who brokers low-grade wood sales, said the loss of those plants put the New Hampshire market on the edge.
“We cannot afford to lose another biomass [plant],” Carbee said.
In response to the biomass troubles, the governor signed a bill that raised the renewable energy credit class rate for biomass, ensuring that those companies can still profit from selling their RECs to companies that produce energy from dirtier sources like fossil fuels.
The Northern Pass project, which would deliver 1,090 megawatts of hydroelectric power from Canada across 192 miles of new power lines through the state, passed a number of milestones last year, from obtaining a number of approvals from state energy and environmental regulators, to a favorable environmental impact statement from the U.S. Department of Energy. 
Adjudicative hearings before the Site Evaluation Committee wrapped up after 70 days of testimony and its deliberations are due to begin at the end of this month.
Warner said it’s been disappointing seeing the direction taken by the White House last year, such as backing out of the Paris Climate Accord, and moves to undermine the Environmental Protection Agency’s clean power plan and other climate change initiatives. But he’s encouraged by an apparent groundswell of support for environmental protections.
“We faced some real policy challenges both nationally and in the states but I, on the other hand … think there’s a large appetite for folks to pick up the baton on the state level and locally,” Werner said.
One of the ways that movement has expressed itself is the Climate Mayors project. In New Hampshire, five mayors currently seated in Concord, Portsmouth, Nashua, Keene and Lebanon have signed on to the movement, which means they aim to reduce their city’s carbon emissions in the spirit of the Paris Accords.
This year
It’s still January, but there have already been significant developments in the energy sector.
The most noticeable is how power plants were affected by the recent cold snaps.
Carbee said the cold weather helped increase demand for the biomass plants, which operate 24/7 and are strategically located in parts of the state that benefit from the added power during the winter. That’s taken some of the strain off those plants.
“Things are a little better right now even though we lost Concord Steam,” Carbee said.
But Kaitlyn Woods, a spokesperson at Eversource, said that spikes in demand during the coldest days of the year also mean an increase in burning dirty fossil fuels. As of Jan. 8, 19 percent of New England’s power supply came from oil and 7 percent from coal. During the recent cold spell, some days saw 30 percent of the energy supply consisting of oil.
Natural gas is a fossil fuel but does not emit as much carbon as oil and coal, but recent attempts to add natural gas pipelines in the region have failed.
Woods argues Northern Pass would take some of the burden off fossil fuels when and if it is up and running.
“It’s clearly needed. I think what we saw with this cold snap is the need for additional sources of energy,” Woods said.
Jack Savage at the New Hampshire Forest Society questions whether it’s a good idea to send money to Canada as opposed to developing a more local renewable energy infrastructure. 
Northern Pass is still highly controversial among conservationists and Werner said there are also unresolved concerns about its scenic impacts. Werner is also a Concord city councilor. Under the currently proposed project, transmission lines taller than the Statehouse dome would cut through the center of the city.
Meanwhile, Eversource has concluded a long-running effort to divest from some of its own power generation facilities. In the $175 million deal, stations in Bow, Newington, Groveton and Tamworth were sold to Granite Shore Power. 
Another deal announced last year would sell Eversource’s remaining nine hydropower plants to Hull Street Energy for $83 million.
Earlier this month, two bills related to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the New England cap and trade program, went the way environmentalists wanted, according to Werner. One bill that would have redirected money away from energy efficiency projects back to ratepayers was defeated in the House. And another bill that would increase funding for energy efficiency programs is moving forward in the House, he said.
But there is another bill, which will have its next hearing on Jan. 18, that aims to restrict the state’s renewable energy portfolio, according to Werner, who said it’s something he does not want to happen.
Meanwhile, Werner said the state is expected to get some money from a significant Volkswagen settlement that could result in more electric cars driving through New Hampshire.
“States can use up to 15 percent of the money they receive to help develop an electric vehicle infrastructure,” Werner said.
He said Gov. Chris Sununu is supportive of such an initiative.
“Because our neighbors, Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine, are certainly moving more aggressively in that direction and we’re sort of a bit of a hole with that infrastructure in the region,” Werner said.
The New Hampshire Electric Co-op is completing the largest solar installation in the state in Moultonborough, which would add 2 megawatts with 7,200 panels. Concord and Manchester are also looking to build new solar arrays. 

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