Quebec has edged closer to increased hydroelectric power exports to Massachusetts after Maine’s new governor signed onto a deal to get a transmission corridor built.
Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat who won office in the U.S. mid-term elections in November, said Maine would get $258 million in benefits over 40 years in exchange for a permit to send the power from Canada to Massachusetts, the New England state's Press Herald reported this week.
"Excellent news for Quebec! Hydro-Québec will be able to export more electricity to Massachusetts via Maine," Premier François Legault wrote on Twitter in response to the report.
Excellente nouvelle pour le Québec!— François Legault (@francoislegault) February 21, 2019
Hydro-Québec pourra exporter davantage d'électricité au Massachusetts en passant par le Maine. https://t.co/kB1CyDHm0E
Quebec gets most of the electricity for its own use from hydroelectric sources and seeks to increase exports of excess capacity. Quebec has said it would provide Maine with $40 million financing for the proposed project.
Hydro-Québec is an energy giant that is wholly-owned by the province and already sends 40 per cent of its exports to New England.
In June, Hydro-Québec reached agreement with three utility companies to supply Massachusetts with 9.45 terawatt hours of electricity for 20 years beginning in 2022.
But the deal depends on getting the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) transmission line approved, after New Hampshire energy regulators last April quashed the Northern Pass project, which would have transported power from Quebec through to Massachusetts.
As part of the deal, the operator of the planned transmission line, Central Maine Power Company (CMP), said it would provide $258 million to Maine over 40 years to help lower electricity bills, advance clean-energy efforts, and fund other public and community benefits, according to a filing dated Feb. 21 and published by the Maine Public Utilities Commission.
Decision due in early March
Central Maine Power joined a string of public and community groups to file a pledge to the commission that the project addresses a "public need" and is in the public interest and therefore should be allowed to proceed.
It argues that the project will lower electricity bills in Maine, protect against price volatility related to natural gas markets, replace retiring baseload capacity, and help boost electric vehicle expansion in the state.
The parties to the hearing may respond until March 1, with a hearing scheduled March 7, when a decision from the commission on whether to allow the project to proceed is expected.
Critics of the NECEC argue that construction of the transmission line will not benefit Maine citizens, as they are not the recipients of the hydroelectricity and the construction of the line may damage the local landscape.
The proposed path of the transmission line means that a 150-foot-wide clear-cut path must pass through about 84 kilometres of the North Woods to connect to the Central Maine Power Company’s existing corridors.
Construction of the 230-km high-voltage NECEC line is expected to cost $1.2 billion, Central Maine Power says, and would provide 1,200 megawatts of hydroelectric capacity from Quebec through Maine to Massachusetts.
While hydroelectric power -- which is created from the downhill flow of water -- is renewable and does not emit greenhouse gases it often requires the construction of dams and reservoirs that disrupt water flows and damage populations.
CMP said it would ultimately transfer ownership of the line to NECEC Transmission LLC, another company owned by Avangrid Networks, CMP's parent company, and that the operating entity would in turn pay it $60 million in equal annual payments for 40 years starting when the project is operational.