Bad News in New England
- Nov 26, 2021 5:02 pm GMT
Christmas is not coming early this year. Just the opposite, really. On Tuesday, two days before Thanksgiving, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection suspended Avangrid’s permit to build their New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) power line that would transport hydropower from Quebec to the Massachusetts grid.
Construction on the power line was halted by a group of 50 Maine leglistors, representing the 59% of Maine voters who voted no on a ballot initiative earlier this month. The five involved utilities spent a combined $96.3 million to sway those voters. According to the letter from the Maine lawmakers to Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, they’re open to other, better positioned power lines.
The NECEC would have a big impact on Massachusetts’ energy portfolio. The transmission project promises to transport 9.45 million MWh of electricity from Hydro-Quebec to Massachusetts every year. That would account for around 8% of the electricity used in all of New England, powering close to 1.2 million homes.
The plan’s failure would be very bad news for Avangrid and Hydro-Quebec. Avangrid has already sunk $350 million into the project. If it does fall apart, the Conneticut-based utility would most likely have to write off many of its expenditures. Hydro-Quebec, for their part, would be losing out on an estimated $490 million in annual revenue.
Over the past year, politicians and the mainstream media have finally started to realize the urgent need for more transmission, especially as it relates to the energy transition. However, decisions like this one in Maine don’t seem to be going anywhere. Left to the public, NIMBYISM seems to always win out. That’s what makes FERC’s comments on transmission planning reform so worrying:"One of the goals is to try to get affected communities, whether it be environmental justice communities, but others as well, to participate in our proceedings,” said the chairman.
Direct democracy is great for a lot of things, transmission lines not being one of them. The proof is in the pudding: “Since 2009, China has built more than 18,000 miles of ultrahigh-voltage transmission lines. The U.S. has built zero.” To boost reliability and expand our renewable portfolio, the USA needs to greatly accelerate its transmission development. Right now, things are not looking good.
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