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Consultant questions whether Bay State will accept power project without approvals

By MICHAEL COUSINEAU
New Hampshire Union Leader

October 11. 2017 10:38AM


CONCORD — A Massachusetts energy consultant Tuesday questioned whether the Bay State, in search of new sources of clean power, would choose proposed transmission projects, such as Northern Pass or a National Grid alternative, that don’t have all the necessary approvals.

“I would expect that the evaluators here are very adverse to putting themselves in a position of putting all their eggs into one basket if it’s a basket where there’s a risk of it still falling apart,” said Robert Grace, managing director and president of Sustainable Energy Advantage in Framingham, Mass.

Grace addressed the New Hampshire Energy Summit at the Holiday Inn, detailing the results of a solicitation from Massachusetts Clean Energy that garnered 46 total bids last summer. Evaluators could choose among a buffet of wind, solar and hydropower options, he said. Officials there are scheduled to select bids for negotiations by Jan. 25.

Grace said evaluators may consider how likely the project will happen, local opposition and costs.

Grace, whose clients include many of the bidders, declined afterward to give odds on whether Northern Pass would prove successful, saying that proposal is “certainly one of the potentially viable outcomes.”

The proposed $1.6 billion Northern Pass project, which runs through more than 30 communities, needs several state and federal approvals before it can start operating by late 2020. The route runs from Pittsburg to Deerfield. The Site Evaluation Committee said it hopes to issue a verbal decision by late February and a written one by late March — after Massachusetts officials make their initial cut.

Northern Pass spokesman Martin Murray said Northern Pass is further along in permitting than other proposed transmission projects and “has submitted the most mature project into the Massachusetts Clean Energy RFP.” Its two proposals include a 100 percent hydropower option and a hydropower and onshore-wind combination.

Murray said Northern Pass would move forward whether or not it wins the Massachusetts bidding.

“We believe there is plenty of room for hydro projects, wind projects, solar projects and other clean energy projects within the New England market,” he said.

National Grid and Citizens Energy submitted two projects, including one involving New Hampshire. Granite State Power Link would stay within or adjacent to existing transmission corridors to deliver new wind power from Quebec. The New Hampshire corridor would run from Monroe to Londonderry. Its proposed in-service date is late 2022.

Grace said seven solar projects, from Berlin to Hinsdale, also were included among the Massachusetts bids.

On another panel, Michael Behrmann, director of the New Hampshire Clean Tech Council, said companies considering investing in New Hampshire worry that financial incentives for clean energy could get reversed.

“It’s hard when a business sees that as, OK, I’m going to take a year, maybe two years to develop my project, put a lot of investment into it and then a new legislator comes in and proposes a bill to repeal whatever that measure is,” Behrmann said. “Now all of a sudden, that one’s out and the investment looks shaky, so maybe they pull out and the projects don’t get done.”

Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, said any legislator can file a bill here.

“Unlike Washington, where powerful chairs of committees, or cardinals in the appropriations committee can just bottle things up forever..., we in New Hampshire and in the Legislature, everything is transparent. Every voice has to be heard whether we like it or not.”


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