Is Hydro-Quebec Having Second Thoughts about Northern Pass?

Key Agreement with Eversource Apparently Not Renewed

Jack Savage | March 13, 2017

There appear to be legitimate questions about whether the long-standing financial agreement between Hydro-Quebec and Eversource for the financing of the proposed Northern Pass transmission line has fallen apart due to a changing energy market.

The issue went public the week of March 6 when Quebec stakeholders began asking why the state-owned mega utility was paying to bury part of the line in the U.S., but refused to do so in Quebec. That led to a series of public statements that highlighted HQ's desire to have New England electricity consumers pay for the cost of Northern Pass, a private transmission line for the exclusive use of HQ. Provocative headlines in Quebec papers claimed that "Hydro-Quebec is Considering Abandoning the Northern Pass Project".

And, as reported by Robert Blechl of the Caledonian-Record, the evidence of the rift between Eversource and HQ is the absence of a renewed Transmission Services Agreement (TSA). The previous TSA, which had been renewed in 2014 to much acclaim by Eversource execs at the time, expired in February 2017. The TSA has long been touted by Eversource as the key difference between Northern Pass and a competing private transmission line project in Vermont, the New England Clean Power Link (NECPL). 

The TSA is important in that it outlines how Eversource is paid to build the Northern Pass line if it is ever approved. It is unclear at this point how the absence of a TSA might impact the upcoming 'trial' portion of the Northern Pass docket that is before the NH Site Evaluation Committee (SEC). The SEC adjudicative process is already behind schedule, and may prove difficult to complete for any decision to be rendered by the scheduled date of September 30, 2017.

The Forest Society has asked Sen. Jeanne Shaheen to make inquiries at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) about the status of the TSA between Hydro-Quebec and Eversource. FERC must approve such TSAs.

"Northern Pass has repeatedly argued that New Hampshire ratepayers are not paying for the construction  costs of their project," the letter notes. They repeatedly cite the TSA as the basis for their claim that Hydro-Quebec is paying for the construction of the transmission line.  The SEC and interveners in  the upcoming adjudicatory hearing cannot fully address the economic issues of impact -- or  whether the project is in the public interest -- without the information provided by the TSA  affirming that there is in fact a legally binding agreement between the two parties to this  project."

Click here to read the full letter to Sen. Shaheen.  

For its part, Eversource has been mum about the TSA, but posted this in response to the kerfuffle.

In-depth New Hampshire's coverage by Gary Rayno can be found here. 

The Union Leader's coverage can be found here.

Quebec press coverage can be found below: