Massachusetts Utilities Cut Ties With New Hampshire Power-Line Project

Source: By Jon Kamp, Wall Street Journal • Posted: Thursday, March 29, 2018

Eversource Energy’s $1.6 billion Northern Pass was expected to link Massachusetts to Canadian hydroelectric dams

It hasn’t always been easy for New England utilities to agree on plans to link up with hydroelectric dams in Canada, such as one along the Manicouagan River north of Baie-Comeau, Quebec. Photo: Jacques Boissinot/Associated Press

Electric utilities in Massachusetts have officially broken ties with a power-line project in New Hampshire that was envisioned to connect New England’s most populous state to hydroelectric dams in Canada.

The struggles of Eversource Energy ’s Northern Pass venture are the latest example of how hard it is to build large-scale infrastructure projects in New England, where high electricity costs and a heavy reliance on natural gas-fired power plants are pressing concerns.

The Massachusetts utilities instead are pressing ahead with a different power line planned through Maine. While it also would pipe in hydropower from Quebec, it could take two additional years to complete. The announcement came Wednesday on a utility-run website that tracks clean-energy procurement efforts by a state agency and local utilities.

The utilities are working to finish contract negotiations with the New England Clean Energy Connect project in Maine, the post said.

That $950 million, 145-mile Maine project, planned by the Avangrid Inc. unit Central Maine Power Co., is shorter in length and would cost less than Eversource’s $1.6 billion Northern Pass, but isn’t as far along in development. Avangrid estimates the project could be in service by December 2022, while Eversource had estimated completing Northern Pass two years sooner.

Avangrid and Central Maine Power claim local support for their project.

The Natural Resources Council of Maine said, however, it opposes the power line in that state, and that Massachusetts should instead choose wind and solar resources.

The Eversource project has been controversial for years over worries it would damage New Hampshire’s tree-filled wilderness and its tourism industry. Massachusetts Republican Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration announced the Northern Pass pick in late January. But just a week later, a siting committee in New Hampshire said no.

Eversource, which has been appealing that New Hampshire decision, said Wednesday that it would push on.

“Despite recent delays, we continue to believe that Northern Pass is the best project for the region and New Hampshire, and we intend to pursue all options for making it a reality,” the company said.

Write to Jon Kamp at