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Hydro Quebec looks to Maine as Massachusetts ends Northern Pass hydro project

Massachusetts is instead moving forward with New England Clean Energy Connect, a $950 million hydropower project.


MONTREAL — Hydro-Quebec will now need to go through Maine as part of a massive export deal to sell hydropower to Massachusetts.

The US state announced it was dropping the $1.6 billion Northern Pass project that was set to deliver hydropower from Quebec through New Hampshire.

Instead, the Massachusetts Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs announced it will move forward with New England Clean Energy Connect, a $950 million hydropower project proposed by Central Maine Power Co. and Hydro-Quebec beginning in 2022 _ two years later than the previous proposal.

“We are very satisfied to have been chosen,” said Hydro-Quebec spokeswoman Lynn St-Laurent. “We have received a go-ahead to negotiate a deal.”

Hydro-Quebec and its U.S. partner will have until April 25 to come to a deal. Hydro-Quebec will also need to determine the costs on this side of the border, including a route in Quebec to build a transmission line to the Maine border.

The provincially-run utility will have to return to the drawing board, including impact, technical and environmental studies.

“The process will get underway in the spring, in the coming weeks,” St-Laurent said.

Described as the biggest export contract in Hydro-Quebec’s history, it is expected to bring in $10 billion to its coffers over the lifetime of the deal.

Hydro-Quebec and U.S. partner Eversource Energy continue to insist the Northern Pass project is a good one, even if Massachusetts has changed course.

The Quebec Crown corporation was betting on the Northern Pass, which would have cost $680 million for the Quebec side and $1.6 billion south of the border.

Under the deal, Northern Pass would have brought up to 9.45 terawatt hours of electricity annually from Quebec’s hydroelectric plants to Massachusetts for 20 years starting in 2020.

After intense opposition, New Hampshire regulators voted to reject Northern Pass last month over concerns about potential negative impacts on the environment and tourism.

Eversource asked they reconsider but were told a decision wouldn’t come until May, which was well past a deadline set by Massachusetts for moving forward with a large-scale clean energy project mandated under a 2016 law.

A spokesman for Eversource says there are other avenues available to getting the project done, including the courts.

From Hydro’s perspective, St-Laurent said the energy transition in New England won’t go away.

“The need for clean energy will continue to be present in the coming years,” she said, meaning Northern Pass could come together for a different project.

— with files from Associated Press

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc. 2016

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