Note: Northern Pass is a HOT topic in Northern New England. We originally wrote this several years ago as a resource to jump-start a constructive dialogue. We recently noticed that this is perhaps our most popular post. As such, we have updated it to better reflect the current conversation about Northern Pass.
One of the economic challenges facing Northern New England is very high electricity prices. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, as of 2012, the average retail price for electricity were the highest in Vermont at 14.22 cents/kWh (5th highest in the country), followed by New Hampshire at 14.19 cents/kWh (6th highest in the country) and in Maine at 11.81 cents/kWh (12th highest in the country). This is more than twice as expensive as the lowest cost state in the country–Idaho at 6.92 cents/kWh.
The proposed $1.4 billion “Northern Pass” transmission line would bring 1,200 megawatts of lower cost, renewable hydro-power from Hydro-Quebec to the New Hampshire/New England electrical grid system. As shown in the map above, the transmission line would run through the North Country of New Hampshire to a DC-AC converter in Franklin, New Hampshire in the central part of the state. The transmission line would then be extended to Deerfield, New Hampshire where it would be tied into the larger New England grid.
Let’s face it, 1,200 megawatts of electricity is a lot of power (the equivalent of the Seabrook nuclear facility in southern New Hampshire). Playing Devil’s Advocate, where else will we turn for that kind of power? Will Seabrook be expanded? Wind mills and solar would be more visually appalling than the transmission lines. We want to encourage a constructive dialogue . . . what’s the alternative? Please discuss.
After our own examination of the pros and cons, here are our top 5 reasons to support or oppose The Northern Pass:
5 Reasons to Support Northern Pass:
- Access to 1,200 megawatts (the equivalent of the Seabrook Nuclear Power Station) of lower-carbon, lower-cost, renewable hydro power.
- New high-voltage transmission and converter capacity adding needed robustness to the North American power grid to prevent blackouts and even security from terrorist attacks.
- The creation of 1,200 new jobs and a new source of property taxes in economically-challenged areas of New Hampshire–$28 million in local, county, and state revenues.
- Whether you agree with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative or not, it is a reality and this project is needed to met the RGGI goal of a 10 percent reduction in CO2 by 2018.
- Would we rather get our power from Canada or from extremely unstable areas such as Iraq/Iran/Russia/Venezuela?
5 Reasons to Oppose Northern Pass:
- Negative environmental impact of the towers, right-of-way and construction and of the Canadian hydro-stations/reservoirs.
- Negative visual impact which would discourage tourism–the region’s number 1 industry.
- Negative health affects from the electro-magnetic radiation on people living nearby and on wildlife.
- Hydro-Quebec is a large, state-owned corporation and is collaborating with other mega-corporations to get their way.
- The power will just pass through New Hampshire to southern New England with little, if any, impact on high regional prices.
Additional Northern Pass Opposition:
Are there any pros and cons we have missed?
Additional journalistic resources about Northern Pass:
- Author Ben Hewitt writes in Yankee Magazine: “Battle Lines: The Northern Pass Energy Project“
- Sam Evans Brown, the environmental reporter for New Hampshire Public Radio, writes in a joint project with New Hampshire Magazine: “Understanding Northern Pass“