Massachusetts picks Northern Pass bid

Thursday, January 25, 2018

According to a website associated with a clean energy solicitation for Massachusetts electric utilities, the bid committee has selected a proposal called "Northern Pass Transmission, Hydro" as the winning bid. While further steps lay ahead, the agreement that could result would represent a long-term commitment to purchase of about 9,450,000 megawatt-hours of clean energy annually for Massachusetts electric customers -- and lead to the development of a major new electric transmission line from Canada into New England.

The so-called Massachusetts Section 83D process is one of several ongoing renewable energy procurements in New England. Legislation enacted in Massachusetts in 2016 amended the existing Green Communities Act to add a new Section 83D calling for joint utility procurement of significant amounts of "clean" energy, defined to include firm service hydroelectric generation. The Massachusetts electric distribution companies issued their Request for Proposals for Long-term Contracts for Clean Energy Projects pursuant to Section 83D on March 31, 2017, in coordination with the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources.

The 83D solicitation called for bids by July 27, 2017. Public copies of the bids received, including a proposal labeled NPT Hydro, are posted on the program's website. The transmittal letter for the NPT Hydro project describes a joint proposal by Hydro-Quebec affiliate Hydro Renewable Energy Inc. and Northern Pass Transmission LLC. As described by Northern Pass in its bid and other documents, the project includes a new 192-mile transmission line importing 1,090 megawatts of firm clean energy from Quebec into New Hampshire. The proposal describes the project as shovel-ready, with a targeted in-service date of 2020.

According to the website, final acceptance of the bid and the award of a contract is conditional upon additional steps. These include the successful negotiation of the contract and required regulatory approval at the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities. The notice also states that if this bid selected to advance to contract negotiation does not result in actual contracts, other bids may be selected for contract negotiations.

The siting of the project has been controversial for its impacts on the White Mountain National Forest and nearby northern New Hampshire forestlands, prompting a redesigned route with more cable mileage installed underground to address scenic impacts. The New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee recently concluded hearings on applications for the Northern Pass Transmission project's development, with a decision by the Committee expected this year.

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