NH SEC denies Northern Pass certificate

Thursday, February 1, 2018

The New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee has unanimously voted to deny an application to develop a major new electric transmission line across that state, according to an article in the Union Leader. According to that article, the Committee felt the Northern Pass Transmission developer had not satisfied its burden under state law to show that the line's development would not “unduly interfere with the orderly development of the region.”

Northern Pass Transmission, LLC has proposed a 192-mile transmission line project capable of bringing 1,090 megawatts of power into New England. The project includes a new direct current (DC) transmission line from the Canadian border to a new converter terminal to be built in Franklin, New Hampshire, as well as a new AC transmission line connecting to the existing grid at a substation in Deerfield.

To develop the project, the developer needs approval from the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee in the form of a Certificate of Site and Facility. Northern Pass applied to the SEC for a certificate in 2015; the case before the Committee has been ongoing since then, with extensive testimony and hearings held last month.

Successful project development involves not just securing all required permits, but also finding or creating suitable commercial arrangements. While the project's siting application was pending, the project won some commercial success last week, when a group of Massachusetts utilities seeking to jointly procure clean electricity selected a Northern Pass-affiliated proposal to supply about 9,450,000 megawatt-hours per year from Canada. After reviewing over 40 bids, the bid committee selected the "Northern Pass Transmission, Hydro" option for negotiation of a final long-term power sales agreement under the state's Section 83D clean energy contracting program.

Today's decision by the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee relates directly to siting, not to commercial matters. The developer may be able to challenge the Committee's permitting decision. In the meantime, could the SEC decision affect the Northern Pass project's commercial fate? According to the Massachusetts 83D website, "If the bid selected to advance to contract negotiation at this stage does not successfully negotiate contracts, it may result in other bid(s) being selected to advance to contract negotiations." If the lack of SEC approval (for now) means Northern Pass does not successfully negotiate contracts with the Massachusetts utilities, it could open the door for other 83D bidders to move forward.

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