Please sign up for InDepthNH.org’s free weekly newsletter published every Friday
By GARRY RAYNO,
CONCORD — Key members of the Site Evaluation Committee want differing financial estimates of Northern Pass’s economic viability reconciled in the next few weeks.
Eversource’s economic expert Julia Frayer said the $1.6 billion transmission line to bring Hydro-Quebec power to New England would qualify to participate in what is called the forward capacity market, which she claimed would provide about 90 percent of ratepayers’ savings from the project.
But economic experts hired by the Counsel for the Public produced different financial figures that would make the project’s participation less likely.
On Friday, SEC vice chair Kathryn Bailey wanted to know why the two financial estimates were different noting the project’s ability to compete in the forward capacity market is critical to its decision whether to grant the project a permit.
“We have to figure out whether the project clears the capacity market,” she told Samuel Newell and Jurgen Weiss of the Brattle Group of Cambridge, Mass.
Newell said they needed to ensure they had all the information Frayer used in determining her estimate, but noted they had different figures for key elements.
“We are confident — given our assumption set — we did it right,” Newell said, “including revenue requirements for the transmission project.”
So they believe the project will qualify financially, Bailey asked, and Newell said yes.
The forward capacity market is designed to produce reliable electricity sources into the future. Power generators bid every year on the amount of electricity they will provide to the electric grid three years in the future.
New England generators received more than $2 billion for future sales this year. The winning bids the past two years have declined due to lower natural gas prices which will lower the payments in the future.
In order to qualify for the forward capacity market, suppliers have to prove they submit economically viable bids and if those bids are below a threshold price, then they are reviewed by a the system operator’s Independent Market Monitoring group, which assesses whether the bid is legitimate including if the offer is government-subsidized.
The supplier also has to prove it has the capacity to provide the electricity it guarantees to the grid.
Under questioning from attorney Tom Pappas, representing the Counsel for the Public, Weisss said he does not believe Hydro-Quebec has the capacity to supply 1,090 megawatts of energy without building new dams to generate the electricity.
Projections by the company for the growth of energy use in Quebec over the next 10 years would take up all of its current capacity, he said.
The estimate used by Frayer in her analysis did not take into account energy Hydro-Quebec is currently exporting, he noted.
“As an independent analyst,” Weiss said, “I’m not convinced.”
Bailey said she would like the two sides to determine what the differences are in the two financial estimates to participate in the forward capacity market.
Newell said first they have to see the details Frayer used in her calculations and determine if they have all the information they need.
SEC chair Martin Honigberg said no one knows what will be required. He suggested Weiss and Newell meet with the Counsel for the Public and project developer’s lead attorney Barry Needleman to determine how long this will take.
“I would like to get the information sooner rather than later,” he said, “like sometime next week.”
Newell said once they have the financial information, determining the final figures is not a major undertaking.
Frayer’s analysis indicates the project would save New Hampshire consumers about $62 million annually. The Brattle Group said under the best-case scenario the savings would average a little less than $50 million averaged over 13 years.
The SEC also heard from historical and cultural resources expert Patricia O’Donnell, who was hired by the Counsel for the Public to review work done for Northern Pass.
She said the work identified far fewer cultural landscapes than exist along the route, and instead they focused on architecture.
And she said an agreement to resolve the project’s impacts on cultural and historical resources was too limited.
“The programmatic agreement only includes (facilities) on the National Historic Register or those eligible for the historic register,” O’Donnell said. “That does not align with SEC rules or the laws of the state.”
Eversource had hoped to have all federal and state permits by the end of this year with construction to begin next year and the transmission line finished by the end of 2020. The Site Evaluation Committee is not expected to make a final decision on the high-voltage transition line until the end of February.
If all permits are received, project officials said last month, construction could begin in April.
Adjudicative hearings continue on Thursday with O’Donnell back on the witness stand. The meeting is not expected to begin until 10 a.m. instead of the usual 9 a.m. start time at the large hearing room at 49 Donovan St., Concord.
Garry Rayno can be reached at email@example.com
As a public service, InDepthNH.org publishes the websites for Northern Pass and its opponents at the end of every story along with information about how the adjudicative process works to site new transmission projects and our previous hearing coverage. Sign up for our free Friday newsletter for Northern Pass and other news that matters in NH.
How The Process Works Before The Site Evaluation Committee
Northern Pass’ website explains the hearings process as follows:
The SEC holds adjudicative hearings to consider and weigh evidence. The applicant has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that a Certificate should be issued. Expert witnesses submit testimony under oath and are subject to cross-examination.
Persons seeking to intervene must file a petition which demonstrates that the “petitioner’s rights, duties, privileges, immunities or other substantial interest might be affected by the proceeding.”
According to Northern Pass’ website: After an extensive adjudicative proceeding, the SEC will issue a Certificate of Site and Facility “if it finds that an applicant has adequate financial, technical, and managerial capability, that a project will not interfere with the orderly development of the region, that the project will not have an unreasonable adverse effect on aesthetics, historic sites, air and water quality, the natural environment, and public health and safety, and that the project will serve the public interest.”
Eversource had hoped to have all federal and state permits by the end of the year with construction to begin next year and the transmission line finished by the end of 2020.
Members of the subcommittee that will decide Northern Pass by a majority vote are Chairman Martin Honigberg, PUC, presiding officer; Commissioner Kathryn Bailey, PUC; Dir. Craig Wright, Department of Environmental Services; Christopher Way, Department of Business and Economic Affairs; William Oldenburg, Department of Transportation; Patricia Weathersby, public member; and Rachel Dandeneau, alternate public member.
InDepthNH.org’s comprehensive coverage of the SEC hearings on Northern Pass.
April 13, Day 1: Eversource NH Chief Quinlan On The Hot Seat At Northern Pass Hearing
April 14, Day 2: Eversource Chief Questioned About ‘Clean’ Energy Claims And Northern Pass Costs
April 17: Day 3: Eversource: Hydro-Quebec Revenues Could Fall Short In Northern Pass’ First Year
April 18: Day 4: Northern Pass’ Potential Health Concerns Debated At Hearing
April 19: Day 5: Concerns Raised About Northern Pass Affecting Health of Sherburne Woods Residents in Deerfield
April 30: Is NH Getting ‘Hoodwinked’ on Health and Safety By Northern Pass?
May 1: Day 6: Testimony: 44 New Access Roads Needed To Build 192-Mile Northern Pass in NH
May 2: Day 7: Northern Pass Expert: 3 Months of Construction Likely In Downtown Plymouth
May 3: Day 8: Project Official: Northern Pass Construction Limited To 7 am to 7 pm, Noise Assessed Daily
May 3: Eversource’s Chief Quinlan Listed as ‘Host’ For Sununu Fundraiser
May 4: Day 9: Grafton County Attorney Grills Northern Pass Experts On Land Buys
May 5: Day 9, story 2: Common Man’s Alex Ray: Northern Pass Disruption in Plymouth Would Be ‘Fatal’ To Business
May 8: Forest Society Calls Northern Pass Inflated Land Buys a ‘Shell Game’
May 25: Hydro-Quebec Explores Opportunities in New England, New York
May 31: InDepthNH.org, NHPR Talk Northern Pass With John Dankosky
May 31: Day 10: ‘Frac-Out’ Water Pollution Possible When Drilling To Bury Northern Pass
June 1: Day 11: Applicant: Northern Pass Would Mitigate Impact On Endangered State Butterfly
June 8: Day 12: Counsel for the Public: Northern Pass Financial Expert’s Perspective ‘Unnaturally Optimistic’
June 9: Day 13: Portions of Northern Pass Hearings Held In Closed Session, Again
June 12: Public Statement Hearings On Northern Pass Begin June 15
June 13: Day 14: Analyst: Customer Using 300 kw Would Save $1.50 a Month With Northern Pass
June 14: Day 15: Regulator: Committee Could Consider Conditioning Approval for Northern Pass
June 15: Day 16: Speaking Out For and Against Northern Pass From Connecticut to Concord
June 16: Day 17: Forest Society Presses Environmental Benefits of Burying Northern Pass, Yale Responds To Critics About Land Leased To Northern Pass
June 21: Northern Pass Wants Controversial Yale-Bayroot Lease Kept Confidential
June 20: Day 18: Intervenors: Northern Pass Experts Failed To Identify All Impacted Wetlands
June 22: Day 19: Northern Pass Opponents Dominate SEC Hearing
June 23: Day 20: Northern Pass Seeks 15 More Hearing Days For Total of 57
June 26: Day 21: SEC Members Quiz Northern Pass Experts On Wetland Protection
July 18: Day 22: Northern Pass Expert: Project Wouldn’t Hurt Tourism
July 19: Day 23: Site Evaluation Committee Members Criticize Northern Pass Expert on Tourism
July 20: Day 24: Pessamit Innu, Lawmakers, Citizens, Businesses All Have Their Say on Northern Pass
July 21: Day 25: Deputy Solicitor: Northern Pass’ Tax Breaks Not So Great for Concord Property Owners
July 27: More Competition & Northern Pass Commits $10M To Help Low-Income Mass. Customers
July 31: Day 26: Public Counsel Grills Northern Pass Expert On Property Value Impact
Aug. 1: Day 27: Northern Pass’ Real Estate Expert Questioned About Data Accuracy
Aug 2: Day 28: Northern Pass Real Estate Expert Concedes Power Lines ‘Thin The Market’
Aug. 3: Day 29: Northern Pass Expert Asked How 1,284 ‘Significant’ Properties Pared Down to 6
Aug. 9: Day 30: No End In Sight For Hearings on Northern Pass’ Controversial Plan
Aug. 29: Day 31: Intervenors Grill Northern Pass’ Historic Preservation Expert
Aug. 30: Day 32: Passionate People From Concord to Clarksville Speak Against Northern Pass
Aug. 31: Day 33: Panel Postpones Northern Pass Decision For Five More Months
Aug. 31: Committee Blasts Eversource For Late Access To ‘Crucial’ Northern Pass Agreement
Sept. 5: 31 Northern Pass Hearings Added; Delay Prompts Lively Facebook Exchange
Sept. 11: Day 34: Counsel: Northern Pass Expert Failed To Survey Public About Scenery Impact
Sept. 12: Day 35: Northern Pass Expert: Views Could Be Worse If Owners Cut Trees Along Route
Sept. 13: Day 36: Chairman Limits Upcoming Cross-Examination By Northern Pass Intervenors
Sept. 15: Day 37: Visual Expert: Exactly Where 52 Miles Of Northern Pass Would Be Buried Still Unknown
Sept. 18: Day 38: Ex-SEC Chairman Varney Grilled As Northern Pass’ Land Use Expert
Sept. 19: Day 39: SEC Chair: New Evidence Indicates Potential Inaccuracies in Northern Pass’ Burial Plans
Sept. 21: Day 40: Study: Granite State Power Link Bests Northern Pass On CO2 Reductions
Sept. 22: Day 41: Grafton County’s Lara Saffo Asks: Should Landowners Trust Northern Pass?
Sept. 25: Day 42: Panel Chair Accuses Intervenor Of Trying To Delay Northern Pass Hearing
Union Reps Tout Northern Pass Jobs
Sept. 26: Day 43: SEC Member: Northern Pass Could Cost Taxpayers More For Public Construction Projects
Sept. 28: Day 44: Testimony: Northern Pass Would Mean $7M in Tax Revenue to Franklin
EPA: Burying 40 More Miles of Northern Pass May Cost a Bit More, But Better for Wetlands
Sept. 29: Day 45: Northern Pass Construction Experts Questioned About ‘Inaccuracies’ In Burial Plans
Northern Pass: EPA Support for 40 More Miles of Line Burial Won’t Delay Wetlands Permit
Oct. 2: Day 46: Grafton County, Northern Pass Spar Over Sharing Burial Changes With Landowners
Oct. 3: Day 47: Plymouth Protesters Say No To Northern Pass as State Regulators Pass By Unnoticed
Oct. 7: Day 48: Les Otten: $5M Balsams Loan Required His Testimony For Northern Pass
Oct. 11: Day 49: Panel Presses Northern Pass Intervenors To Fill Schedule Gaps
Oct. 12: Day 50: Hearing Debate: How Scenic Resources Impacted By Northern Pass Determined
Oct. 13: Anti-Northern Pass Video To Be Shown At SEC Hearing; Featured Foes Must Testify
Oct. 16: Day 51: Public Counsel Expert: Northern Pass Doesn’t Reduce Scenic Impacts Enough
Oct. 18: Day 52: Folks ‘With Everything To Lose’ Testify Against Northern Pass
Oct. 20: Day 53: Video’s North Country 10 Testify On Northern Pass’ Impact
Oct. 23: Day 54: Counsel Raises Questions About Road Closures During Northern Pass Construction
Forest Society Lawyer Disputes Limiting Questions At Northern Pass Hearing
Oct. 24: Day 55: Testimony: Northern Pass Construction Likely to Take Longer Than Estimated; Road Closure Battle Continues
Oct. 26: Day 56: Attorney Claims ‘Fatally Flawed’ Northern Pass Could Cost Ratepayers After All