N.H. and the region need Northern Pass

There are compelling reasons why the project should be approved

If you told me there was a proposal out there that would reduce New Hampshire’s smog emissions by roughly 1 million cars, while providing over 1,000 new jobs locally and lowering electric rates through a brand-new renewable energy supply, I would ask where to sign up.

Those are three of the very compelling reasons why the Northern Pass plan needs to be approved.

Anyone who pays a monthly power bill knows rates are already high. As a CPA representing several businesses throughout our state whose annual electric costs exceed $1 million, the need for more reliable, lower-cost energy is clear. Northern Pass won’t erase those expenses, but with new and cheaper energy, the rates will be lower, which means real savings for many families and small businesses.

I have also represented private hydropower projects and have seen the direct benefits in these smaller projects. I believe hydropower is the most viable renewable resource currently available. It is clean energy with no expiration date. It’s the kind of power resource that our environmentally conscious state should embrace.

Northern Pass would contribute 1,200 megawatts of electricity to our region’s power grid, all generated by water. That is the same amount of energy as building an entirely new nuclear plant in New Hampshire, which we know isn’t going to happen. It’s also the same as building several new natural gas plants, which may sound good in the short term, but no project like that is on the horizon.

What we do know is that our power demand is growing. This newspaper ran a story in March about how close we came to rolling blackouts last winter because cold temperatures and a spike in consumer demand placed a strain on our natural gas supply that nearly led to outages. Energy experts in the region have described our power grid as “extremely vulnerable” due to limited gas supplies.

This is not to say our state should simply rubber-stamp the project and start construction tomorrow. There are residents in our state, especially in the North Country, who have valid concerns about the proposed route for the power lines and the related environmental impact, which must be properly vetted and resolved.

Ours is a state of scenic natural beauty that must be protected, and the solutions must be balanced. I urge all stakeholders in this process to find common ground to allow this project to come to fruition.

We have seen recent signs that this is happening. PSNH has changed its route and offered to place some of the lines underground. That’s progress. The cost of burying the entire route is too high, as is the cost of not burying any of the lines. I trust there is a compromise that can be reached.

If more alternatives must be sought, then so be it, but we cannot afford to abandon this project, which brings so many clear and significant benefits to our citizens. Nor can we unreasonably delay its execution.

The Northeast has some of the highest energy costs in the country and this nation must seek, develop and acquire viable renewable energy. I believe this project is an opportunity New Hampshire, the Northeast, and the nation cannot pass up.

It was Jewish spiritual leader Hillel the Elder in ancient Babylon who said, "If not us, who? If not now, when?" I believe it is us and the time is now.

David Heath is a certified public accountant with Nashua-based Melanson, Heath & Company.

Categories: Opinion