Northern Pass: a win for New Hampshire

An increase in energy supply, combined with a special power purchase agreement, will save NH ratepayers an estimated $1b over the next 10 years

Reading Jim Monahan’s recent attack piece on Northern Pass (“Northern Pass: too big to fail?,” July 22-Aug. 4 NH Business Review), you’d almost think it was written by a lobbyist being paid to try to kill the energy project. Wait a minute – Mr. Monahan IS the lobbyist being paid to try to kill the Northern Pass project, an important disclosure conveniently omitted by him and this newspaper.

According to public records, Mr. Monahan represents the New England Power Generators Association (NEPGA), a special interest group that represents large corporations that own many power plants in our region. This group has poured extraordinary amounts of cash into opposing Northern Pass at every turn.

What is it about Northern Pass that gets this group of power plant owners and lobbyists so lathered up?

The answer’s really very simple. It’s all about money. Money that ultimately comes out of our pockets. You see, a greater supply of electricity and lower electricity costs for you and me means lower profits for the large corporations that own our region’s existing power plants.

I represent a coalition of New Hampshire small businesses who are very concerned about the high cost of energy. Here in New Hampshire and New England (we’re all part of the same power grid), we pay 50 percent more on average than the rest of the country for electricity.

Over the years, our region has come to depend more and more on power plants that use natural gas to make energy. As older nuclear, coal and oil plants have retired, our region’s reliance on natural gas generation has increased. In fact, around half the energy we use today comes from gas fired generation.

The problem is, our region suffers from a lack of gas supply to fire these gas plants, especially in winter. We lack sufficient infrastructure to get the gas from other parts of the country into our region. This lack of gas supply creates a shortage of energy and drives up prices.

To keep the lights on, ISO-New England, an independent group that manages our grid, has come up with a system to pay up-front cash subsidies to power plant owners to guarantee a future supply of power to our region. Think of these as energy ransom payments paid to existing generators to keep our lights on.

Today, these payments are $1 billion annually. In only three or four years, due to a lack of electricity supply, these payments increase to $4 billion! This money comes directly from the pockets of homeowners and businesses and into the pockets of power plant owners. It is no wonder the power plant owners want to kill off Northern Pass.

Northern Pass promises to deliver over 1,000 megawatts of clean hydropower into our region. That’s about as much energy as is produced by the Seabrook nuclear plant. This increase in supply, combined with a special power purchase agreement just for New Hampshire, will save our ratepayers an estimated $1 billion over the next 10 years.

Power plant owners make out like bandits under the status quo. More energy supply and lower cost means less profits to line the pockets of power plant owners.

Which is why NEPGA has kept up a full-out assault on Northern Pass. Working as an unholy alliance with the Society for the Protection of NH Forests, a group that’s also been represented by Mr. Monahan, they will use any means possible to try and stop Northern Pass.

So when you see a group like NEPGA opposing Northern Pass, remind yourself what their interest really is. It certainly isn’t projecting your pocketbook.

Bob Clegg represents the Small Business and Small Industry Association of New Hampshire.

Categories: Opinion