The need remains for Northern Pass

We need additional sources of power soon, and from a broader base of diversified resources

I was pleased to see that Northern Pass Transmission has filed for an appeal to the state of New Hampshire’s Supreme Court, and while I remain dismayed by the process that unfolded at the NH Site Evaluation Committee, I believe this is the appropriate and right move in order for this critically important project to receive proper consideration moving forward.

We have an energy crisis on our hands. Power plants generating more than 8,000 megawatts have been, or are slated to be, retired by 2020. That represents more than one-third of the power New England needs on an average day. Also, more than 50 percent of our energy is generated from natural gas, which often is constrained, especially in the cold winter months.

This drives the price of power drastically higher, requiring ratepayers to pay billions — with a “b” — more for power over cold months. It also requires firing up older, dirtier coal and oil plants to ensure the lights stay on in the winter.

We need additional sources of power soon, and from a broader base of diversified resources. Northern Pass was slated to bring 1,09 0MWs of clean, renewable hydropower to the grid and help to address this need on both fronts. Win-win.

Instead, the SEC review process veered off course, placing substantial, unprecedented impediments in the way of a project that is poised to provide major economic and other benefits to the state.

There very logically could have been a way to mitigate remaining concerns associated with Northern Pass by responsibly seeing the SEC process through, and developing and imposing conditions on the certificate to address items that may have required additional thought. Instead, we are here, almost 36 months after the initial SEC filing of Northern Pass, and the need remains — additional capacity is required to sustain our power needs in New England.

And we are delayed again in bringing part of a solution forth.

I strongly support Northern Pass’ appeal of the SEC’s ruling at the Supreme Court, and hope this process will provide the groundwork so desperately needed for a fair and complete review at the SEC in the future. Not just for Northern Pass, but for other projects watching from the sidelines, wondering if New Hampshire’s regulatory process is worth navigating through. I compliment Northern Pass for staying the course and swallowing the mistreatment I believe they received, in order to remain focused on solving our need for additional power.

One final point. Climate change is real. Science clearly demonstrates that our planet is warming and burning fossil fuels significantly increases CO2 levels in the atmosphere which makes the problem worse. Depending on the time of year, New England generates between 65 to 75 percent of its power by burning fossil fuels: natural gas, coal, oil and even kerosene. The technology exists now to drastically lower our reliance on fossil fuels by adding hydro power and other renewable energies to our mix. But given the current position of the SEC, it is highly doubtful any major new energy project will get approved for a long time. This cannot stand.

We have the responsibility to make reasonable accommodations to move to renewables. Otherwise, our children and grandchildren may pay a heavy price for the SEC’s hasty rush to judgment.

Leslie B. Otten is lead developer of The Balsams Resort redevelopment.

Categories: Opinion