StateImpact
3:47 pm
Mon April 2, 2012

What A Canadian Newspaper Reports About Hydro-Quebec (And Northern Pass)

Looking at day-to-day coverage of Northern Pass, it tends to (unsurprisingly) focus on the New Hampshire perspective.  Will the project provide a much-needed boost to the North Country economy, or just create a spot of temp work?  What will the project do to land values?  Who’s selling their land, who’s holding fast, and why?  What are the chances the project could invoke eminent domain?

We also hear a fair bit about PSNH’s ties to the project, which makes sense, as it’s a major Granite State utility.

But what about partner utility Hydro-Quebec?  After all, if Northern Pass goes through, it’s Canadian power that will be coursing into the New England grid.  It just so happens that the topic came up as Lynn Moore of the Montreal Gazette reported on Hydro-Quebec’s 2011 profits.  After noting the utility “saw a $96-million increase in profits in 2011 despite a $114-million drop in gross revenue from energy exports,” Moore writes:

“One potential pipeline for Quebec energy exports to the U.S. – a $1-billion project known as the Northern Pass – has hit a wall of opposition south of the border…

When officially unveiled in early 2009, Quebec government officials said the 1,200 megawatt line should be in place in 2014.

In response to public backlash, Northern Pass developers scrapped their first-choice route through New Hampshire and are still trying to map an alternative route that would meet with less resistance.

On Wednesday, [CEO Thierry] Vandal said that Hydro-Québec continues to track the ‘still active’ project.

The completion date has been pushed to 2017 and Hydro-Québec can’t say how much capital costs have risen because much depends on the route of the transmission line.”

All of this leads to the question: Why are power exports so important to Hydro-Quebec, anyway?  Moore writes the utility saw exports decline thanks to two main factors: A high Canadian dollar and increased natural gas supplies pushing down prices across the continent.  But Vandal told Moore additional power production will help Hydro-Quebec make up for lower prices by allowing the utility to increase the volume of its exports. “It is all part of the balancing act of making sure that we capture the maximum revenue we can from markets outside Quebec in addition to serving Quebec ratepayers well,” Vandal told her.
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