FERC approves line to deliver Quebec hydropower to New England

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved a funding arrangement for a major transmission project to deliver 1,200 MW of hydropower from Quebec Province in Canada to the New England region of the northeastern United States.

FERC approved on May 21, 2009, a non-traditional participant-funded transmission line and the assignment of firm transmission rights to Hydro-Quebec to enable it to deliver low-carbon hydroelectric power to New England.

New England-based Northeast Utilities, Massachusetts utility NSTAR, and Quebec province-owned Hydro-Quebec are negotiating a joint development agreement for design, planning, and construction of the high voltage direct current (HVDC) line. Northeast Utilities and NSTAR said in December they would build the U.S. part of the line and Hydro-Quebec would build the Canadian part. It will connect the Des Cantons substation in Quebec with a point to be determined in southern New Hampshire.

Hydro-Quebec is to pay for the line and recover its investment through long-term power purchase agreements. FERC did not say how much the project would cost, but developers said in December the line would cost about US$1 billion and transmit enough power to serve more than a million homes.

“This project will provide several important benefits to consumers in New England,” FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff said. “For example, this project provides access to clean, low-cost energy for consumers in a region of the country that has tight constraints on electricity supplies. In addition, the project promotes competition in the region by facilitating the transmission of Canadian hydropower to markets in the United States, enhancing the region’s fuel diversity.”

The project is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 4 million to 6 million tons of carbon dioxide per year by displacing gas-fired generation.

Unlike other large transmission lines in New England, the companies did not seek to recover the cost of the project from all of the utilities in New England. Although Northeast Utilities and NSTAR would own the U.S. portion of the line, any company could sign power purchase agreements with Hydro-Quebec to buy the power.

As part of the overall project, H.Q. Energy Services (U.S.) Inc. (HQUS), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hydro-Quebec, will enter into a long-term power purchase agreement with NU and NSTAR and other New England entities.

FERC schedules transmission planning meetings

FERC also announced it will convene regional conferences later in the year to determine whether transmission providers’ planning efforts can meet the challenges of wider integration of regional energy resources into the nation’s power grid. Conference times and locations are to be announced later.

The commission said the conferences will examine whether existing transmission planning processes adequately consider needs and solutions on a regional or interconnection-wide basis to ensure adequate and reliable supplies of electricity at just and reasonable rates.

FERC said it also would explore whether existing processes meet such challenges as development of interregional transmission facilities, integration of large amounts of location-constrained generation, and the integration of distributed energy resources. (HydroWorld 3/5/09)

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