Letter to the Editor: The recent “sweetener” from Hydro-Quebec is like a teaspoon of castor oil for Mainers.

July 17, 2020 

Like castor oil, the recent “sweetener” from Hydro-Quebec in support of the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) project will only result in nausea. The settlement between Hydro-Quebec and Governor Mills will still be nothing more than crumbs thrown to CMP customers on the way to supplying hydro power to three Massachusetts utilities for $10 billion in profit for Hydro-Quebec and at least $1.5 billion in profit for CMP/Avangrid/Iberdrola.

Let’s examine the “sweetener.” Hydro-Quebec has agreed to accelerate $140,000,000 million in energy savings for CMP customers. The original incentive deal included $140,000,000 in energy savings over 40 years. That deal would have reduced monthly electric bills for CMP customers by only 35 cents. Assuming that acceleration means 20 years, the result would be monthly electric bill savings for CMP customers of only 68 cents.
Hydro-Quebec will also accelerate the funding of electric car charging stations and high-efficiency heat pumps. Who really benefits? CMP will be able to sell more electricity. But this proposal does not offer any direct benefit to electricity customers in Maine, as Tesla and Efficiency Maine already fund these efforts.

The third component of the “sweetener” commits Hydro-Quebec to the delivery of hydro power in excess of their contract with Massachusetts utilities in order to provide discounted hydro power to 70,000 residential customers and/or 10,000 business customers in Maine. This would represent less than 10% of CMP customers. An analysis by the Natural Resources Council of Maine shows this would reduce monthly electric bills for customers in Maine by only 12 cents a month.

There must be a greater corporate strategy to explain why Hydro-Quebec is willing to spend mega millions to promote the NECEC project. One of its investment principles is to double revenue by 2030. Hydro-Quebec must sell hydro power in the lucrative U.S. energy market. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection Order limited the NECEC transmission line corridor in Segment 1 to a width no greater than 54 feet. That would leave a transmission line corridor width of approximately 250 feet for further development. Through “side-by-side” collaboration with CMP/Avangrid/Iberdrola, the remaining 250 feet of width could be developed for additional hydro power transmission lines. CMP/Avangrid/Iberdrola would benefit by selling right-of-way access to their transmission line corridor for Hydro-Quebec, and Hydro-Quebec would benefit by selling more hydro power in New England.

John R. Nicholas