The New England Clean Energy Connect: Unverifiable Claims of Maine Climate Benefits

Planet Alpha Corp

1. Claims of CO2 emission avoidance (~3.1 million metric tons[1]) by the New England Clean Energy Connect Transmission Project (NECEC) of Central Maine Power, based on renewable hydropower generation by Hydro-Quebec, relative to fossil-fuel energy emissions, cannot be directly sourced within the physical boundaries of the State of Maine, or Sovereign Nation Indigenous Territory within Maine, and should be considered unverifiable and invalid as a climate benefit to Maine.

2. The dissenting voices of Indigenous Peoples of the Penobscot Nation of Maine, supported in Labrador, Canada, by Innu Nation and in Quebec, Canada, by the First Nations of Pessamit (Innu), Wemotaci (Atikamekw), Pikogan, Kitcisakik and Lac Simon (Anishnabek), have been ignored regarding the environmental and cultural harm of the NECEC project, an unacceptable measure of the NECEC’s responsibility for Environmental Social Governance criteria, a recognized standard for large corporations.

3. Although renewable energy credits are distinct from carbon offsets, NECEC appears to conflate claims of  actual carbon reduction with avoided emissions that are never available for capture. Such carbon emission reductions are empty and result in uncertain carbon emission reduction products. Carbon offsets are increasingly scrutinized for evidence of actual carbon capture but often fall short.[2] The NECEC claims of carbon emission reduction, unless verified by direct measurement, remain uncertain relative to advertised benefits of the NECEC project for Maine.

4. The claimed NECEC avoided CO2 annual greenhouse (GHG) reductions of ~3.1 million tons CO2 equivalent (tCO2eq) are strictly sourced and created in Quebec, Canada[3], and cannot be double counted as an in-situ  credit  to the Maine, Massachusetts, or New England GHG budgets (e.g., conversion of MWh electricity to hydropower to avoided emissions), contrary to claims of direct Maine emission reduction by the NECEC[4].

5. On a global basis and annually fully mixed atmosphere, the NECEC will avoid ~0.007%  of GHG emissions relative to average 2019 annual global GHG  emissions[5], and ~0.0006% of Main’s NECEC apportioned emission reduction of 264,000 tCO2eq[6]. The indirect climate benefits to Maine, on a fully diluted global basis, are exceedingly small, contrary to claims by NECEC of attractive and direct climate benefits to the State of Maine, a comparison not provided by NECEC.

6. Equivalent NECEC estimated avoided emissions (e.g., ~3.1 million metric tons) from renewable energy, if proposed to be located within Maine, could directly and verifiably reduce Maine’s GHG budget by ~ 18% while supporting long-term rural economies, based on 2017 emissions data[7]. However, the NECEC is likely a barrier to organic growth and  renewable energy entrepreneurship by designating Maine as strictly a passive conduit between Quebec, Canada, and Massachusetts, USA.

7. Ironically, production of GHGs from hydropower in Quebec, while recognized as lower than for fossil fuel combustion, of ~34.5 g CO2eq kWh (2017)[8], or ~362,664 tCO2eq per year for the projected hydropower supply of 1,200 MWh, exceeds the climate benefit cited by NECEC emission reduction of  ~264,000 tCO2 attributed to Maine. Emissions from hydropower, including methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O), representing 84x and 298x the surface warming potential compared to CO2,[9]emphasizes the importance of employing a three-gas approach[10] to an equitable and fair determination of NECEC claimed GHG climate benefits from hydropower, a comparison not provided by NECEC.

8. The proposed corridor of 145 miles in length, affecting carbon sequestration across ~1000 feet in width of clear-fell,[11]comprises ~17,600 acres, damaging Maine’s wildlife, biodiversity and beauty. In contrast, the phantom climate benefits to Maine claimed by the NECEC actually create a new source of carbon loss to the atmosphere within Maine.  Clear-fell CO2 emissions of the project area are conservatively estimated as ~66,300 tCO2e yr-1, an exclusive debit to Maine’s annual GHG emissions budget.[12] If the project area was left intact and assuming nominal values for net annual carbon sequestration and carbon pricing of ~1 ton CO2eq acre-1 yr-1 and, $51/ton CO2 equivalent based on the social cost of CO2[13] respectively, would yield ~$3.4 million annually, diversifying and expanding Maine’s forest economy, particularly in rural areas.

9. Maine’s in-situ positive emission burden from the corridor clear-fells, if based on direct measurement of net GHG flux along the corridor, could be claimed as a service cost to the State of Maine, to be paid by the NECEC project at current or specified GHG prices, or compensation by reduced pricing of energy for Maine. Moreover, an equivalent area of deforested land should be restored to compensate directly for forest loss, in addition to the proposed conservation of intact forest.[14]

10. In summary, the NECEC project avoided emission benefits cannot be verified or attributed to the land area of Maine while ignoring the in-situ burden of positive emissions from clear-fell for the project lifetime and creating barriers to development of renewable energy, representing negative climate and social impacts for Maine. Clarification of the points made in this White Paper by the NECEC project are welcome and will deepen our understanding of the actual benefits of the project to the State of Maine.

Rev_10-26-2021.8

Bruno D.V. Marino Ph.D.

Planet Alpha Corp.

45 Prospect Street

Cambridge, MA 02139

[email protected]

 

 

 

DATA SOURCES

 

 

 

 

 

Description

Year

Quantity

Units

Reference

1

Global CO2Emissions

2019

42,200,000,000

tonnes CO2eq

Friedlingstein, Pierre, et al. "Global carbon budget 2020." Earth System Science Data 12.4 (2020): 3269-3340.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2

Maine CO2Emissions

2017

17,500,000

tonnes CO2eq

https://www.maine.gov/dep/news/news.html?id=1988154

 

 

 

 

 

 

3

Quebec Hydro GHG emissions per kWh

2017

34.50

g CO2kilowatts per hour (KWh)

 Levasseur, A., Mercier-Blais, S., Prairie, Y. T., Tremblay, A., and Turpin, C., “Improving the accuracy of electricity carbon footprint: Estimation of hydroelectric reservoir greenhouse gas emissions,” Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev., vol. 136, p. 110433, Feb. 2021, doi: 10.1016/j.rser.2020.110433.

 

 

 

 

 

 

4

NECEC Annual Electricity Generation

Estimate

1,200.00

megawatts per hour (MWh)

DAYMARK ENERGY ADVISORS: NECEC Transmission Project: Benefits to Maine Ratepayers: Quantitative & Qualitative Benefits (September 2017)

 

 

 

 

 

 

5

NECEC avoided emissions NE

Est. Annual Ave

3,100,000

tonnes CO2eq

DAYMARK ENERGY ADVISORS: NECEC Transmission Project: Benefits to Maine Ratepayers: Quantitative & Qualitative Benefits (September 2017)

 

 

 

 

 

 

6

NECEC avoided emissions Maine

Est. Annual Ave

264,000

tonnes CO2eq

DAYMARK ENERGY ADVISORS: NECEC Transmission Project: Benefits to Maine Ratepayers: Quantitative & Qualitative Benefits (September 2017)

 

 

 

 

 

 

7

Ave CO2sequestration by Howland Forest, Howland, ME

25 Year Average

mean 211, SD 40

g C m−2 y−1

Hollinger, D. Y., et al. "Multi‐Decadal Carbon Cycle Measurements Indicate Resistance to External Drivers of Change at the Howland Forest AmeriFlux Site." Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences 126.8 (2021): e2021JG006276.

 

 

 

 

 

 

8

Ave CO2sequestration by Harvard Forest, Petersham, MA

28 Year Average

mean 298, SD 153

g C m−2 y−1

Finzi, Adrien C., et al. "Carbon budget of the Harvard Forest Long‐Term Ecological Research site: Pattern, process, and response to global change." Ecological Monographs 90.4 (2020): e01423.

 

 

 

CONVERSIONS

 

 

 

 

1

Estimated NECEC Hydropower Emissions

 

 

 

 

 

step 1: convert megawatts per hour to kilowatts per hour

1,200 MWh = 1,200,000 kWh

 

 

 

 

Step 2: multiply kilowatt hours time gCO2eq per kilowatt hour

(34.5 g CO2eq per kWh X 1,200,000 kWh = 41,400,000 gCO2eq per hour

 

Step 3: convert hours to years

1 year = 8760 hours

 

 

 

 

Step 4: multiply hours per year x step 2

(41,400,000 gCO2eq per hour x 8760 hr per year = 362,664,000,000 gCO2eq per year

 

Step 5: convert gCO2eq to tonnes CO2 eq

1 tonne CO2eq = 1,000,000 grams

 

 

 

 

Step 6: divide grams per tonne CO2eq by step 4

(362,664,000,000 gCO2eq per year x 1tCO2 per 1,000,000 grams = 362664 tCO2 per year

 

Result: tCO2eq emitted by Quebec hydropower per year

362,664 tCO2eq per year

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2

Estimated Carbon Loss from NECEC Clear-fell of Corridor

 

 

 

 

 

Step 1: specify length of corridor of 145 miles

 

145

miles

 

 

Step 2: estimate width of clear-fell and damage buffer of 1000 feet

 

1,000

feet

 

 

Step 3: convert miles to feet

 

5,280

feet

 

 

Step 4: calculate square feet of total corridor area

5,280 feet long x 1000 feet wide x 145 miles

765,600,000

square feet

 

 

Step 5: convert square feet to acres

 

17,576

acres

 

 

Step 6: convert acres to square meters

 

71,126,567

square meters

 

 

Step 7: multiply square meters by ave carbon sequestration of two forests (254.5 gC m-2 yr-1

 

18,101,711,409

gC m-2 yr-1

 

 

Step 8: convert gC m-2 yr-1 to tonnes CO2

 

18,102

tC m-2 yr-1

 

 

Step 9: convert carbon to CO2; multiply by 44/12 or 3.66

 

66,252

tCO2eq yr-1

 

 

Step 10: estimate dollar value of sequestration, multiply by social cost of carbon of $51 per tonne CO2, 3% discount rate

    

$3,378,865

 

 

 

 

[1] Page iii, DAYMARK ENERGY ADVISORS: NECEC Transmission Project: Benefits to Maine Ratepayers: Quantitative & Qualitative Benefits (September 2017)

[2] https://www.commondreams.org/news/2021/10/22/carbon-offsets-are-nothing-dangerous-con-job-warns-climate-group

[3]Page i, DAYMARK ENERGY ADVISORS: NECEC Transmission Project: Benefits to Maine Ratepayers: Quantitative & Qualitative Benefits (September 2017)

[4]Pages 5-7, DAYMARK ENERGY ADVISORS: NECEC Transmission Project: Benefits to Maine Ratepayers: Quantitative & Qualitative Benefits (September 2017)

[5] Friedlingstein, Pierre, et al. "Global carbon budget 2020." Earth System Science Data 12.4 (2020): 3269-3340.

[6] Page iii, DAYMARK ENERGY ADVISORS: NECEC Transmission Project: Benefits to Maine Ratepayers: Quantitative & Qualitative Benefits (September 2017)

[7]https://www.maine.gov/dep/news/news.html?id=1988154

[8] Levasseur, A., Mercier-Blais, S., Prairie, Y. T., Tremblay, A., and Turpin, C., “Improving the accuracy of electricity carbon footprint: Estimation of hydroelectric reservoir greenhouse gas emissions,” Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev., vol. 136, p. 110433, Feb. 2021, doi: 10.1016/j.rser.2020.110433.

[9] CHANGE, IPCC–INTERGOVERNMENTAL PANEL CLIMATE. "Climate change 2014: synthesis report. Genève: IPCC, 2014." (2020).

[10] Ocko, Ilissa B., and Steven P. Hamburg. "Climate impacts of hydropower: enormous differences among facilities and over time." Environmental science & technology 53.23 (2019): 14070-14082.

[11] While the clear cut is specified as 150 and 80 feet for unbroken and existing corridor areas, respectively, it is likely that damage to the forest extends beyond the specified area, set here conservatively at 1,000 feet cited by: McMahon, Janet, “The environmental consequences of forest fragmentation in the Western Maine Mountains,” 2018. Accessed: Oct. 25, 2021. [Online]. Available: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ekilby/8154273321.

[12] Loss is estimated as the net ecosystem exchange for CO2 from two New England forests, the Howland Forest, and the Harvard Forest, comprised of 25 and 28 site years respectively, of forest carbon measurements. Loss estimates are considered conservative as clear-fell of the corridor releases soil carbon to estimated depths of ~05 meters or more. Loss estimate is based on the average annual net ecosystem exchange cited in: 1) [1] Hollinger, D. Y., Davidson, E. A., Fraver, S., Hughes, H., Lee, J. T., Richardson, A. D., Savage, K., Sihi, D., and Teets, A., “Multi-Decadal Carbon Cycle Measurements Indicate Resistance to External Drivers of Change at the Howland Forest AmeriFlux Site,” J. Geophys. Res. Biogeosciences, vol. 126, no. 8, p. e2021JG006276, Aug. 2021, doi: 10.1029/2021JG006276, and, 2) [1] Finzi, Adrien C., Giasson, Marc André, Barker Plotkin, Audrey A., Aber, John D., Boose, Emery R., Davidson, Eric A., Dietze, Michael C., Ellison, Aaron M., Frey, Serita D., Goldman, Evan, Keenan, Trevor F., Melillo, Jerry M., Munger, J. William, Nadelhoffer, Knute J., Ollinger, Scott V., Orwig, David A., et al., “Carbon budget of the Harvard Forest Long-Term Ecological Research site: pattern, process, and response to global change,” Ecol. Monogr., Oct. 2020, doi: 10.1002/ecm.1423.

[13] Interagency Working Group on Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases United States Government, “Technical Support Document: Social Cost of Carbon, Methane, and Nitrous Oxide Interim Estimates under Executive Order 13990 Interagency Working Group on Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases, United States Government With participation by Council of Economic Ad,” 2021. Accessed: Mar. 03, 2021. [Online]. Available: https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/TechnicalSupportDocument_SocialCostofCarbonMethaneNitrousOxide.pdf

[14] https://www.restore.org/mainetomasscorridor https://www.maineaudubon.org/news/op-ed-hydro-line-project-doesnt-go-far-enough-to-mitigate-conservation-concerns/

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  • Sandra Howard
    published this page in News 2021-10-27 12:05:59 -0400