The US Department of Energy on Friday granted the presidential permit to the project to build an electricity transmission
line between Quebec and the state of Massachusetts. All the authorizations necessary for the realization of the project were therefore obtained in the United States, wrote
Friday Hydro-Quebec, main contractor of the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC), which was meticulously
scrutinized by Washington and the State. from Maine for 33 months. In all, six agencies and departments, including U.S. Army engineers, evaluated the project and ultimately gave
the green light. The presidential authorization obtained on Friday will therefore allow Hydro-Quebec's American partner, Avangrid,
to begin interconnection work between Quebec and Massachusetts, which includes the passage of high-voltage lines
in the territory of Maine. The cost of the 233-kilometer route in the United States is estimated at 950 million US dollars.
Completion of this important project will allow Quebec to export 9.45 terawatt-hours of hydroelectricity per year
for 20 years to the state of Massachusetts. A contract that should generate revenues estimated at 10 billion US
dollars for Hydro-Quebec. Getting a presidential permit is great news. Like the pandemic, the climate emergency knows no borders. This
interconnection project is a big step forward in our decarbonisation efforts, said Sophie Brochu, President
and CEO of Hydro-Québec, in a press release. The commissioning of the NECEC is scheduled for 2022. Regulatory evaluations relating to the Quebec portion of the project linking the Appalachian region to Maine
have not yet been completed. However, the NECEC has already obtained the approval of the Régie de l'énergie du Québec and the Commission
for the protection of agricultural land in Quebec. This contract for the sale of hydroelectricity between Quebec and Massachusetts, which sought clean energy
sources to replace that of its gas-fired power plants, was concluded in 2018. This is the largest electricity export contract in Hydro-Québec's history, which will supply the equivalent
of one million houses in Massachusetts from this transmission line. According to Hydro-Quebec, the NECEC will eliminate more than 3 million metric tons of greenhouse gases,
or the equivalent of 700,000 cars.
A disturbing project But as green as it is, the project hardly enchants those who will see pylons being erected in their part
of the country. Called the Northern Pass, the first version of this 320 kV transmission line was originally intended to
pass through New Hampshire. The project was abandoned in 2019 following opposition from the people of that state. Shortly after, Hydro-Quebec returned to the charge with the NECEC project, this time connecting the
Appalachian substation in Quebec to that of Lewiston, in southern Maine. There, the line should connect
to the existing New England network.
Infographic of the New England Clean Energy Connect project route to Lewiston, southern Maine. New England Clean Energy Connect project route to Lewiston, southern Maine. PHOTO: RADIO-CANADA / CHRISTIAN GOUPIL
Here again, the project has aroused opposition from environmentalists, associations of hikers, recreationists,
hunters, fishermen and even snowmobilers who denounce the negative impact that this corridor will have on
people. forests and waterways of Maine. In addition to its environmental impact, there are fears that the transmission line could harm the recreational
tourism industry by devaluing the landscapes and outdoor activities that bring life to the region crossed by
the famous Appalachian Trail. Opponents who had obtained a referendum in the state in the fall of 2020 on the NECEC project were ultimately
dismissed in the courts of Maine, which ruled unconstitutional the holding of this plebiscite. In Quebec, the power line, which is to travel 103 kilometers to the municipality of Frontenac, uses existing
lines on 72% of the route. Few voices are raised against the project on this side of the border, except in
Thetford Mines, where the line must pass near houses.
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