New Transmission Line Reaches Milestone

10/08/10 5:50PM By John Dillon
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AP File Photo/Toby Talbot

(Host) Utility officials say a new transmission line designed to carry electricity from Quebec to southern New England could help Vermont deal with the expected loss of Vermont Yankee power.

As VPR's John Dillon reports, the line is a joint venture between Hydro-Quebec and Northeast Utilities.

(Dillon) The 1,200 megawatt transmission line will dog-leg around Vermont and head south from Quebec through New Hampshire.

The project recently reached a milestone when the developers signed a transmission service agreement. That's a contract that spells out how the $1.1 billion project will be paid for.

(Murray) "It's a key step in the entire process."

(Dillon) Martin Murray is a spokesman for Public Service Company of New Hampshire, a subsidiary of Northeast Utilities based in Hartford, Connecticut. 

(Murray) "It moves us a little bit closer to the overall goal of constructing a transmission line that will carry low-carbon power from Canada into New England."

(Dillon) Although the line is planned to skirt Vermont, the Hydro-Quebec electricity could still be available here through transmission links in the southern part of the state.

And that electricity could prove useful if the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant shuts down as scheduled in 2012. The Vermont Electric Power company, which controls the statewide grid, has warned that losing a major power generator like Yankee could de-stabilize the transmission network.

VELCO spokesman Kerrick Johnson says the Hydro-Quebec electricity could be piped into Vermont and compensate for the loss of Yankee power.

(Johnson) "Certainly if you have a source of power coming into an area that's losing a source of power, that would intuitively seem to make sense. Now it's still a proposed line, and there's an agreement, but there's many obstacles and challenges yet to overcome and agreements and approvals yet to come. But if in fact that were able to happen, it could be part of a solution for southern Vermont and New Hampshire."

(Dillon) Utility officials have not said where the proposed line would go, or what the electricity from Quebec would cost New England ratepayers.

Environmental activists have also been mostly silent.

But Alexander Lee - who runs a New Hampshire organization that aims to get people to cut their electricity use - says Hydro-Quebec should not be viewed as the green alternative to Vermont Yankee.

(Lee) "When you look at large hydroelectric power, the footprint, the geographic footprint, is tremendous compared to almost any other kind of fuel. And it's permanent damage for centuries."

(Dillon) Hydro-Quebec is developing new dams in part to supply the export market. The state-owned utility recently signed a 26-year contract with Vermont utilities. That power deal still needs approval from state regulators.

For VPR News, I'm John Dillon in Montpelier.


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