Working on the New England Clean Energy Connect has provided me with so many wonderful opportunities to travel around our great state and talk with Mainers about the significant benefits the project will bring us— lower energy costs for Maine families and businesses, reductions in greenhouse gases threatening our way of life, and a more reliable electric transmission system to keep us safe. Along the way, I’ve also heard your concerns about the project.

What I’m most proud of is that the team developing this project has listened and worked hard to address the issues Mainers have raised. When it was said the project would cross through too much forestland, we refined our route and the amount of impacted forest land to less than 1,000 acres, a tiny fraction of the 411,000 acres that are harvested for timber every year. We heard that the corridor was too wide, so our design was adjusted to narrow it from 150 feet to 54 feet at the widest point. Many folks didn’t want the transmission line to go over the Kennebec River, so we changed our plans to go under the riverbed.

One thing we heard over and over again was that it’s important to keep some of the Canadian hydropower here in our state. We also heard from Gov. Janet Mills, who was very specific in what she wanted: power “made available to Maine communities over a substantial period of time and [at] a rate that is advantageous to Maine ratepayers.”

That’s why Maine and Hydro-Quebec negotiated an agreement that will indeed keep power from the line in Maine and help lower electricity costs for Mainers. Hydro-Quebec will deliver to Maine 500,000 megawatt hours of electricity every year for 20 years — enough to power 70,000 homes or 10,000 businesses here in our state — at a discounted rate. Because of that discount, we can expect to see the cost of power in Maine reduced by 12%, or even more.

Essentially, this agreement ensures Maine will save $2 million a year on the cost of this power for 20 years. Maine will pay $4 per megawatt hour less than what most other New England states pay in the regional marketplace, where prices fluctuate daily based on supply and demand. This means that Maine will pay less than what Massachusetts will pay for the same power delivered over the line.

After examining the details of the new agreement between Maine and Hydro-Quebec, some have asked what would happen if Hydro-Quebec does not have extra megawatt hours available to deliver to Maine. Any circumstances under which this may occur would be extremely rare given how the line will be constructed and how much extra generating capacity Hydro-Quebec has at their disposal. Nevertheless, there are standard clauses in industry contracts that address these types of extraordinary events. If, for whatever unforeseen reason, something were to prevent this hydroelectricity from being delivered directly to Maine, Hydro-Quebec must pay the state $40 million.

Last year, Hydro-Quebec and the NECEC agreed to invest more than $258 million in a number of programs ranging from rate relief and economic development to broadband expansion and heat pump technology. Now, the vast majority of those investments will be accelerated to jumpstart new programs and support Maine’s economy as we work our way through this horrible pandemic that’s caused our economy to suffer and many to become unemployed. Both the initial benefits package and the well-timed acceleration of these benefits are in large part due to the efforts of Governor Mills.

Thanks to the valuable advice we received from Mainers in every corner of our state, coupled with the leadership of Gov. Mills, we have been able to take a good project — one that will bring clean, renewable and more affordable energy to Maine — and make it even better. That’s something I know everyone working on this project is very proud of, and we thank every Mainer who helped make that possible.

Thorn Dickinson is president and CEO of NECEC Transmission LLC. Learn more about the project at newenglandcleanenergyconnect.org.


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