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Energy and Resources Emera, Hydro-Québec face off in Massachusetts power market

Hydro-Québec is facing opposition to its plan to build new transmission lines through New England to feed the Massachusetts market.

Mario Beauregard/The Canadian Press

Halifax-based Emera Inc. is going head-to-head against Hydro-Québec in a bid to supply clean power to Massachusetts, with an Atlantic Canada effort that would employ wind power from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick backed up with hydro from Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Emera project would tap a growing surplus of hydroelectric power anticipated by Newfoundland's provincially owned Nalcor Energy, which is constructing the controversial Muskrat Falls generating station on the Lower Churchill River in Labrador, a project plagued by delays and major cost overruns.

Quebec's provincially owned utility has submitted several bids to Massachusetts that include a plan for 100-per-cent hydroelectric power and a partnership with Gaz Métro and Boralex Inc. that would combine wind generation backed by hydro. However, Hydro-Québec is facing opposition to its plan to build new transmission lines through New England to feed the Massachusetts market.

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As part of its effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the state is looking to enter into long-term contracts for 9.45-terawatt-hours (TWh) annually of clean electricity – enough to supply a million homes – that can either be sourced from hydro generation or a mix of renewable projects backed up by hydro to ensure reliability. The Canadian companies filed their submissions late last week and the winner will be announced next January.

New England energy companies have complained the terms of Massachusetts's request for proposal favoured big Canadian utilities, which require long-term contracts to finance the lengthy transmission lines needed to bring electricity into the state.

Neither Emera nor Hydro-Québec will say how much they will be charging for the power.

"We think it is good value," Robin McAdam, Emera's vice-president for major developments, said in an interview. "We've been watching the market there for a long time; it's very good value for customers … [who] will pay exactly the same nominal amount for the entire 20-year contract."

Emera proposes to build an underwater, 1,000-megawatt transmission line that would run 600 kilometres from Coleson Cove, N.B., on the Bay of Fundy to Plymouth, Mass., just outside Boston. It notes that the project would require virtually no new transmission lines as the underwater cable would connect to New Brunswick's system, which has surplus capacity, and come ashore in the United States near the soon-to-be retired Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station with its transmission connections.

The publicly traded energy firm has entered into power purchase agreements with developers of seven wind farms in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia that would be built specifically to provide power to Massachusetts. It will complement that power with 1.5 TWh annually of hydro power, two-thirds of which will come from Nalcor.

Nalcor currently sells roughly 1.5 TWh annually of surplus power into Atlantic Canada and New England spot markets through Quebec, but when Muskrat Falls is completed, it will have a surplus of roughly 4 TWh annually. In partnership with Nalcor, Emera is constructing undersea transmission lines from Labrador to Newfoundland, and then on to Nova Scotia, where it will enter the Atlantic Canada grid. That Maritime link is scheduled to be in service next January, on time and on budget.

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The Massachusetts bid "gives us another path to market and another potential source of revenue," Greg Jones, general manager with Nalcor's energy marketing division, said in an interview.

Hydro-Québec, meanwhile, submitted a bid that contains six different options: Two choices of energy mix – all hydro or wind/hydro mix – that could be delivered over one of three possible transmission projects the utility is developing with partners in New England.

The wind/hydro option would include a new 300-megawatt wind farm to be built by Gaz Métro and Boralex, which is one of Canada's largest renewable energy generators. All the hydroelectricity would come from Quebec's existing generating stations, but would require new transmission capacity, both in the province and in New England.

One of those transmission projects, Northern Pass, has faced considerable opposition in New Hampshire during the state's regulatory hearings, as well-organized local residents complain the towers would detract from the natural landscape and discourage tourism.

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