McQuiston: Power And The Lake

Aug 2, 2017

Last week, Hydro Quebec bid on the state of Massachusetts' proposal to increase its renewable energy portfolio.

Hydro Quebec is famous for its massive hydro dams in the northern part of the province, and Canada’s eastern provinces have bountiful supplies of renewable energy in hydro and wind. They also have aggressive expansion plans – while the state of Massachusetts, like Vermont, has aggressive renewable energy goals it wants to reach.

So Massachusetts  issued an RFP looking for suppliers of renewable energy and Hydro Quebec has offered up three transmission options. They would supply the power and a transmission company would transport it to utilities in New England. Massachusetts could select more than one supply option. Winning bids will be announced in 2018.

A transmission route through Vermont could be part of that massive energy plan. It would provide more renewable electricity than Vermont itself uses in a year, and by comparison, would supply much more electricity than Vermont Yankee used to generate.

The Vermont option is called the TDI Clean Power link. It’s supported by investor giant Blackstone and it would help stabilize electric rates in New England.

The TDI electric cable would run from the Canadian border for nearly a hundred miles under Lake Champlain before turning left along existing rights of way to Ludlow, where it would hook into the New England power grid for customers in Massachusetts. Of the several proposals to bring Canadian power to New England, TDI is farthest along in permitting.

One of its competitors, the power line proposed for New Hampshire, is already facing significant opposition.

But the TDI line will not be built on spec. TDI needs customers before it will take on the one-point-two billion dollar project.

Governor Phil Scott is a big supporter of the plan because not only would it generate local tax revenue along the line, but more importantly, it would contribute one hundred and twenty million dollars over forty years to the much-needed cleanup of Lake Champlain - a windfall for the state as it looks to find funding for the daunting lake restoration.

So it’s really not surprising that Governor Scott is enthusiastic about this project – and I’d say the reason’s as clear as Lake Champlain is not, which is a large part of the point of the whole thing.