September 9, 2011

Slowing Electricty Demand Raises Questions for Northern Pass

At the heart of the debate over the Northern Pass proposal is the question of public benefit. Does southern New England need the power Hydro-Quebec wants to sell? Today they do not, but the argument has been that demand for electricty will rise over time, because that's what's has happened historically.

But according to the Electric Power Research Institute, residential electricty demand has leveled off and is expected to FALL over the next decade by about .5 percent. Associated Press reporter Jonathan Fahey summarizes the report here. Fahey quotes National Grid's Ed White:  "Over the last six years we have seen decreased or flat growth, especially on the residential side."

Sarah Gardner of American Public Media also talks about the new projections on Marketplace on National Public Radio here.

Given that the slowing demand for electricty would appear to be due in part to more efficient devices and other conservation measures, it's worth asking another key question: If it will cost more than one billion dollars to bring 1200 MW of power to southern New England across 180 miles of New Hampshire landscape via 1100 towers, how many MW of power could we save by investing that one billion in conservation instead, using no new towers?

DOE Responds to Questions about EIS Contractor

As the Dept. of Energy, the NH Site Evaluation Committee and others consider the Northern Pass proposal, they need good information about the impacts 180 miles of powerline strung across 1100 towers would have on New Hampshire. Environmental impacts as well as socio-economic impacts. And they need to have a fair examination of reasonable alternatives to the Hydro-Quebec/Northeast Utilities proposal, including the no-build option. The Environmental Impact Statement is meant to provide that information, leading many to be concerned that the EIS process could be manipulated by the applicants (HQ/NU). To that end, there have been a number of fair questions about the EIS scoping process (including who decides what the EIS will include) and about what firm will conduct the EIS, and what data they will use.

The DOE has selected the SE Group to conduct the EIS. You more about the SE Group on the DOE website here.

You can read the Memorandum of Understanding among the DOE, SE Group, and Northern Pass, LLC here.

Chris Jensen of NHPR summarizes the Dept. of Energy's most recent responses to some of the concerns voiced by landowners and others who fear the EIS process will be less than transparent here.