February 19, 2014

Testimony in favor of SB200, the Bradley burial bill

February 19, 2014

The Honorable Russell Prescott, Chairman
Committee on Energy & Natural Resources
New Hampshire State Senate
The State House
Concord, NH  03301

Dear Chairman Prescott:

Our organizations support SB 200 and the protocols it creates for the potential use of state-owned transportation rights of way as locations for energy infrastructure.  We believe SB 200 provides a possible pathway for a win-win resolution of difficult issues presented by new merchant transmission projects likely to arise in today’s rapidly transforming energy market place.

We recognize that to successfully meet future electricity needs in New Hampshire and New England new and upgraded transmission systems will be needed to get electricity from its source to consumers.  We also recognize that in each choice we make about specific energy projects there are trade-offs, often complicated by the dynamic electricity market itself.  SB 200 provides New Hampshire with a new pathway to meet future electricity transmission needs while at the same time avoiding the most negative impacts of large over-head transmission towers.  It may also provide a new stream of revenue to the State to help meet the needs of highway and bridge maintenance.
If New Hampshire is to host a high voltage extension cord from Quebec to electricity markets to our south, the extension cord must only be built on terms that are acceptable to the people of New Hampshire, and particularly to the communities directly affected by a proposed project.  SB 200 provides New Hampshire with a means to address the new breed of overhead merchant transmission lines that can unnecessarily scar communities and their natural landscapes.  New burial technology developed by manufacturers in Europe allow for burial of high-voltage direct current cables in a way that could deliver power through New Hampshire to markets south of us without the unsightly impacts of an overhead transmission system. 

In its 2012 session the General Court enacted SB 361, which created a legislative commission to look into the feasibility of undergrounding of high voltage electric transmission systems within state-owned transportation corridors.  The final report of the SB 361 Commission was conveyed to former Governor John Lynch on November 30, 2012.  The Commission heard testimony over four months from a wide variety of stakeholders, including:
·        The Maine State Office of Planning, charged with implementation of a Maine statute designed to invite bids from private energy facility developers to use  Maine transportation corridors for underground utility infrastructure;
·        ABB, a Swiss company that has developed “ HVDC Light” technology, which it claims can be cost competitive with overhead transmission systems when taking into account all operating expenses over the life of a project; the company has working applications of this technology in Denmark and Australia; ABB has started to build a manufacturing facility for this new HVDC Light cable in the southeastern United States in anticipation of a growing market for their produce in North America;
·        The New Hampshire Department of Transportation, which identified for the Commission four specific transportation corridors that would be eligible for hosting such underground electric systems — Interstates 93, 89, 95 and Route 101 between Manchester and the Seacoast;
·        Independent System Operator New England, the non-profit that manages wholesale electricity markets for the New England grid;
·        The New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission; and
·        Representatives of utilities serving the New Hampshire electricity market.
The Commission unanimously concluded that use of state-owned transportation corridors should be explored further.  The majority of legislators on the panel concluded that legislation should be introduced that requires merchant transmission projects proposing to build an overhead transmission system in New Hampshire also submit to the NH Site Evaluation Committee an underground alternative.  Earlier this year, the House passed HB 569, which would amend the SEC’s authorizing statute to provide the guidance that favors underground alternatives to overhead merchant transmission systems.  SB 200 puts the State in the position of having a process in place that allows the State to offer specific state-owned corridors for such underground facilities.
New technology for transmission of bulk electricity long distances is clearly moving in the direction of constructing such facilities in workable underground corridors.  There will likely be strong public support for such technology, particularly from communities that would otherwise be negatively impacted by over-head facilities.  It is clear that underground HVDC projects proposed for Maine, Vermont, and New York are meeting with a level of public acceptance not present for the overhead project currently being proposed for New Hampshire.  Even Hydro-Québec has recently agreed to bury its new transmission facility north of the international boundary that will interconnect with the Champlain-Hudson Express HVDC project, bringing 1000 megawatts of electricity from Québec to New York City. 
With SB 200, New Hampshire can set a high but attainable bar for meeting new electricity needs while at the same time protecting the natural landscapes that make our State so distinctive.  We strongly encourage the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to recommend “Ought to Pass” on SB 200 to the full Senate. 
Will Abbott, Society for the Protection of NH Forests

        wabbott@forestsociety.org, 224-9945, Ext 327
Susan Arnold, Appalachian Mountain Club

        sarnold@outdoors.org, 664-2050
Christophe Courchesne, Conservation Law Foundation

        ccourchesne@clf.org, 225-3060, Ext 3017
Jim O’Brien, The Nature Conservancy

        jim_obrien@tnc.org, 224-5853, Ext 28

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.