is confidentthat permitting for its $1.6 billion Northern Pass electric transmissionproject is on track and that it hopes to start construction in late 2016 orearly 2017, with the project operational by the first half of 2019, companyofficials said May 5 during a first-quarter earnings call.
The192-mile, high-voltage, direct-current transmission would deliver 1,090-MW fromHydro-Québec throughNew Hampshire to the grid operated by ISO New England Inc.
Asfor Eversource's other major transmission projects, Judge said "solidprogress" has been made in completing them. The $77 million, 13-mileSeacoast Reliability Project between Portsmouth and Madbury, N.H., is projectedto be completed by the end of 2018. The $544 million Greater Boston ReliabilitySolutions, which includes new transmission lines and new substations, isprojected to be completed in 2018 or 2019, while the $350 million GreaterHartford Central Connecticut project is slated to be completed in 2018.
LeeOlivier, Eversource's executive vice president for enterprise strategy andbusiness development, said support among businesses and policymakers hasincreased for the company's Access Northeast project, with partners andNational Grid plc. Theproject, which would deliver increased supplies of natural gas to New Englandpower generators and other customers, has grown in importance following thesuspension of Kinder MorganInc.'s Northeast Energy Direct pipeline project, he said.
Oliviersaid the company continues to believe the Access Northeast project offers an"excellent" solution to New England's wintertime constraints in itssupply of natural gas. "The project is designed to provide 900 MMcf/d of additionalnatural gas supplies to serve the region's power generators during cold, winterperiods," he said. "That will allow up to 5,000 additional MW of theregion's most efficient, low-cost units to remain online when wintertemperatures drop, saving New England customers approximately $1.5 to $2billion in a typical winter and approximately $3 billion in an extreme such asthe 2013 and 2014 period."
"WithoutAccess Northeast, those generators are frequently without fuel to run theirunits during cold, winter weather when the region's existing pipeline capacityis used primarily to heat homes and businesses," Olivier said.
Permittingand approvals are on schedule for the Access Northeast project to beginconstruction in late spring 2018, and the first section of pipeline to beoperational by the end of 2018, Olivier said.
Oliviersaid Eversource's electric sales for the first quarter declined by 8.5% as aresult of a "very mild" winter. "Were it not for energyefficiency, I think we would be looking at 2% or higher sales volumegrowth," he said. While Eversource forecasts a long-term flattening ofelectricity demand, Olivier said it expects a 2% to 3% increase annually in gassales as a result of the conversion of coal plants to natural gas.
Despitethe mild winter, Judge said Eversource subsidiaries and managed to setall-time records for the amount of natural gas delivered in a single day duringa frigid weekend before Presidents' Day on Feb. 15.
Judgesaid Eversource is still waiting for a decision from the New Hampshire PublicUtilities Commission for Eversource to divest the generation assets of its subsidiary,Public Service Co. of NewHampshire. Judge expects the sale of the PSNH assets and subsequentsecuritization to be completed by May 2017.