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Mass. utilities contract with Avangrid, Hydro-Québec for hydro-backed line

Massachusetts electric distribution companies successfully concluded negotiations for power supply contracts with Hydro-Québec's H Q Energy Services (US) Inc. and Avangrid Inc.'s Central Maine Power Co. to deliver emissions-free Canadian hydropower imports over a proposed Maine power line.

Eversource Energy subsidiary NSTAR Electric Co., Unitil Corp. and National Grid USA announced June 14 the execution of the 20-year contracts for approximately 9.45 terawatt hours annually of hydropower over Central Maine Power's proposed 1,200-MW New England Clean Energy Connect transmission project. The $950 million high-voltage, direct-current project is slated to run 145 miles from the Canadian border in western Somerset County, Maine, to a new converter station in Lewiston, Maine.

Details of the contract have not been disclosed, but the utilities said "in the coming weeks" contract agreements will be filed with the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities. Central Maine Power expects to have the required state regulatory and permit approvals later this year and final federal permits in early 2019.

Éric Martel, president and CEO of Hydro-Québec, said that in the coming months the provincial-owned Canadian utility will be working with Central Maine Power to complete the "important new interconnection project" that "will not only reduce carbon emissions but will also bring price stability and supply reliability to the region."

The contract is in response to a March 2017 request for proposals to procure 9.45 TWh, or about 17% of Massachusetts' total annual electric load, from renewable energy and hydropower. The request attracted a total of 46 bids and was prompted by an August 2016 law that directed utilities to solicit and procure 2,800 MW of offshore wind, hydropower and other renewables by 2027. Those procurements aim to help Massachusetts meet its climate goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The utilities, along with an independent evaluator and the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, made up the request's bid selection panel and originally picked Eversource's hydro-backed 1,090-MW Northern Pass HVDC project as the winning bid. However, after New Hampshire officials refused to grant a siting permit for Northern Pass the Massachusetts entities in late March dropped Northern Pass and decided to move forward in contract negotiations with New England Clean Energy Connect.