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Hydro-Québec cleared to build 320-kV DC line to New Hampshire

Hydro-Québec, the provincial government-owned utility, said it received clearance from Quebec regulators to construct the 80-kilometer Canadian leg of a transmission project that could be the first link in the proposed US$1.6 billion Northern Pass project.

The Quebec-New Hampshire Interconnection Project is part of a 320-kV direct-current transmission network that would connect a substation near Val-Joli in southeastern Quebec with the Franklin substation in southern New Hampshire, Hydro-Québec said in a statement. The New Hampshire access point would enable Hydro-Québec to ship electricity to Massachusetts along the Northern Pass transmission system planned by U.S. utility owner Eversource Energy. Direct-current power coming into Franklin would be converted to alternating-current power for further transmission.

Hydro-Québec is hoping that a massive request for proposals for clean energy from Massachusetts will result in higher exports of its hydroelectric power. The state is expected to announce the results of the process to secure 9.45 TWh of low-emitting energy on Jan. 25, 2018. Northern Pass, which would feed power to the Boston area, would see construction start in 2018 and be completed by 2020 if it is chosen.

"Today marks a major milestone, adding one more key authorization to those that have already been granted on both sides of the border, and moving us closer to proceed with the Quebec–New Hampshire and Northern Pass Transmission projects," Hydro-Québec CEO Éric Martel said in the Dec. 21 statement.

On its project website, Eversource said, "This milestone sets Northern Pass apart as the most advanced clean energy project in New England, as it is a full two years ahead of other proposals in the Massachusetts RFP process."

Hydro-Québec said the project would be financed through export revenues and would not affect electricity rates in Quebec. Under the terms of the approval, part of the line will have to be buried, which will add to the cost of the project. The company did not disclose a cost estimate for the line.

Northern Pass received approval from the U.S. Department of Energy in November, which included a presidential permit that is essential for all cross-border projects. Canada's National Energy Board oversees electricity exports from that country.