The Northern Pass transmission line would cut through New Hampshire, but its fate could be determined by officials in three other New England states.
Officials at Eversource Energy, the utility behind the $1.6 billion power-line project, talked to analysts on Tuesday about how they’re preparing, along with Canadian partner Hydro-Quebec, to bid for a clean energy contract that would be overseen by regulators in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.
If Eversource and Hydro-Quebec win the contract, they could use it to help finance Northern Pass, a big power line that would bring power from Canada to southern New England.
Eversource, formerly known as Northeast Utilities, will likely have competition: Rival power line developers are also lining up for the opportunity for this three-state bidding process, and power plant owners other than Hydro-Quebec are expected to participate in the bidding as well. State officials say they’ll use the competition to get the best possible price for the power.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities last week approved the “clean energy RFP,” as it’s known, essentially OK’ing the rules governing the bidding process. Rhode Island officials have already approved it as well. After it is endorsed in Connecticut, the bidding can start, and final bids will be due within 75 days.
It’s unusual for three states to be seeking clean energy in this way. But officials argue that by working together, they can help build a bigger, more cost-effective project or projects. These clean energy bids would bring more electricity into the region with the hope it will make the grid more reliable and curb the region’s relatively high electric prices.
“We’re trying to do what we can to work collaboratively . . . to get the best project,” said Matthew Beaton, Governor Charlie Baker’s energy and environmental affairs secretary. “If we can buy more together collectively and get better deals and share the burden of transmission among other states, it makes it that much better for our ratepayers.”
Another benefit: Bringing in wind power or hydropower from the north could help Massachusetts meet its aggressive greenhouse gas reduction goals.
Also toward that end, Baker is pushing the Massachusetts Legislature to pass a law that would initiate a new long-term contract bidding process, one that could bring considerably more hydropower into Massachusetts from Canada.
The Northern Pass project faces some fierce opposition in New Hampshire. But Leon Olivier, executive vice president at Eversource Energy, said he has seen the opposition soften since the company adjusted its plans in August to put 60 miles of the 192-mile power line underground, particularly through the White Mountains.
“There’s always going to be hard-core opponents to it but I would say there was more dialogue this time,” Olivier told analysts on Tuesday.Jon Chesto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.