Score another one for Avangrid in the competition for the state’s richest power contract.
Eversource’s $1.6 billion Northern Pass proposal had front-runner status when the Baker administration endorsed the power line through New Hampshire in January as part of a state-orchestrated effort to import a vast amount of hydropower from Canada. But Granite State regulators rejected Northern Pass the following week. Avangrid’s Central Maine Power transmission project then emerged as the Massachusetts backup plan — to be used if Eversource doesn’t make significant progress in New Hampshire by March 27.
That deadline now seems all but impossible to meet. Eversource had asked the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee to reconsider its denial. The panel chose not to do so on Monday, essentially putting things on hold until its rejection can be spelled out in writing at the end of the month.
A Northern Pass spokesman offered a glimmer of hope, saying the Baker administration simply gave the state’s three big utilities (a trio that includes Eversource) the “option” of ceasing negotiations with Northern Pass on March 27. But Northern Pass is shaping up to be a political headache for Baker. So why prolong the pain?
Avangrid’s $950 million New England Clean Energy Connect proposal isn’t controversy-free. Nearly one-third of the 148-mile project would go through a new right-of-way, and the Natural Resources Council of Maine and Conservation Law Foundation are already raising concerns.
But Avangrid executives know they have a clearer path to state permission than Eversource. It could be only a matter of time before Massachusetts officials come to the same realization.Jon Chesto can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @jonchesto.