Pursuing energy alternatives does not require accepting Northern Pass
The Globe’s recent editorial concerning the Northern Pass project (“Gains outweigh the costs for hydropower from Quebec,’’ 9/15) compels me to respond on behalf of the people of New Hampshire.
It is disappointing that the Globe perpetuated the myth that large-scale hydroelectric power and Northern Pass are one and the same. Rather, Northern Pass is one proposed project that would import large-scale hydro to southern New England – and as the Globe points out, the project has made every possible misstep thus far.
Since entering office, I have focused on working with the people and businesses of New Hampshire to build a stronger economic future through innovation, and in no sector is innovation needed more than our energy industry. And yet, the Northern Pass project discounts innovative technologies and new approaches in favor of old transmission methods that could harm our state.
It is true that New England, like the rest of the country, is experiencing a rapidly changing energy landscape. It is also true that energy prices for our consumers remain too high and there is not enough of a focus on innovation to break the cycle. On average, electric utilities spend less than 1 percent of their revenue on research and development, a mere fraction of what competitive industries do.
New Hampshire understands the need to pursue modern and long-term energy strategies that will help lower costs, protect our natural resources, and create good jobs. Our State Energy Council is developing a 10-year energy strategy for New Hampshire that will address a variety of issues. We are also working with other states in the region on many other related energy-planning projects, including an analysis of the role of a wide range of energy sources.
The recent editorial failed to note that New Hampshire already produces more energy than we use, and that we have done more than our fair share of establishing a diverse mix of energy resources, which benefit the rest of the region and help to power southern New England. While we appreciate that those who are net importers of energy need new sources, other states must understand that New Hampshire must do our own math on the costs and benefits of any energy project that would impact our state.
Expanding traditional energy sources like large-scale hydropower does not mean just accepting what Northern Pass has put on the table, and no one should accept Northern Pass’s assertion that the only way for New England to access Canadian hydropower is to trade away the majestic beauty of the White Mountains.
The Globe is absolutely right that New Hampshire’s natural beauty is one of our region’s treasures, but that description does not come close to explaining what our natural resources mean to the Granite State. They are essential to our high quality of life, which helps attract talented people and new businesses to our state. Our natural resources and natural beauty are also essential to our travel and tourism economy - our second largest industry - which generates billions of dollars and creates thousands of jobs. Year-round, visitors come from across the country and around the world to ski our mountains, hike our trails and kayak on our lakes.
While it’s clear that Northern Pass officials recognized the need to revise their proposed route, their latest proposal buries only eight miles of lines and would still put towers, potentially taller than trees, through miles of the White Mountain National Forest, a treasure that draws admirers from around the world.
Like our New England neighbors, New Hampshire is working hard to reduce harmful fossil fuel emissions in order to clear the air and views of our great vistas. Why would we then sacrifice those views to miles and miles of towers?
New England is demanding newer, cleaner and more innovative energy sources – energy sources that create jobs here in New England. We should also demand newer, cleaner and more innovative transmission methods.
In New York, the Champlain Hudson Power Express, an energy transmission project that includes Canadian hydropower, is burying more than 300 miles of lines. Why shouldn’t we fully examine those types of technology — and route — alternatives for New England? If the solution can be found for New York, we should find a solution for New England and train New England workers to lead the way in new transmission technology and infrastructure construction.
Exploring new energy sources like large-scale hydro power does not mean just accepting what Northern Pass has offered. As it stands, for the people of New Hampshire, the project is all costs and few, if any, savings. All people in New England deserve better, and the people of New Hampshire will continue to demand better.
Maggie Hassan is the governor of New Hampshire.