THE BIDEN ADMINISTATION on Monday pledged financial support for a two-way transmission line capable of carrying hydroelectricity from Quebec into New England and eventually offshore wind and solar power from New England to Quebec.
The transmission line, being developed by National Grid and Citizens Energy, was one of three transmission projects receiving a total of $1.3 billion under a new federal program funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The other two projects would develop transmission interconnections between Nevada and Utah and link renewable energy produced in New Mexico with markets in Arizona that rely on fossil fuels.
The goal of the program is to expand the nation’s transmission capacity and also break down barriers between regions, allowing electricity to flow from one state or groups of states surpluses to areas dealing with periodic shortages.
The federal funding represents an upfront commitment to purchase power from the projects, but the expectation is that the money may never be needed. Joseph P. Kennedy III, the managing director of Citizens Energy, likened the situation to an investor pledging to rent out two floors of a proposed 10-story building, a commitment that makes it easier for the developer to raise funding for the overall project.
If the capacity of the transmission line (the 10-story building in Kennedy’s analogy) is fully purchased, the federal government wouldn’t have to put up any money. But if the capacity is not fully purchased, the federal government would be on the hook for its share of the capacity and could resell the power to recoup its investment. Kennedy said the expectation is that the New England states and the provincial utility Hydro-Quebec will be interested in purchasing the electricity provided by the transmission line, which goes by the name Twin States Clean Energy Link.
The roughly $2 billion transmission line, which would run from the Quebec border south into Vermont before crossing over into New Hampshire and ending up in Londonderry, is designed in such a way to avoid the controversy that has plagued other transmission lines from Canada. For example, New England Clean Energy Connect, a transmission line running from Quebec into Maine, was derailed by a Maine law passed by voters that was ultimately overturned by the state’s supreme court. The project is now back under construction.
The Twin States Clean Energy Link would enter New England at the border town of Canaan in Vermont. From there the line would travel 75 miles underground in Vermont along roadways bordering the Connecticut River. It would then go under the river and into New Hampshire near Dalton, traveling 26 miles underground to Monroe, where it would then come above ground on an existing transmission right-of-way to Londonderry.
Hydro-Quebec has enormous hydroelectric resources, but there has been a lot of discussion within the province this year about its ability to decarbonize its own economy using electricity while continuing its lucrative electricity export business.
A spokeswoman for Hydro-Quebec did not return a phone call on Monday.
Riehaneh Irani-Famili, vice president of clean energy development and infrastructure at National Grid, said Hydro-Quebec has adequate power to supply another 1,200 megawatts to the proposed Twin States transmission line. “We have been in dialogue with them. Teams are meeting regularly. We are very confident they would have capacity for this line,” she said.
Citizens Energy is putting up 10 percent of the capital for the Twin States projects and using its share of the profits it expects to pump $100 million over the next 30 years back into the communities along the path of the transmission line. Combined with National Grid contributions, the total amount available for local investments would be $260 million.
Kennedy said he hopes the money can be leveraged with other funds to help the communities, perhaps by aiding them in the transition away from fossil fuels.
“We really think that this can become a model for how transmission infrastructure can be built,” Kennedy said.