CMP touts $950M bid as best deal among clean energy bidders

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Central Maine Power revealed Wednesday its previously undisclosed bid price for delivering 1,200 megawatts of clean energy to Massachusetts, stating the $950 million New England Clean Energy Connect project would save Bay State ratepayers more than $600 million in construction and related costs compared to the reported costs of competing projects.

"The NECEC is the only proposal capable of firm delivery of 1,200 megawatts of renewable energy that provides maximum environmental and energy benefits at less cost than any competing proposal," CMP stated in its news release. "The transmission project has received wide support from host communities and business leaders in Maine, and is on track to receive necessary state and federal permitting reviews in 2018."

Bob Kump, CEO of Avangrid Networks (NYSE: AGR), said NECEC would deliver "up to 20% more clean energy for the region's utility customers with lower construction costs than any of the competing proposals that are interconnecting with Hydro-Quebec."

In a Q&A with Mainebiz earlier this fall, CMP President and CEO Sara Burns said the company's proposal to tap more than 1,000MW of hydropower from Hydro-Quebec was one of three bids submitted to the Massachusetts Clean Energy RFP involving Hydro-Quebec.

The two competing bidders are:

  • EverSource, which received a federal permit from the U.S. Department of Energy for its $1.6 billion 192-mile Northern Pass electric transmission line project through New Hampshire that includes a portion that would be buried along roadways to eliminate potential view impacts in the White Mountain National Forest area. The Concord [N.H.] Monitor reported on Nov. 16 that EverSource still needs approval from the U.S. Forest Service of a special use permit for the buried transmission line, but noted a draft ruling in September concluded that the short-term construction impacts of the project were "more than outweighed by the benefits of bringing additional hydropower to the New England grid." 
  • TDI New England: TDI's New England Clean Power Link would begin in Canada, go under Lake Champlain for 98 miles, and continue underground for 56 miles to a converter station in Ludlow, Vt.

Burns noted the three bids involving Hydro-Quebec were mutually exclusive.

In its news release, CMP stated that at 1,200 megawatts its New England Clean Energy Connect proposal is 20% larger than TDI New England's 1,000MW project through Vermont and 10% larger than EverSource's 1,090MW project in New Hampshire.

"Given our unique advantages to control costs and to leverage recent investments in the New England grid, we can deliver the largest infusion of Canadian energy into the region's energy supply for everyone to share in the environmental and economic benefits," Burns said in the news release.

In her interview with Mainebiz, Burns noted that CMP had acquired about a 54-mile right-of-way from what the utility already owned to the Maine-Quebec border and had accomplished that with four landowners. All told, the NECEC project consists of 145 miles of new high voltage direct current transmission line that would tie into the existing transmission system, as well as some upgrades to existing system.

She also noted the NECEC proposal will deliver a larger volume of clean renewable energy at lower costs in part by leveraging the recently completed Maine Power Reliability Program, a $1.4 billion power grid infrastructure investment paid for by ratepayers from across New England that was completed on-time and on-budget in 2015.

About Massachusetts Clean Energy RFP

Issued by Massachusetts utilities and the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources on March 31, the Clean Energy RFP calls for 20-year power purchase agreements for delivered renewable energy to meet the state's ambitious clean energy goals. Almost 50 bids were submitted, with at least 14 involving projects located in or passing through Maine.

Under the terms of the RFP, projects will only be considered if they include "significant cost containment features" to protect Massachusetts ratepayers and if they "ensure that transmission cost overruns, if any, are not borne by ratepayers."

CMP asserted that its NECEC' proposal would provide transmission services at a long-term fixed price to provide market certainty.

"Acting as 'battery storage' for New England, NECEC will deliver firm power from Hydro-Québec, even during peak winter months when energy supply prices are most volatile and intermittent resources are not as reliable," CMP stated.

Projects are expected to be selected in January 2018.

The Novus Group