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New review is critical of Northern Pass project

New Hampshire Union Leader

February 14. 2017 9:43PM

Northern Pass opponents have released a critical review of the developer’s claims about jobs and cheap energy associated with the controversial project.

The new report claims a 2015 study by London Economics International, submitted to the state Site Evaluation Committee on behalf of the developer, is opaque. The committee is considering permits for the hydropower transmission project.

The report said the study dealt with only the benefits and none of the downsides of Northern Pass. And it even hints that Northern Pass power would be too expensive if not for laws that encourage renewable energy.

“The (London Economics International study) provides almost no detail as to its inputs, making it virtually impossible to verify the results. Pages upon pages of assumptions, inputs, and intermediate outputs are blacked out,” reads the new review.

The Northern Pass opposition group Protect the Granite State provided the review to the New Hampshire Union Leader this week. It was prepared by the Boston-based Analysis Group Inc. for a price of $60,000, said Susan Tierney, one of the authors.

Tierney is a former commissioner at the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities and Secretary of Environmental Affairs.

Eversource, one of the partners in the 1,090-megawatt project, said it would comment once it had an opportunity to analyze the report. “This document is brand new to us and we have not seen/read it. We will not respond to it at this time,” spokesman Martin Murray said in an email.

He also called Protect the Granite State an “anonymous group” that is not part of the state permitting process.

The review finds several flaws with the 2015 analysis commissioned by Northern Pass:

• Adverse effects. The LEI study does not consider the effects on tourism, the loss of jobs and tax revenue if other New Hampshire power plants close, and the outflow of energy dollars to Quebec.

• Redaction of key data and assumptions. The public version of the study blacks out data, input and assumptions about future gas prices and electricity demand to justify Northern Pass.

• Transmission line costs. The review estimates that the cost to build the transmission line at $55 per megawatt hour, which the LEI study does not account for. In an interview, Tierney said the transmission line would make the project too costly, except in states, especially Massachusetts, that require renewable energy and extend clean energy credits.

• Low prices. Price suppression could force the shutdown of power plants that are performing well. “If Seabrook were to retire as an incremental result of price suppression introduced by Northern Pass, wholesale prices could rise in New England’s power market, and jobs and property taxes could drop in New Hampshire,” the report reads.

Tierney said some New England consumers may see lower prices in the short term with Northern Pass.  However, Tierney said the drawbacks were not considered, including construction costs that have to be recovered and market disruptions that will burden consumers in the longer term.

In an email, Protect the Granite State communications advisor Jim Merrill described the organization as a Concord-based non-profit, non-partisan, grassroots organization with nearly 2,000 members. The organization was established to provide New Hampshire residents with information about the Northern Pass project, he said.

He said the organization wants to share the Analysis Group review with the Site Evaluation Committee.

Murray stressed that Protect the Granite State is not part of the permitting process.

In an email, he said the origins, funding and legitimacy of Protect the Granite State are highly questionable.

“New Hampshire deserves better,” he wrote.

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