October 12, 2011 | last updated June 1, 2012 1:35 pm

NU's Northern Pass waiting on acceptable route

The plans by Hartford-based Northeast Utilities to string a $1.1 billion transmission line through New Hampshire to bring in low-cost power from Canada is on hold until all sides can agree on an acceptable route.

Northeast Utilities -- as well as its partner Boston utility company NStar and NU electric subsidiary Public Service of New Hampshire -- have had great difficult siting the transmission line through the northern section of New Hampshire, as that area has little development and residents don't want their natural views obscured.

NU already has the right-of-way for the route south of Groveton, N.H., but still hasn't found a route north of Groveton that has the support of the area residents. Until that route is discovered, NU is waiting to get the approval of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the transmission line, said PSNH spokesman Michael Skelton.

"Our goal has been to secure a route that has the support of the underlying property owners," Skelton said.

NU hopes to have an announcement on the route this fall, Skelton said.

Contrary to what opponents are saying, NU will not use eminent domain to secure the right-of-way for any part of the route, Skelton said.

"That is not something that is in our plans," Skelton said.

NU and NStar have faced opposition not only from New Hampshire residents but from power generators who would lose money if Northern Pass imports 1,200 megawatts of low-cost power in from Quebec, as is the plan.

In September, the New England Power Generators Association published a position paper - while not necessarily opposing the project - decrying NU for actions it could take, including possibly using eminent domain and unfairly awarding the power contract to Hydro-Quebec to provide the 1,200 megawatts of power.

Skelton said NU will not use eminent domain and awarded the contract to Hydro-Quebec using the same competitive bidding laws as any other transmission project.

Since the 1,200 megawatts of hydropower will depress the overall cost of power in New England and push some higher cost generators out of the market, Skelton said NU expects the power generators to oppose the transmission line.

"It is really not surprising to use that they are critical of the project," Skelton said.


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