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Hydropower and Transmission: Updated Position Statement

As Acadia Center has examined the path to a rapid transition away from fossil fuels, it has considered the potential for hydroelectric energy from existing impoundments to replace some of the fossil fuels used in the Northeast’s energy mix. The Northeast is currently heavily reliant on fossil fuels, especially natural gas, for electricity generation. According to multiple studies, when electricity comes from excess generation at existing hydro impoundments, it results in dramatically lower carbon emissions than electricity generated by fossil fuels.[1],[2]

Beyond the question of whether carbon emissions from hydro are lower, Acadia Center has been open to hydropower imports from existing hydro projects, but only if specific critical conditions are met and expectations fulfilled. Because these conditions and expectations have not been met, Acadia Center has not endorsed either the energy contract between Hydro-Quebec and Massachusetts utilities or the NECEC line.

In January 2019, Acadia Center joined a multiparty settlement to impose economic and consumer protection conditions on Central Maine Power (CMP) in the Maine Public Utilities Commission’s (MPUC) proceeding on the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) transmission line.  In that proceeding, Acadia Center joined the settlement for a certificate of public need and necessity (CPCN) for the NECEC line because the settlement would strengthen Maine’s economy, protect consumers, and deliver a clean energy future for the state. However, Acadia Center stated that it would only support the line and the contract between Hydro-Quebec (HQ) and Massachusetts utilities if, and only if, CMP and HQ also:

Contrary to Acadia Center’s sustained advocacy for transparency and accountability,[3] Massachusetts regulators approved a contract that fails to hold Hydro-Quebec responsible for verifying that electricity deliveries over the NECEC line, if permitted, will continue to produce real, incremental climate benefits over the life of the contract.  Additionally, the Maine DEP siting process is ongoing, and has yet to produce final assurances that the negative siting impacts will be avoided and reduced as much as possible.

Acadia Center will continue to hold CMP, Hydro-Quebec, and the Massachusetts utilities to their carbon-reduction and clean energy commitments should its contracts with Massachusetts proceed, and Acadia Center will heavily weigh the remaining unmet conditions prior to considering its full and unqualified support for NECEC.

Acadia Center aims to ensure that the Northeast region rapidly decarbonizes its energy system in line with Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommendations. To that end, Acadia Center works to build a comprehensive zero-carbon energy system by focusing on and prioritizing clean energy solutions, local clean energy resources, deep energy efficiency, utility reform, transportation improvements and innovations, and the phase-out of fossil fuels.[4]  Acadia Center remains committed to ensuring that Maine, Massachusetts, and this region work aggressively to reduce climate pollution to provide a climate safe future for all.

[1] I.B. Ocko and S. P. Hamburg, Climate Impacts of Hydropower: Enormous Difference among Facilities and over Time, Env. Sci & Tech., 2019, available here: https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.est.9b05083

[2] London Economics International LLC, Independent Analysis of Electricity Market and Macroeconomic Benefits of the New England Clean Energy Connect Project, prepared for the Maine Public Utilities Commission, May 21, 2018.

[3] Reply Brief of Acadia Center, DPU 18-64- DPU 18-66, April 3, 2019, available here: https://fileservice.eea.comacloud.net/FileService.Api/file/FileRoom/10562132

[4] EnergyVision 2030.