By Josh Keefe, BDN Staff • June 10, 2019 5:26 am
Central Maine Power Co.’s proposal to build a transmission line through western Maine has stirred up controversy on editorial pages, television airwaves, Facebook and the floor of the Maine Legislature.
But the fight is about more than the swath of forest that would need to be cleared to build the line, which would bring hydroelectricity from Quebec to Massachusetts. It’s ultimately about the future of New England’s power supply: where it comes from, how clean it is and, perhaps most important for those in the fight, who profits off it.
The Bangor Daily News analyzed the money at stake to see who would benefit and who would lose if the line is completed, and what’s in it for the people of Maine. Here are five key findings:
— In the first year of operations, Canadian energy giant Hydro-Quebec stands to make nearly $500 million in revenue selling power over the line, which is 40 percent of the value of all its 2018 exports.
— The $120 million CMP will receive in the first year the project is online would be 15 percent of the company’s total operating revenues in 2018. CMP will receive $2.9 billion over 20 years for building and operating the line, although $950 million will go toward the construction of the project, with additional costs for maintenance and taxes.
— The line is projected to generate $1.4 billion in economic benefits for Maine in the first 15 years of operation, which includes gross domestic product growth, additional tax revenue and lower wholesale electricity costs, according to an independent economic analysis. That number doesn’t include a 40-year benefits package agreed to by Hydro-Quebec and CMP, which is worth $72 million in today’s dollars.
— Construction of the line is expected to create 1,600 jobs a year, but the line will support just 38 jobs a year after construction is complete.
— The line is projected to reduce New England’s carbon footprint by around 3 million metric tons a year, which is the equivalent of removing 700,000 cars from the road.
[As Maine debates 145-mile electric line, energy giant with billions at stake is absent]
Below is a more detailed analysis of the players and the money at stake.
Hydro-Quebec, which would supply power for the line, stands to make a total of $12.4 billion from Massachusetts ratepayers over 20 years, according to energy contracts reviewed by the BDN.
If the line is built, Hydro-Quebec would sell $486 million worth of electricity over the line in its first year of operations, according to the agreements. To put that number in perspective, it is 40 percent of the $1.2 billion worth of electricity Hydro-Quebec sold outside of its namesake province in 2018. It’s also more than double the amount of revenue utility Emera Maine made in 2018.
The contracts, which are currently under review by Massachusetts regulators, require Hydro-Quebec to sell a total of 9.45 terawatt hours of electricity each year — about a sixth of Massachusetts’ current annual usage — to three of the state’s electric utilities.
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Hydro-Quebec spokesperson Lynn St. Laurent did not dispute the BDN’s analysis but declined to comment on the $12.4 billion figure. “We don’t intend to comment on or discuss revenue figures by project,” St. Laurent said.
While Hydro-Quebec might be in a position to receive a financial windfall from CMP’s line, the company is only in that position because it has invested heavily in its generation capacity in recent years, St. Laurent said.
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