Testimony in Support of LD 1658, An Act to Verify the Reduction of Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions for Certain Electric Transmission Line Projects
Senator Brenner, Representative Gramlich, and members of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee. My name is Pete Didisheim, and I am the advocacy director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM). NRCM is Maine’s leading environmental advocacy organization with more than 25,000 members and supporters. I am testifying in support of LD 1658.
LD 1658 is a truth in advertising bill for the climate impacts associated with large transmission lines. The bill would require the owners of large transmission lines that are constructed primarily to transport electricity generated outside of the state to demonstrate whether the project contributes to the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions. If such reductions are not verified by an independent third-party analysis, then the Maine Department of Environmental Protection could impose fines.
This is an accountability bill that would ensure that new transmission lines delivering electricity from outside of Maine into the New England grid are, in fact, providing climate benefits.
The bill would have no impact on whether the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) is built. It would, however, require the owners of the NECEC, and any future such projects, verify through an independent, third-party analysis that the project would reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.
This is an important issue that has plagued the NECEC for more than five years, as it did the Northern Pass project in New Hampshire that was rejected by the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee because it was unclear whether the project would result in actual greenhouse gas emission reductions.i
During the Maine Public Utilities Commission’s review of the NECEC, a study by London Economics International (LEI) concluded that the NECEC would contribute to regional reductions of greenhouse gas emissions, but LEI did not determine whether greenhouse gas emission reductions within the New England grid might be offset by increases in greenhouse gas emissions elsewhere. (“LEI did not monetize the social benefits of the CO2 emissions reductions, nor did it analyze the emissions changes in other jurisdictions as a result of NECEC.”ii)
This has long been a suspected possibility and deep concern because climate change is a global issue, and projects that don’t demonstrate net additional reductions of greenhouse gas emissions are not relevant for addressing the problem.
In 2019, this Committee was sufficiently concerned about the uncertainty of whether the NECEC would generate new, additional climate benefits that it passed a bill (LD 640) requiring that an independent study be done to determine the answer to this question.
The Committee voted 10-3 for an amended version of LD 640, and then the Senate passed the bill 30-4. LD 640 was an emergency bill designed to deliver a much-needed, independent study on an expedited basis so it would not result in any delays for the project. However, CMP and affiliated lobbyists lobbied to defeat the study bill, and they succeeded. The House approved the measure 77-66, which was short of the two-thirds majority that would have been needed for the study to be done by the fall of 2019.
If the bill had passed, the people of Maine would have had an independent assessment of this core claim about the NECEC more than three and a half years ago.
But the defeat of LD 640 in 2019 doesn’t mean that verification of the climate impacts of this project, and future such projects, is not still relevant. It still is, very much so.
Opponents of LD 640 said that Hydro-Quebec (HQ) had so much electricity that the company didn’t know what to do with it all. They claimed that HQ literally was spilling water over its dams because it didn’t have markets for the power.iii Such claims were never verified because the study to do so was defeated.
Yet, this winter Hydro-Quebec experienced electricity shortages that caused the company to urge residents of Quebec to restrict electricity consumption.iv Quebec had to import electricity from New England to satisfy energy demands.
In fact, Quebec reportedly is moving from a period of surplus electricity to a period of shortages. According to media reports in Canada, “Quebec is shifting from years of power surpluses to shortfalls. Hydro-Québec’s 2022-2026 strategic plan estimates Quebec will not have enough capacity to meet demand starting in 2027.”v
The New England Power Generators Association (NEPGA) reported that during a February cold snap this winter, New England was sending 1,000MW to Quebec to meet their electricity needs. This sudden change left the NEPGA to wonder: “The Region Needs to Revisit Long-Held Assumptions.” (see attached)
This information raises legitimate concerns about whether the power that would be delivered through the NECEC will result in actual reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions, or whether electricity shortfalls in Quebec might require increases in generation from fossil fuel sources, and even increases in electricity imports from New England.
Such claims need to be verified. It matters where the power is coming from. If a project is sold as being good for the climate, then such claims should be independently verified.
That is why NRCM supports the general concept of this bill. However, we suggest that it be amended to include the basic structure of the amended version of LD 640.vi Specifically, the study should be done within one year of initial operations but should involve a modeled analysis over the first 10-year period of the contract, and the modeled analysis should be compared with the amount of global greenhouse gas emission reductions claimed in the project’s permit applications.
I appreciate this opportunity to provide testimony on LD 1658 and would be glad to answer any questions you may have.
i “As to the savings associated with a decrease in carbon emissions, we agree with Counsel for the Public that no actual greenhouse gas emission reductions would be realized if no new source of hydropower is introduced and the power delivered by the Project to New England is simply diverted from Ontario or New York. The record is unclear as to whether the hydropower is new or will be diverted from another region.” New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee. 2018. Decision and Order Denying Application for Certificate of Site and Facility. March 30.
ii London Economics International, LLC, Independent Analysis of Electricity Market and Macroeconomic Benefits of the New England Clean Energy Connect Project, May 21, 2018, Prepared for Maine Public Utilities Commission, https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2020/10/f79/2020-2- 14%20ATTACHMENT%20F%5B11727763v1%5D%20%282%29.PDF
iii See for example testimony by Tony Buxton in opposition to LD 640: ““this power will come from a new dam, 500 to 750 MW of generation upgrades at existing dams, and flowage currently being spilled by HQ because it lacks profitable long-term purchase agreements.” https://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/getTestimonyDoc.asp?id=100483
iv Hydro-Quebec asks customers to reduce electricity consumption during cold snap, Feb 3, 2023, https://montreal.ctvnews.ca/hydro-quebec-asks-customers-to-reduce-electricity-consumption-during-cold-snap- 1.6258347