New England Power Line Moves Forward
When and if completed, the 145-mile New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) transmission line will carry hydropower from Canada to Massachusetts to the New England energy grid in Lewiston, Maine. While the NECEC project would bring clean energy from Canada, it’s being built through Massachusets and Maine’s Northwoods. While hydropower might not be carbon-intensive, it does harm its surrounding environment.
For four years, the project has cleared hurdles that could have stopped it completely. On a ballot measure last year, 60% of Maine voters supported blocking the project. But on Aug. 30, the state’s highest court granted the NECEC a win, ruling that retroactively putting a stop to the project was unconstitutional.
NEWS CENTER Maine: Cost vs. benefits of the CMP Corridor, October 29, 2021.
Why This Matters
New transmission lines will need to be built to connect new renewable energy projects to existing energy grids. Because renewable energy also doesn’t have the same consistent output as coal or gas, there’s also a need to increase regional connections. According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, the US will need a 60% increase in transmission capacity by the end of the decade to get energy from solar panels and wind turbines into people’s homes. The NECEC project demonstrates the complexity of the process and the building of new lines.
60 Minutes: How secure is America’s electric grid?, February 27, 2022.
FT: Expanding America’s superhighways of clean energy, September 21, 2021.
CNBC: How The US Can Build A 100% Clean Grid, January 27, 2021.
The Cost Of Hydropower
As efforts to retire fossil fuel plants continue, hydropower has been in the spotlight and is often promoted by the industry as low-carbon. While it doesn’t directly produce massive amounts of climate-damaging emissions, the reservoirs necessary for hydropower generation can be a significant source of methane emissions. Recently, the EPA has been petitioned to start measuring these indirect greenhouse gas emissions the same way they do for other large-scale facilities.
There are nearly 100,000 dams in the US, but an estimated 75-90% no longer serve any functional purpose. Instead of providing energy, they harm ecosystems and water quality. And, with the ongoing record-breaking drought in the Southwest US, hydropower’s long-term viability as a domestic energy source has been put into question.
CNBC: What Is The Future Of Hydropower?, May 28, 2022.
Terra Mater: The Price of Damming our Rivers | Hydropower Impact, December 1, 2020.
Patagonia: DamNation | The Problem with Hydropower, April 23, 2020.