(Montreal) Hydro-Québec’s plan to supply power to New York state is unlikely to encounter the same obstacles as the Maine interconnector, believes the chief operating officer of the state-owned company’s American subsidiary, Serge Abergel.
Posted at 11:26 am
One of the reasons is that New York State does not have a referendum process that can challenge a project, as is the case in Maine, explains the head of Hydro-Quebec Energy Services in an interview on the sidelines of a presentation at the conference of Montreal on Tuesday. He also points out that the New York project has all the necessary permits to carry out the construction, which would allow it to be commissioned in 2025.
Mr. Abergel does not claim victory for this contract, which could generate revenues of 20 billion over 25 years and power the equivalent of a million homes. “I’m scared of all projects,” he admits. I want to be clear, it’s not because there’s a specific threat, it’s our job to be proactive. We don’t take anything for granted. »
The Hydro Quebec project also enjoys strong support from communities suffering the effects of air pollution associated with fossil fuel production, which New York State is seeking to replace with clean sources of supply, says Mr. Abergel.
He gave the example of auxiliary thermal power plants around New York City. The air pollution they cause particularly affects the borough of Queens on the island of Manhattan. The population has dubbed the “Asthma Corridor” to certain underprivileged areas.
“It’s the place in the United States that has the highest rate of asthma due to local air pollution,” said Mr. Abergel during his presentation. People stood up and said they were fed up with this environmental discrimination. »
Awaiting a verdict from the court
The situation with the Maine Interconnection Line project is more uncertain. The 336-kilometer project, which would cross Quebec and the US state to bring electricity to Massachusetts, was defeated by 59% of Maine citizens during a referendum last November.
The future of the project rests in the hands of the Maine Supreme Court, which must decide whether the referendum result is unconstitutional, Hydro-Québec and its partners claim. Until then, work is suspended.
The Maine Supreme Court must also rule on another crucial reason for the project. The permits for part of the 1.6-kilometer route are also controversial. A Maine Superior Court judge revoked the permits in question, which were granted by the government in 2014. The verdict will be appealed.
Hydro-Québec expects a verdict in the two cases by the end of July, which is likely to come at the same time. Mr Abergel says he hopes to win the case. “We will let the court make its decision, but we remain convinced that a project that has received its permits after four years of proceedings deserves to go ahead. »
Hydro-Quebec’s partner in Maine, NETEC, has already spent nearly $450 million, 43% of expected costs, according to documents filed in court. For its part, should the project be abandoned, Hydro-Québec estimates it will have to take a $536 million charge on its results, according to its annual report.
The power sale deal with Massachusetts would bring Hydro-Quebec $10 billion in revenue over 20 years. It would reduce greenhouse gases by 3 million tons, the equivalent of removing 700,000 cars from the road.
Until the verdict, the state-owned company has not found an alternative way to carry out its export project to Massachusetts. Building any other route would require another bidding process in Massachusetts “to Mr. Abergel’s understanding”. “There is no flexibility to recycle this tender for another project. »