What would Northern Pass mean for our climate?

Christophe Courchesne

The Eastmain Powerhouses from space (photo credit: NASA)

Beyond the discredited sales pitch that Northern Pass will lower electric rates in New Hampshire, the developers have repeatedly claimed that the power to be imported through the Northern Pass project will be “low-carbon,” “clean,” and “green,” with “no greenhouse gases,” and “no global warming.” The power will also, we’re told, “improve the quality of the air we breathe.” The developers have said, over and over, that the project “is expected to reduce regional carbon dioxide emissions by up to 5 million tons per year, the equivalent of removing from the road one million cars annually.” In fact, the study on which this claim is based – a report (PDF) commissioned by Northern Pass and authored by Boston-based energy consultant Charles River Associates – began with the assumption that hydro power is “zero-carbon.” Let me repeat that: the developers’ claim that the project will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by a net 5 million tons is based on their unexamined presupposition that the power to be delivered by the project has no carbon dioxide emissions at all.

There’s no other way to say it: this assumption is false.

You don’t have to take my word for it; read Hydro-Québec’s own research report (4.4 MB PDF) on the net greenhouse gas emissions of the Eastmain 1 Reservoir, flooded in 2005 (aerial shots here). In an Orwellian twist, the developers of Northern Pass have repeatedly cited this very same research.

The Hydro-Québec report found that net carbon emissions from Eastmain-1 were 500,000 tons in 2006 and 165,000 tons in 2009, and are projected to average approximately 158,000 tons per year on a long-term basis.  While certainly less than coal-fired power plants – PSNH’s Merrimack Station emitted more than 2.8 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2010 – 158,000 tons of net carbon emissions per year is far from “zero-carbon” or even “low-carbon” power.  Based on our own survey of reservoir greenhouse gas research, we have some serious questions about the report, and there is reason to believe that it understates emissions over time and per unit of energy generated. But the report does confirm that Hydro-Québec’s reservoirs will continue to emit more greenhouse gases per year than the natural environment they flooded. These emissions are locked in for decades if not centuries – unlike a power plant that burns fuel, you cannot turn off a reservoir.

When compared with the power plants that Northern Pass’s power could displace, new hydroelectric projects in their early years of operation are no cleaner in terms of carbon emissions.  According to the report, “it takes about five years for the accumulated CO2 eq. emissions to fall below the [natural gas combined cycle] value” (p.15). So, on a net and cumulative basis since its flooding in 2005, the Eastmain 1 Reservoir has had the same carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions as a modern natural gas power plant that has the same power output and began operating in 2005. 

The report also highlights what appears to be a clear difference between the net emissions of a newly impounded reservoir and the emissions of a reservoir that was impounded decades ago: a new reservoir emits more greenhouse gases, as the vegetation and organic material in the newly inundated area decompose.

This distinction is especially important when considering the contradictory stories we have heard about where Northern Pass will get its power. On the one hand, Northern Pass’s website claims (click on “Hydro-Québec” on this page) that “Hydro-Québec does not need to build any new generation to support this project.” On the other hand, it is clear that Québec is developing and planning vast new hydroelectric projects, many of which will require new inundation and reservoirs, as part of a concerted strategy to maintain and increase exports to New England and the northeast United States. See Erin’s blog post from yesterday for more on Vermont’s new long-term contract with Hydro-Québec. 

In fact, Charles River Associates’ fundamentally flawed estimate of carbon emissions reductions depends on the development of new hydro projects in Canada. And just ten days ago, in testimony to Massachusetts regulators, Northeast Utilities’ CFO David McHale stated under oath: “We already know for a fact that the utility Hydro-Quebec has initiated the construction of dams, and we’ve already entered into the record a discussion about the Eastmain Water Reservoir that will provide the water source. So this is not speculative. They’re building the dams and they will go into service; and that will be the primary source, if not the exclusive source, of energy that will flow over [the Northern Pass] line. . . . [T]hat is the full expectation.” What McHale was referring to is Hydro-Québec’s major new project in the vicinity of Eastmain-1 – the Rupert River project (project website here and explanatory animation here). Since 2009, this 918-MW project – now in the final stages of development – has newly flooded 346 square kilometers  – an area about the size of two Lake Winnipesaukees. That Northern Pass power will be coming from new projects means that Northern Pass will enable and contribute to the substantial carbon emissions associated with new reservoirs.  There has been no accounting of the potential emissions from the Rupert project and other future projects that Northern Pass may make possible, and how they would cut into the potential emissions reductions Northern Pass and Charles River Associates have claimed.

These inaccuracies and contradictions are being disseminated with hundreds of thousands of dollars in media buys, money which could have been invested in engaging in a collaborative process to rework the current proposal.  This situation makes CLF’s fight for a world-class, independent, and comprehensive permitting process all the more important.

CLF has been adamant that the Department of Energy must consider the environmental impacts – including greenhouse gas emissions – of the hydropower generation projects and any other power plants in Canada that will supply the Northern Pass project.  Given the developers’ recent announcement of new delays in their schedule, there’s still time for the Department of Energy to change course and answer our call for a regional, holistic analysis of the right approach to importing power from Canada, taking into account the truth about that power’s greenhouse gas emissions.

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Climate Change

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Northern Pass

20 Responses to “What would Northern Pass mean for our climate?”

  1. Thank you, CLF, for your excellent research into this matter. It is a sham that the power companies who are supposed to be helping the people with basic infrastructure, are only concerned about their shareholders, and are not the least concerned about who they trample upon, or how bad their “research” is. We need objective research. And we need a clear policy for how New England is going to meet their energy needs from local domestic power that is clean and green. Hydro Quebec’s exploitation of New England is not acceptable, and there is NOT reason why the PUC, FERC and any other US government body should allow such abuse of the American people. Thank you, CLF for taking on this matter!

  2. Thank you, CLF, for your excellent research into this matter. It is a sham that the power companies who are supposed to be helping the people with basic infrastructure, are only concerned about their shareholders, and are not the least concerned about who they trample upon, or how bad their “research” is. We need objective research. And we need a clear policy for how New England is going to meet their energy needs from local domestic power that is clean and green. Hydro Quebec’s exploitation of New England is not acceptable, and there is NOT reason why the PUC, FERC and any other US government body should allow such abuse of the American people. Thank you, CLF for taking on this matter!

  3. Thank you, CLF, for your excellent research into this matter. It is a sham that the power companies who are supposed to be helping the people with basic infrastructure, are only concerned about their shareholders, and are not the least concerned about who they trample upon, or how bad their “research” is. We need objective research. And we need a clear policy for how New England is going to meet their energy needs from local domestic power that is clean and green. Hydro Quebec’s exploitation of New England is not acceptable, and there is NOT reason why the PUC, FERC and any other US government body should allow such abuse of the American people. Thank you, CLF for taking on this matter!

  4. Thank you, CLF, for your excellent research into this matter. It is a sham that the power companies who are supposed to be helping the people with basic infrastructure, are only concerned about their shareholders, and are not the least concerned about who they trample upon, or how bad their “research” is. We need objective research. And we need a clear policy for how New England is going to meet their energy needs from local domestic power that is clean and green. Hydro Quebec’s exploitation of New England is not acceptable, and there is NOT reason why the PUC, FERC and any other US government body should allow such abuse of the American people. Thank you, CLF for taking on this matter!

  5. Frustrated in NH

    You people are clueless and your poor talk is getting old. Disconnect your electric meters and move on with your green lives. The rest of us need economic prosperity and 1200 mw of economic hydo power is about as good as it gets in the power world.

    • There is more to it than economic prosperity and saving money, there are real health implications to placing high voltage power lines close to homes, schools, etc. add to that the destruction of the pristine beauty that is the White Mountains and northern New Hampshire and it is ABSOLUTELY CLEAR why the majority of New Hampshire citizens oppose. I have lived in New Hampshire all nineteen glorious years of my life and I sure do not want to see these hideous towers, literally, cut right through my back yard in Plymouth. You have a nice day, I assume, using many watts of electricity and burning as many gallons of fossil fuels as possible : )

  6. Frustrated in NH

    You people are clueless and your poor talk is getting old. Disconnect your electric meters and move on with your green lives. The rest of us need economic prosperity and 1200 mw of economic hydo power is about as good as it gets in the power world.

    • There is more to it than economic prosperity and saving money, there are real health implications to placing high voltage power lines close to homes, schools, etc. add to that the destruction of the pristine beauty that is the White Mountains and northern New Hampshire and it is ABSOLUTELY CLEAR why the majority of New Hampshire citizens oppose. I have lived in New Hampshire all nineteen glorious years of my life and I sure do not want to see these hideous towers, literally, cut right through my back yard in Plymouth. You have a nice day, I assume, using many watts of electricity and burning as many gallons of fossil fuels as possible : )

  7. Frustrated in NH

    You people are clueless and your poor talk is getting old. Disconnect your electric meters and move on with your green lives. The rest of us need economic prosperity and 1200 mw of economic hydo power is about as good as it gets in the power world.

    • There is more to it than economic prosperity and saving money, there are real health implications to placing high voltage power lines close to homes, schools, etc. add to that the destruction of the pristine beauty that is the White Mountains and northern New Hampshire and it is ABSOLUTELY CLEAR why the majority of New Hampshire citizens oppose. I have lived in New Hampshire all nineteen glorious years of my life and I sure do not want to see these hideous towers, literally, cut right through my back yard in Plymouth. You have a nice day, I assume, using many watts of electricity and burning as many gallons of fossil fuels as possible : )

  8. Frustrated in NH

    You people are clueless and your poor talk is getting old. Disconnect your electric meters and move on with your green lives. The rest of us need economic prosperity and 1200 mw of economic hydo power is about as good as it gets in the power world.

    • There is more to it than economic prosperity and saving money, there are real health implications to placing high voltage power lines close to homes, schools, etc. add to that the destruction of the pristine beauty that is the White Mountains and northern New Hampshire and it is ABSOLUTELY CLEAR why the majority of New Hampshire citizens oppose. I have lived in New Hampshire all nineteen glorious years of my life and I sure do not want to see these hideous towers, literally, cut right through my back yard in Plymouth. You have a nice day, I assume, using many watts of electricity and burning as many gallons of fossil fuels as possible : )

  9. The Conservation Law Foundation has selectively used data about hydro power, Hydro-Québec generating stations and reservoirs, resulting in a less than complete picture about climate and hydropower. We think it is important to tell the whole story regardless of where the power is used.

    The Facts on Québec Hydropower: one of the lowest-emission energy generating options

    Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for average Hydro-Québec reservoirs are similar to those from wind power and about a quarter of those from photovoltaic solar facilities.

    While all electricity generation creates greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, whether directly or indirectly, hydropower ranks as one of the lowest emission-generating options per kilowatthour. A Hydro-Québec reservoir generating station produces about 40 times less GHG emissions than a gas-fired plant and about 100 times less than a coal-fired plant.

    Hydro-Québec produces 32% of the total electricity generated in Canada, but accounts for only 0.4% of the GHG emissions from the country’s electric utilities.

    Solid science

    The large-scale scientific study carried out in collaboration with 80 experts from Université du Québec à Montréal, McGill University and Environnement IIlimité Inc. measured GHG emissions from the Eastmain 1 reservoir not only after impoundment, but also those coming from the natural environment prior to the reservoir’s creation. Some 100,000 scientific facts were analyzed for this unique research program which was launched in 2003. The results of the study were published during the World Energy Congress and in the prestigious Hydro Review, which are both peer-reviewed.

    Over 45 articles and reports, published in a wide range of specialized scientific journals around the world, as well as more than 130 presentations given to national and international scientific conferences, support the conclusions of the Eastmain 1 synthesis study.

    GHG emissions from the Eastmain 1 reservoir

    It is incorrect to assume that emissions from the Eastmain 1 reservoir would average 158,000 tons of CO2e per year on a long-term basis over a period of 100 years. This figure is in fact the amount of emissions per TWh generated, but only referring to energy generated by the Eastmain-1 generating station.
    For 93 of the 100 years in question, water from the Eastmain 1 reservoir will also run turbines at the Eastmain-1-A generating station, bringing total annual energy output up to 6.7 TWh. The corresponding GHG emissions would thus be approximately 54 tons CO2 equivalent per GWh.

    In comparison, the most efficient thermal plants, combined-cycle natural gas facilities, emit about 380 tonnes of CO2 equivalent/GWh; the emissions from the Eastmain 1 Reservoir are a mere 16 percent of this amount over a period of 100 years. And emissions from coal-fired generating stations are considerably higher even than those of combined-cycle natural gas facilities.

    Improved air quality

    Hydropower generation produces none of the pollutants responsible for acid rain and smog.

    Electricity exports to New England: reducing greenhouse gas emissions
    The electricity that Hydro-Québec exports to the United States comes from its integrated production fleet, not from a particular generating station. Thirds of its 60 generating stations are run of the river facilities, which in fact produce zero GHG emissions.

    GHG emissions from reservoirs vary from one reservoir to another, depending on the shape of the reservoir, the impounded surface area and the type of terrain impounded (forest, lakes, peat bogs, etc.). Future emissions from Hydro-Québec’s La Romaine project, which will be commissioned between 2104 and 2020, are estimated at 1 – 5 tons per GWh.

    The GHG emissions from the energy generated by Hydro-Québec’s entire production fleet average 10-20 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per GWh – roughly the emissions of wind power.

    Between 2008 and 2010, Hydro-Québec’s net exports avoided the emission of 41 million metric tons of GHGs in North America, the equivalent of the annual emissions from about 10 million vehicles.

    The major environmental challenge facing North America is to replace coal to generate power and oil used in transportation. By supplying neighboring markets, notably in New England, with renewable, competitively priced and reliable energy, Hydro-Québec contributes to the fight against climate change and air pollution.

    Alain Tremblay, M.Sc., Ph.D.
    Environment Advisor
    Hydro-Québec Production

  10. The Conservation Law Foundation has selectively used data about hydro power, Hydro-Québec generating stations and reservoirs, resulting in a less than complete picture about climate and hydropower. We think it is important to tell the whole story regardless of where the power is used.

    The Facts on Québec Hydropower: one of the lowest-emission energy generating options

    Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for average Hydro-Québec reservoirs are similar to those from wind power and about a quarter of those from photovoltaic solar facilities.

    While all electricity generation creates greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, whether directly or indirectly, hydropower ranks as one of the lowest emission-generating options per kilowatthour. A Hydro-Québec reservoir generating station produces about 40 times less GHG emissions than a gas-fired plant and about 100 times less than a coal-fired plant.

    Hydro-Québec produces 32% of the total electricity generated in Canada, but accounts for only 0.4% of the GHG emissions from the country’s electric utilities.

    Solid science

    The large-scale scientific study carried out in collaboration with 80 experts from Université du Québec à Montréal, McGill University and Environnement IIlimité Inc. measured GHG emissions from the Eastmain 1 reservoir not only after impoundment, but also those coming from the natural environment prior to the reservoir’s creation. Some 100,000 scientific facts were analyzed for this unique research program which was launched in 2003. The results of the study were published during the World Energy Congress and in the prestigious Hydro Review, which are both peer-reviewed.

    Over 45 articles and reports, published in a wide range of specialized scientific journals around the world, as well as more than 130 presentations given to national and international scientific conferences, support the conclusions of the Eastmain 1 synthesis study.

    GHG emissions from the Eastmain 1 reservoir

    It is incorrect to assume that emissions from the Eastmain 1 reservoir would average 158,000 tons of CO2e per year on a long-term basis over a period of 100 years. This figure is in fact the amount of emissions per TWh generated, but only referring to energy generated by the Eastmain-1 generating station.
    For 93 of the 100 years in question, water from the Eastmain 1 reservoir will also run turbines at the Eastmain-1-A generating station, bringing total annual energy output up to 6.7 TWh. The corresponding GHG emissions would thus be approximately 54 tons CO2 equivalent per GWh.

    In comparison, the most efficient thermal plants, combined-cycle natural gas facilities, emit about 380 tonnes of CO2 equivalent/GWh; the emissions from the Eastmain 1 Reservoir are a mere 16 percent of this amount over a period of 100 years. And emissions from coal-fired generating stations are considerably higher even than those of combined-cycle natural gas facilities.

    Improved air quality

    Hydropower generation produces none of the pollutants responsible for acid rain and smog.

    Electricity exports to New England: reducing greenhouse gas emissions
    The electricity that Hydro-Québec exports to the United States comes from its integrated production fleet, not from a particular generating station. Thirds of its 60 generating stations are run of the river facilities, which in fact produce zero GHG emissions.

    GHG emissions from reservoirs vary from one reservoir to another, depending on the shape of the reservoir, the impounded surface area and the type of terrain impounded (forest, lakes, peat bogs, etc.). Future emissions from Hydro-Québec’s La Romaine project, which will be commissioned between 2104 and 2020, are estimated at 1 – 5 tons per GWh.

    The GHG emissions from the energy generated by Hydro-Québec’s entire production fleet average 10-20 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per GWh – roughly the emissions of wind power.

    Between 2008 and 2010, Hydro-Québec’s net exports avoided the emission of 41 million metric tons of GHGs in North America, the equivalent of the annual emissions from about 10 million vehicles.

    The major environmental challenge facing North America is to replace coal to generate power and oil used in transportation. By supplying neighboring markets, notably in New England, with renewable, competitively priced and reliable energy, Hydro-Québec contributes to the fight against climate change and air pollution.

    Alain Tremblay, M.Sc., Ph.D.
    Environment Advisor
    Hydro-Québec Production

  11. The Conservation Law Foundation has selectively used data about hydro power, Hydro-Québec generating stations and reservoirs, resulting in a less than complete picture about climate and hydropower. We think it is important to tell the whole story regardless of where the power is used.

    The Facts on Québec Hydropower: one of the lowest-emission energy generating options

    Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for average Hydro-Québec reservoirs are similar to those from wind power and about a quarter of those from photovoltaic solar facilities.

    While all electricity generation creates greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, whether directly or indirectly, hydropower ranks as one of the lowest emission-generating options per kilowatthour. A Hydro-Québec reservoir generating station produces about 40 times less GHG emissions than a gas-fired plant and about 100 times less than a coal-fired plant.

    Hydro-Québec produces 32% of the total electricity generated in Canada, but accounts for only 0.4% of the GHG emissions from the country’s electric utilities.

    Solid science

    The large-scale scientific study carried out in collaboration with 80 experts from Université du Québec à Montréal, McGill University and Environnement IIlimité Inc. measured GHG emissions from the Eastmain 1 reservoir not only after impoundment, but also those coming from the natural environment prior to the reservoir’s creation. Some 100,000 scientific facts were analyzed for this unique research program which was launched in 2003. The results of the study were published during the World Energy Congress and in the prestigious Hydro Review, which are both peer-reviewed.

    Over 45 articles and reports, published in a wide range of specialized scientific journals around the world, as well as more than 130 presentations given to national and international scientific conferences, support the conclusions of the Eastmain 1 synthesis study.

    GHG emissions from the Eastmain 1 reservoir

    It is incorrect to assume that emissions from the Eastmain 1 reservoir would average 158,000 tons of CO2e per year on a long-term basis over a period of 100 years. This figure is in fact the amount of emissions per TWh generated, but only referring to energy generated by the Eastmain-1 generating station.
    For 93 of the 100 years in question, water from the Eastmain 1 reservoir will also run turbines at the Eastmain-1-A generating station, bringing total annual energy output up to 6.7 TWh. The corresponding GHG emissions would thus be approximately 54 tons CO2 equivalent per GWh.

    In comparison, the most efficient thermal plants, combined-cycle natural gas facilities, emit about 380 tonnes of CO2 equivalent/GWh; the emissions from the Eastmain 1 Reservoir are a mere 16 percent of this amount over a period of 100 years. And emissions from coal-fired generating stations are considerably higher even than those of combined-cycle natural gas facilities.

    Improved air quality

    Hydropower generation produces none of the pollutants responsible for acid rain and smog.

    Electricity exports to New England: reducing greenhouse gas emissions
    The electricity that Hydro-Québec exports to the United States comes from its integrated production fleet, not from a particular generating station. Thirds of its 60 generating stations are run of the river facilities, which in fact produce zero GHG emissions.

    GHG emissions from reservoirs vary from one reservoir to another, depending on the shape of the reservoir, the impounded surface area and the type of terrain impounded (forest, lakes, peat bogs, etc.). Future emissions from Hydro-Québec’s La Romaine project, which will be commissioned between 2104 and 2020, are estimated at 1 – 5 tons per GWh.

    The GHG emissions from the energy generated by Hydro-Québec’s entire production fleet average 10-20 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per GWh – roughly the emissions of wind power.

    Between 2008 and 2010, Hydro-Québec’s net exports avoided the emission of 41 million metric tons of GHGs in North America, the equivalent of the annual emissions from about 10 million vehicles.

    The major environmental challenge facing North America is to replace coal to generate power and oil used in transportation. By supplying neighboring markets, notably in New England, with renewable, competitively priced and reliable energy, Hydro-Québec contributes to the fight against climate change and air pollution.

    Alain Tremblay, M.Sc., Ph.D.
    Environment Advisor
    Hydro-Québec Production

  12. The Conservation Law Foundation has selectively used data about hydro power, Hydro-Québec generating stations and reservoirs, resulting in a less than complete picture about climate and hydropower. We think it is important to tell the whole story regardless of where the power is used.

    The Facts on Québec Hydropower: one of the lowest-emission energy generating options

    Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for average Hydro-Québec reservoirs are similar to those from wind power and about a quarter of those from photovoltaic solar facilities.

    While all electricity generation creates greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, whether directly or indirectly, hydropower ranks as one of the lowest emission-generating options per kilowatthour. A Hydro-Québec reservoir generating station produces about 40 times less GHG emissions than a gas-fired plant and about 100 times less than a coal-fired plant.

    Hydro-Québec produces 32% of the total electricity generated in Canada, but accounts for only 0.4% of the GHG emissions from the country’s electric utilities.

    Solid science

    The large-scale scientific study carried out in collaboration with 80 experts from Université du Québec à Montréal, McGill University and Environnement IIlimité Inc. measured GHG emissions from the Eastmain 1 reservoir not only after impoundment, but also those coming from the natural environment prior to the reservoir’s creation. Some 100,000 scientific facts were analyzed for this unique research program which was launched in 2003. The results of the study were published during the World Energy Congress and in the prestigious Hydro Review, which are both peer-reviewed.

    Over 45 articles and reports, published in a wide range of specialized scientific journals around the world, as well as more than 130 presentations given to national and international scientific conferences, support the conclusions of the Eastmain 1 synthesis study.

    GHG emissions from the Eastmain 1 reservoir

    It is incorrect to assume that emissions from the Eastmain 1 reservoir would average 158,000 tons of CO2e per year on a long-term basis over a period of 100 years. This figure is in fact the amount of emissions per TWh generated, but only referring to energy generated by the Eastmain-1 generating station.
    For 93 of the 100 years in question, water from the Eastmain 1 reservoir will also run turbines at the Eastmain-1-A generating station, bringing total annual energy output up to 6.7 TWh. The corresponding GHG emissions would thus be approximately 54 tons CO2 equivalent per GWh.

    In comparison, the most efficient thermal plants, combined-cycle natural gas facilities, emit about 380 tonnes of CO2 equivalent/GWh; the emissions from the Eastmain 1 Reservoir are a mere 16 percent of this amount over a period of 100 years. And emissions from coal-fired generating stations are considerably higher even than those of combined-cycle natural gas facilities.

    Improved air quality

    Hydropower generation produces none of the pollutants responsible for acid rain and smog.

    Electricity exports to New England: reducing greenhouse gas emissions
    The electricity that Hydro-Québec exports to the United States comes from its integrated production fleet, not from a particular generating station. Thirds of its 60 generating stations are run of the river facilities, which in fact produce zero GHG emissions.

    GHG emissions from reservoirs vary from one reservoir to another, depending on the shape of the reservoir, the impounded surface area and the type of terrain impounded (forest, lakes, peat bogs, etc.). Future emissions from Hydro-Québec’s La Romaine project, which will be commissioned between 2104 and 2020, are estimated at 1 – 5 tons per GWh.

    The GHG emissions from the energy generated by Hydro-Québec’s entire production fleet average 10-20 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per GWh – roughly the emissions of wind power.

    Between 2008 and 2010, Hydro-Québec’s net exports avoided the emission of 41 million metric tons of GHGs in North America, the equivalent of the annual emissions from about 10 million vehicles.

    The major environmental challenge facing North America is to replace coal to generate power and oil used in transportation. By supplying neighboring markets, notably in New England, with renewable, competitively priced and reliable energy, Hydro-Québec contributes to the fight against climate change and air pollution.

    Alain Tremblay, M.Sc., Ph.D.
    Environment Advisor
    Hydro-Québec Production

  13. Christophe Courchesne

    Dr. Tremblay – Many thanks for your comments, which are substantive and highlight some important points. We certainly agree that “[t]he major environmental challenge facing North America is to replace coal to generate power and oil used in transportation.” In this regard, it is unacceptable (and baffling) that the Northern Pass project, as proposed, would result in very little or no replacement of coal-fired power, including the power plants that the principal American developer itself controls.

    It bears mention that there does not appear to be any dispute about the basic points in my post. With respect to Northern Pass, CLF’s fundamental goal is to air a complete account of the energy and environmental implications of the project, including the GHG emissions of the power source. The American developers of Northern Pass have claimed, on numerous occasions, that generation in Canada is effectively “zero-carbon,” and HQ’s own studies contradict that claim. Moreover, a key issue is whether Northern Pass and other export efforts are driving project development, along with the elevated emissions that follow impoundment. If so (as HQ’s strategic plan states and NU’s CFO recently stated under oath), it is certainly not the complete picture to cite system GHG emissions as the relevant metric for understanding Northern Pass’s climate impacts. (It is also important to understand the basis for system emissions figures, and whether they reflect the outdated assumption that emissions from reservoirs begin low and then stabilize at zero or they account for the latest research that predicts higher emissions that are relatively low when compared with fossil sources. For example, by HQ’s own numbers, Eastmain will emit 6x less GHG emissions than natural gas over 100 years – not 40x less.)

    In particular, we appreciate and acknowledge the significance of the Eastmain studies, as they reflect a serious and sophisticated effort to measure net carbon emissions from reservoirs taking into consideration pre-impoundment vegetation and other conditions, something that standard measurements of emissions from HQ’s many other reservoirs cannot incorporate. The early spike in emissions is significant and well-documented in the data, which also predicts some (not zero) long-term emissions as well. We also question the utility of 100-year time horizons for comparing natural gas and hydropower in the context of Northern Pass, and find it significant that even over that longer timeframe (far exceeding the useful life of new natural gas plants), Eastmain hydropower has 16% of natural gas’s GHG emissions. We would urge those interested to read the linked study.

    We would also suggest there is considerable uncertainty about the role of Eastmain-1-A, the water for which is carried into the Eastmain-1 reservoir by the Rupert River project. As we read the linked Eastmain study, it does not consider the carbon emissions associated with new Rupert-related impoundments, so the predicted reduction in emissions per unit of energy generated deserves additional scrutiny and explanation.

    We would also welcome additional references on the net avoided emissions from HQ exports today, and would be interested to learn how they account for Quebec’s off-hour imports of power from fossil-dominated neighboring systems, including ISO-NE.

    Thanks again for your post here, and we hope to continue the dialogue in future posts and other venues.

    Christophe Courchesne
    Staff Attorney
    CLF New Hampshire

  14. Christophe Courchesne

    Dr. Tremblay – Many thanks for your comments, which are substantive and highlight some important points. We certainly agree that “[t]he major environmental challenge facing North America is to replace coal to generate power and oil used in transportation.” In this regard, it is unacceptable (and baffling) that the Northern Pass project, as proposed, would result in very little or no replacement of coal-fired power, including the power plants that the principal American developer itself controls.

    It bears mention that there does not appear to be any dispute about the basic points in my post. With respect to Northern Pass, CLF’s fundamental goal is to air a complete account of the energy and environmental implications of the project, including the GHG emissions of the power source. The American developers of Northern Pass have claimed, on numerous occasions, that generation in Canada is effectively “zero-carbon,” and HQ’s own studies contradict that claim. Moreover, a key issue is whether Northern Pass and other export efforts are driving project development, along with the elevated emissions that follow impoundment. If so (as HQ’s strategic plan states and NU’s CFO recently stated under oath), it is certainly not the complete picture to cite system GHG emissions as the relevant metric for understanding Northern Pass’s climate impacts. (It is also important to understand the basis for system emissions figures, and whether they reflect the outdated assumption that emissions from reservoirs begin low and then stabilize at zero or they account for the latest research that predicts higher emissions that are relatively low when compared with fossil sources. For example, by HQ’s own numbers, Eastmain will emit 6x less GHG emissions than natural gas over 100 years – not 40x less.)

    In particular, we appreciate and acknowledge the significance of the Eastmain studies, as they reflect a serious and sophisticated effort to measure net carbon emissions from reservoirs taking into consideration pre-impoundment vegetation and other conditions, something that standard measurements of emissions from HQ’s many other reservoirs cannot incorporate. The early spike in emissions is significant and well-documented in the data, which also predicts some (not zero) long-term emissions as well. We also question the utility of 100-year time horizons for comparing natural gas and hydropower in the context of Northern Pass, and find it significant that even over that longer timeframe (far exceeding the useful life of new natural gas plants), Eastmain hydropower has 16% of natural gas’s GHG emissions. We would urge those interested to read the linked study.

    We would also suggest there is considerable uncertainty about the role of Eastmain-1-A, the water for which is carried into the Eastmain-1 reservoir by the Rupert River project. As we read the linked Eastmain study, it does not consider the carbon emissions associated with new Rupert-related impoundments, so the predicted reduction in emissions per unit of energy generated deserves additional scrutiny and explanation.

    We would also welcome additional references on the net avoided emissions from HQ exports today, and would be interested to learn how they account for Quebec’s off-hour imports of power from fossil-dominated neighboring systems, including ISO-NE.

    Thanks again for your post here, and we hope to continue the dialogue in future posts and other venues.

    Christophe Courchesne
    Staff Attorney
    CLF New Hampshire

  15. Christophe Courchesne

    Dr. Tremblay – Many thanks for your comments, which are substantive and highlight some important points. We certainly agree that “[t]he major environmental challenge facing North America is to replace coal to generate power and oil used in transportation.” In this regard, it is unacceptable (and baffling) that the Northern Pass project, as proposed, would result in very little or no replacement of coal-fired power, including the power plants that the principal American developer itself controls.

    It bears mention that there does not appear to be any dispute about the basic points in my post. With respect to Northern Pass, CLF’s fundamental goal is to air a complete account of the energy and environmental implications of the project, including the GHG emissions of the power source. The American developers of Northern Pass have claimed, on numerous occasions, that generation in Canada is effectively “zero-carbon,” and HQ’s own studies contradict that claim. Moreover, a key issue is whether Northern Pass and other export efforts are driving project development, along with the elevated emissions that follow impoundment. If so (as HQ’s strategic plan states and NU’s CFO recently stated under oath), it is certainly not the complete picture to cite system GHG emissions as the relevant metric for understanding Northern Pass’s climate impacts. (It is also important to understand the basis for system emissions figures, and whether they reflect the outdated assumption that emissions from reservoirs begin low and then stabilize at zero or they account for the latest research that predicts higher emissions that are relatively low when compared with fossil sources. For example, by HQ’s own numbers, Eastmain will emit 6x less GHG emissions than natural gas over 100 years – not 40x less.)

    In particular, we appreciate and acknowledge the significance of the Eastmain studies, as they reflect a serious and sophisticated effort to measure net carbon emissions from reservoirs taking into consideration pre-impoundment vegetation and other conditions, something that standard measurements of emissions from HQ’s many other reservoirs cannot incorporate. The early spike in emissions is significant and well-documented in the data, which also predicts some (not zero) long-term emissions as well. We also question the utility of 100-year time horizons for comparing natural gas and hydropower in the context of Northern Pass, and find it significant that even over that longer timeframe (far exceeding the useful life of new natural gas plants), Eastmain hydropower has 16% of natural gas’s GHG emissions. We would urge those interested to read the linked study.

    We would also suggest there is considerable uncertainty about the role of Eastmain-1-A, the water for which is carried into the Eastmain-1 reservoir by the Rupert River project. As we read the linked Eastmain study, it does not consider the carbon emissions associated with new Rupert-related impoundments, so the predicted reduction in emissions per unit of energy generated deserves additional scrutiny and explanation.

    We would also welcome additional references on the net avoided emissions from HQ exports today, and would be interested to learn how they account for Quebec’s off-hour imports of power from fossil-dominated neighboring systems, including ISO-NE.

    Thanks again for your post here, and we hope to continue the dialogue in future posts and other venues.

    Christophe Courchesne
    Staff Attorney
    CLF New Hampshire

  16. Christophe Courchesne

    Dr. Tremblay – Many thanks for your comments, which are substantive and highlight some important points. We certainly agree that “[t]he major environmental challenge facing North America is to replace coal to generate power and oil used in transportation.” In this regard, it is unacceptable (and baffling) that the Northern Pass project, as proposed, would result in very little or no replacement of coal-fired power, including the power plants that the principal American developer itself controls.

    It bears mention that there does not appear to be any dispute about the basic points in my post. With respect to Northern Pass, CLF’s fundamental goal is to air a complete account of the energy and environmental implications of the project, including the GHG emissions of the power source. The American developers of Northern Pass have claimed, on numerous occasions, that generation in Canada is effectively “zero-carbon,” and HQ’s own studies contradict that claim. Moreover, a key issue is whether Northern Pass and other export efforts are driving project development, along with the elevated emissions that follow impoundment. If so (as HQ’s strategic plan states and NU’s CFO recently stated under oath), it is certainly not the complete picture to cite system GHG emissions as the relevant metric for understanding Northern Pass’s climate impacts. (It is also important to understand the basis for system emissions figures, and whether they reflect the outdated assumption that emissions from reservoirs begin low and then stabilize at zero or they account for the latest research that predicts higher emissions that are relatively low when compared with fossil sources. For example, by HQ’s own numbers, Eastmain will emit 6x less GHG emissions than natural gas over 100 years – not 40x less.)

    In particular, we appreciate and acknowledge the significance of the Eastmain studies, as they reflect a serious and sophisticated effort to measure net carbon emissions from reservoirs taking into consideration pre-impoundment vegetation and other conditions, something that standard measurements of emissions from HQ’s many other reservoirs cannot incorporate. The early spike in emissions is significant and well-documented in the data, which also predicts some (not zero) long-term emissions as well. We also question the utility of 100-year time horizons for comparing natural gas and hydropower in the context of Northern Pass, and find it significant that even over that longer timeframe (far exceeding the useful life of new natural gas plants), Eastmain hydropower has 16% of natural gas’s GHG emissions. We would urge those interested to read the linked study.

    We would also suggest there is considerable uncertainty about the role of Eastmain-1-A, the water for which is carried into the Eastmain-1 reservoir by the Rupert River project. As we read the linked Eastmain study, it does not consider the carbon emissions associated with new Rupert-related impoundments, so the predicted reduction in emissions per unit of energy generated deserves additional scrutiny and explanation.

    We would also welcome additional references on the net avoided emissions from HQ exports today, and would be interested to learn how they account for Quebec’s off-hour imports of power from fossil-dominated neighboring systems, including ISO-NE.

    Thanks again for your post here, and we hope to continue the dialogue in future posts and other venues.

    Christophe Courchesne
    Staff Attorney
    CLF New Hampshire

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