A major new transmission line intended to pipe carbon-free hydropower from Canada into the U.S. Northeast has met a powerful opponent: the world’s largest provider of renewable energy.
The 145-mile (233-kilometer), nearly $1 billion transmission line, known as New England Clean Energy Connect, broke ground in February after nearly three years of review by regulators. If completed, it would be able to import 1.2 gigawatts of electricity from the Canadian utility Hydro-Quebec. That’s enough to reduce carbon emissions in the region by 3.6 million metric tons a year, according to the project’s developer, Avangrid Inc., or about 12% compared to 2019 levels.
To an unfamiliar observer, it might seem that renewables giant NextEra Energy Inc., which supplies 22 gigawatts of clean electricity to homes and businesses in North America, would have an interest in increasing the availability of green power. However the company is also heavily invested in non-renewable energy and has a history of acting for its own benefit at the expense of the environment. More than half of NextEra’s energy-generating capacity come from nuclear reactors and plants that run on natural gas and other fossil fuels.
While the company has said little publicly about the transmission project, it’s been quietly financing a ballot initiative in Maine that could halt construction on conservation grounds. It also has yet to begin a mandatory upgrade at one of its facilities to support the surge of power onto the grid.
“Of course NextEra doesn’t want it,” said Tyson Slocum, director of the energy program at advocacy group Public Citizen. “They’ve got lots of power in the region that’s threatened.”