Franklin Countys First News

Letter to the Editor: NECEC bad deal, both long and short term

As a Selectman of the Town of Starks looking at the prospect of lots of ‘free money’ in tax dollars from the six miles of NECEC power line to run through the town, one would expect me to favor it, but in fact I’m strongly opposed. NECEC might be a good deal for a few towns, but it’s a bad deal for the State of Maine and its economy, both long and short term.

I’m also an attorney and an engineer. I’ve recently had occasion to review a couple of proposals for large scale (100+/- acre) solar PV systems. While I can’t get into the specifics of those proposals, I can say I’ve become acutely aware of a number of issues. And here I’m not focused on environmental issues which are being addressed by others, but economic issues. The fact is, it appears the NECEC proposal is an obstacle to a lot of local economic development. And, quite frankly, CMP is the perpetrator of that obstruction:

First: NECEC represents a lot of economic activity for a few short months, and construction largely by out-of-state contractors with the expertise to build high voltage DC power lines. There will be a lot of economic activity, but only some of it local;

Second, these solar projects can use a lot of local contractors, which, for projects which cost about $200,000/ acre and about a million dollars a MW to construct, is a lot of short term local economic activity;

Third, the lease payments to local landowners for solar arrays are in the hundreds of dollars per acre per year, every year, throughout a 25 to 35 year lease, which is a very considerable amount of cash flow from out-of-state into the local economy especially when it can help struggling farmers who have upland areas most suitable for these arrays;

Fourth, CMP is putting up obstacles to these projects (from which they would make less money, in favor of the NECEC line from which they would make more). A principal obstacle is transmission capacity from southern Maine into southern New England. For any number of years transmission capacity has been tight. CMP plans to convert the 1,200 MW NECEC DC line into AC in Lewiston and send it into this tight transmission system. Hence the obstacles CMP is placing on local solar projects. To the extent CMP can discourage these solar arrays, they are able to assure room for all the NECEC energy. I have now heard of several hundred acres of solar PV projects which have been cancelled because of CMP obstruction.

CMP and others make the point that solar PV is intermittent and therefore won’t satisfy their power contracts. But ISO-New England has authorized the construction of “more than dozens” of 5 MW batteries throughout New England, including one right here in Madison. These batteries have the effect of smoothing power and energy flows and offsetting the intermittency of solar or wind.

What is needed is a thorough study of transmission issues from northern into southern New England and much closer scrutiny of CMP’s business practices in its service area. What is not needed is a power line which frustrates long term economic activity throughout the entire state, even outside CMP’s service territory, which will be the impact of the NECEC line.

Ernie Hilton

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22 Responses »

  1. Thank you Ernie for your letter. I have a simple solution to the transmission issues of sending power to southern New England. Cut it off at Kittery !!!!! Let the other states figure out there power problems without screwing our state up any more.

  2. Thank you Ernie,
    I want to personally thank you for highlighting that the management of CMP operates in a truly underhanded
    manner every day. They are a monopoly in our area. Monopolies are illegal, but public utilities are allowed
    to operate in a monopolistic manner. CMP is the gorilla in the room and they have a lot of money. They will
    do anything to advance their agenda. How many of you folks just got a letter from Astra Pierson bragging
    about his/her efforts, "thousands of hours" in our area "campaigning for Democrat candidates" including our
    new governor. This letter is a rally cry to allllll the LIBS in this town to come out and vote for this crappy deal.
    The letter I got was post marked "NECEC Portland Maine, and the words on the very bottom of the letter
    make it clear who is paying for this "Paid for by the NECEC". I have been saying for months that this is a
    political matter and several people have said it is not. I ask you naysayers, do you get it yet??? If we keep
    electing radical people to our legislature, our state (as we know it) will change forever. We may become a
    GIANT power generating conglomerate for the richer states to our south. Our peaceful and beautiful way of
    life will be gone. Question to those who are thinking about voting yes. Do you want our state to become
    more like Massachusetts and Conn. and N.Y. ??? I suggest everyone come out and spend several hours
    of your valuable time to support the NO voters like me.

  3. All good points. Thank you.

  4. Thank you for your letter Ernie. I commented this morning but it hasn’t been put up here so I will try again. The best way to fix the issues with our transmission oines is to NOT let it go further than Kittery or any other place it crosses the Maine border. Let the southern New England states fix their own problems instead of screwing our state up anymore.

  5. Nice work, Ernie! Well done. Another level head identifying some thingS cmp seems to lack: FACTS and TRUTH. Yes, an independent review should be done.

  6. Well written, but totally misses the big draw back to these solar project. Without government( taxpayer) subsidies, these solar and wind projects are not cost effective. The actual cost per KWH is far higher than any rate payer could afford. Hydro power is cost effective and doesn't require expensive batteries to attempt to make it reliable. The environmental impact of covering hundreds of acres with solar panels is another issue altogether. I for one, am quite alright with the expansion of an existing line at a corporations expense rather than subsidizing an industry that cant stand on its own. Someday solar may be the answer, but that's not today.

  7. The most environmentally sustainable way to produce power is to do it within range of the homes and businesses that will use it. It should not be produced out of country and travel through multiple states to serve a consumer. If we were truly invested in power production we would invest in ocean tidal generation. The tide goes in and out twice a day on schedule, thanks to the moon, and has more force and power than we can harness.

    Eddie: If Gov supports solar then it is still a better long term investment than coal and oil which are both finite resources. Gas and heating oil would not be affordable to the average consumer if it wasn't subsidized with our tax dollars. It's expensive to refine and produce. It's a one time use consumption cycle. Once you burn it it's gone and you need more. Next time you are on the road look around and estimate how much each driver budgets our of their paycheck just to drive to work and home. They make billions and billions and are subsidized by our tax dollars just so we can get to work and home and buy more product.

    I agree that solar uses a lot of resources and has an initial cost that seems out of reach but it's all about a the long term investment. The average panel has a lifespan of 25-40 years before it loses wattage and even then it's still usable. The initial cost pays for itself in 10-15 years then it's all free power. That giant nuclear power plant in the sky just keeps on giving more power than we can use everyday. The problems with hydro are location and proximity and the fact that watersheds aren't meant to be dammed on such a massive scale for such a long time.

  8. P.S> to Ernie H. Thank you for a well written and researched letter. It has been no secret that CMP has nothing or rather not enough to gain from Solar projects and they certainly don't like the idea of energy independence or buying home owner produced power.

    For anyone who does not know this: CMP transports power and they sell it but you have options to by from other producer which are much more competitive.CMP will still be your delivery and billing company but you can buy energy from many producers. Last year we got a letter from CMP that looked like junk mail and almost threw it away. The letter was actually a contract roll over and if we didn't respond they would have automatically rolled over our CMP power rate which we found out was almost twice as much as some clean energy companies were charging. When we switched providers CMP tried to counter offer a lower rate than what they previously charged but it was still 5cents more than clean energy sources. We now pay much less for our energy provided by a clean energy provider but delivered by CMP. Check your cost per watt hr and ask for all the rates available. Do not get locked into a CMP provided power contract at a higher rate. Look into all the providers and rates available and you will be surprised. . . And a little upset about what you have been paying.

  9. Like I said, some day solar could be the answer. Now, an existing hydro dam only needs a bigger transmission line to provide more electricity than thousands of acres of solar panels on a sunny day. They have the capacity( actual not hypothetical based on weather) with their current turbines to ramp up production. No more dams than what they have now.
    As for oil and gas? Replacing the internal combustion engine with an electric motor is a pipe dream for now. Especially in rural areas. That's where the majority of fossil fuels are burned. The subsidy regarding gas is the one we pay the government, roughly 50 cents per gallon unless of course you drive an electric car then you just drive on roads subsidized by gas taxes.

  10. Ernie, well thought out and teaming with facts. Thank you.

    I understand that there is a vote on the Corridor in Starks on the 11th of this month. I plan on being there as a non-resident.

    Eddie, since you mentioned electric cars. A lot of those new electric cars, cars that are beyond my budget, will sport a "dirty" lithium-ion battery. What's a "dirty" lithium-ion battery? Its a battery that produced in places with some of the most polluting grids in the world. Enough said....

    You know, I keep hearing the word trade off when it comes to this Corridor. I guess the heck....

  11. Kind of funny that all these towns are having votes about an item they don't get a vote on. Who thinks of this stuff?
    Landowners have rights, they should be respected.
    We all, including Ernie drive under power lines everyday. They will still be there with or without the upgrade. Only difference is the towns wont get more tax revenue from them. Drive by the powerline in starks and tell me the deer don't absolutely thrive on the constant food source provided to them. The powerline crosses the Lemon stream, and yet the native Brookies thrive in it. There is a balance, and I think in recent years CMP and other large companies have worked toward achieving that balance. This short extension to an existing line is a pretty good compromise to provide for the increased demand of all of New England. The power it will bring would require thousands of acres of solar panels. Is that better than a power line bringing increased capacity from an existing dam? I don't think so. Its about balance. Someday maybe solar can achieve that. Right now the NECEC is the least impactful way to do it.

  12. Eddie, not sure what you really mean. Towns won't get tax revenues. The WM&RC will 'buy' cmp land and they are a 501(c)(3) corp (tax exempt) so the towns will have to get taxes from ...... wait for it ......... the remaining people in the town! And why don't we get a vote? Title 35-A triggers an independent study (a type of vote) but cmp/HQ claim that because Maine doesn't pay for it they can't have a say - what about the environmental cost? 3500 acres clear cut and which will remain clear cut with high, tight brush laced with herbicides?? Come on, you are only looking at one side of the 'economic equation'. This might be a different 'ball game' if there wasn't such a stacked deck. Fairness hasn't entered the picture in this case. I resent a few people in a particular political position with A LOT of influence exerted by a certain company and a other influential people making what I see as a totally inside process being pushed on Mainers with no real honest assessment, discussion or weighing in my real experts.

  13. Eddie your spreading the same bull hrtlss is. The new part of the line is one line where there is an existing line there will be TWO lines side by side. That tells me that CMP will need to widen the existing part. I’m not sure if they own all necessary land as of yet. So with that being said. If they need extra ROW to fit this new line are they paying a fair price for the land or will they bully their way into a cheap payoff with threats of eminent domain? I will assume the latter after seeing how they have explained everything so far including the over billing of consumers. By the way if you have looked into buying land in the past five years you will know that is a LOT of money.

  14. You might want to speak with town officials, CMP already pays taxes to the towns for the equipment and land. That taxable value is going up due to the upgrade. The transfer between CMP and WM&RC is for some scenic land CMP owns along the dead river for hiking and recreational use as an addition to a trail system that's already there.. Not the whole corridor. The towns that currently receive taxes from CMP will continue to receive them, plus the additional valuation. Numerous test all across the country show no residual effects from the selective herbicide treatment. Heres a link to the plan and methods CMP employs.

    Also read the sworn testimony from the actual people involved with the CMP and WM&RC deal

    That's the problem with this issue, there are so many people spreading false information. Get the facts people, this is a necessary improvement that all of New England will benefit from. It is not the environmental disaster the anti people are portraying.

  15. Eddie,
    You'll have to excuse us Podunk hicks if we're a little Leary of these strictly for profit companies..
    They don't give a rats behind about anything except profit.
    Anything they have done to minimize the destruction of natural resources,, they have been FORCED to do by,,,,,us.
    If left unchecked they will only serve themselves.
    It's a big company with s lot of people profiting and getting retirement benefits,,, lots of them writing in..


    If you have a different value system that's fine but you trying to make CMP out to be anything other than what they have proven to be (dishonest) is all anyone needs to know before shutting your spin down.


  16. Tin foil hats, conspiracy theories, and evil corporation's destroying humankind to further their profits. Some people just need to have a villain.

  17. Jim,
    Looks like you are "one" of those people who need a villian also.
    Thanks for writing in and complaining about yours........

  18. After talking to a lot of people in the area the only ones that are supporting this is employees that will most definitely get raises if this goes through. Even retired employees will get a raise in pension as long as they have kept up with union dues.

  19. Just saying, I'm not associated with the project. Except as an electricity consumer. I'm for it based on the facts. Not wild accusations and half truths. There are a lot of people like me. They just know it's not worth arguing with people who believe the world is ending corporate boogie man stories

  20. Well Eddie,

    If you don't believe CMP isn't willing to take advantage of others for profit I have a NO CORRIDOR tee-shirt I can sell you. I'll throw the proceeds into the "grassroots" dark money fund those corporate folks say we have.

    As for the world ending. I agree, just not in the twelve years those pro-corridor folks say it will. Wild accusations and half truths? LD-640 my friend.

    And Eddie, you never did address the electric car issue that I brought up. Electric cars are part of the deal right? You know, electric cars, electric charging stations, and dirty batteries don't make a right. Right?

    Jim, no villains on either side. As a matter of fact, its a shame that all of this has to transpire, but transpire it will.

    There is a vote in Stratton tomorrow night on the Corridor. I believe John Carroll of CMP will be presenting to the town starting at 6:30 pm and the actual vote starts around 8pm. If you plan on attending you should arrive early, every vote counts.

  21. Whoa now Terry, I think you git your facts wrong and misunderstood me. Electric cars are a long way from being realistic for most Americans. And battery technology has a long way to go. As for the occasional cortex idea of 12 years left? That's totally the anti corridor crowd. Let's look at the facts. Not emotions. Hydro power is tried and true. Power lines are already here. My small town will see an increase in revenue from CMP of 30%.with no cost to us. The new power line from the forks north is a working woodland with logging roads and skidder trails all over it. Most of the people complaining have never and will never see it. Some day there may be a more cost effective and reasonable option, but for now this is a pretty good deal.

  22. Seriously people. The environmental impact of a short extension of an existing power line is negligible. There is no reliable affordable Greener alternative. Locally, rsu 9 towns stand to gain 1.1 million in additional tax revenue. That's pretty substantial. No new services, no cost to taxpayers. Common sense says it's a win win. Problem is common sense isn't so common anymore.