Canadian Manufacturing

Proposed Quebec-New York power line derided by U.S. senators

State legislators say the 1,000 megawatt power line from Quebec would damage New York's power industry and cost local jobs



MONTREAL—A proposed US$2-billion transmission line to carry cheap electricity from north of the border to New York City is facing strong opposition in the US.

A group of 13 state legislators—12 Republicans and one Democrat—say the new 1,000 megawatt power line from Quebec would damage New York’s power industry by costing local jobs without generating the promised US$650 million in annual cost savings to consumers.

“Our state’s resources should be used to create jobs in New York, rather than export them to a foreign country,” they wrote in a letter to Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Pierre-Olivier Pineau, associate business professor at Montreal’s HEC business school, said the concern is understandable because of protectionism advocated by state and provincial governments through renewable energy subsidies to promote green jobs.

Even Quebec requires that all wind power it buys be produced in the province.

“Energy is highly politicized in the U.S. and in Canada so there’s no other reason beyond politics. It doesn’t make business sense, it doesn’t make environmental sense to oppose this project,” he said in an interview.

If New York of New England want more green power at lower prices, then they have to consider buying it from Quebec or Labrador, said Pineau, who believes the project will proceed.

Eastern state governors besides New York and their provincial counterparts recently created a working group to look at integrating electricity markets.

“Of course there is local resistance because of these green jobs, but if you want to be rational and you want to do commerce then we have to go beyond these short-term green jobs.”

New York already has a 1,500 megawatt power line from Quebec, which still has excess capacity to increase electricity exports. But the new line that will connect Manhattan through cables under the Hudson River will allow Quebec to increase supply during peak consumption hours that attract premium pricing.

In New York, the senators opposed the project in a letter to the commission that regulates energy transmission and generation, which is expected to decide the fate of the Champlain-Hudson Power Express proposal within weeks.

New York City residential and business customers pay among the highest electricity rates in North America. Residential rates last year were 22.15 cents Cdn per kilowatt-hour compared to 6.82 cents Cdn in Montreal, according to a Hydro-Quebec report.

“They are going to come in and lower the energy cost, then once they put all of the upstate generators out of business, then the cost goes up,” Sen. George Maziarz said in an interview.

The project has the backing of Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who aims trim New York City’s very expensive energy bills by two to three per cent.

About half the energy will be used in New York City, but Transmission Developers CEO Donald Jessome said ratepayers will see price breaks from Long Island to Albany.

The line also promises to reduce power plant air pollution and make the state less dependent on the Indian Point nuclear power plant which Cuomo has said he wants to close.

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