Canadian Manufacturing

Legault remains confident despite no-vote from Maine residents around Hydro Quebec project

The premier said the United States government has approved the project, which has received all necessary permits to proceed.

November 3, 2021  The Canadian Press

Maine residents voted No to having a Hydro-Quebec power transmission line pass through the state, but Quebec Premier Francois Legault said on Nov. 3 that he is still confident the $10-billion power export contract to Massachusetts will come to pass.

Legault told reporters on the sidelines of the COP26 climate talks in Scotland that he knew the results of the referendum would be tight, adding that there are other options on the table and the governor of Massachusetts is determined to see the agreement through.

“Nothing is certain in life, but I am confident that it will get done,” Legault said. “There are different scenarios; for now I can’t give more details. There are different routes you can take to get to Massachusetts.”

The premier said the United States government has approved the project, which has received all necessary permits to proceed.

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The results of Nov. 2’s referendum in Maine were a stinging setback for the Crown corporation and the Legault government’s plan to make Quebec the “battery of North America.” The contract is worth $10 billion over 20 years to the public utility.

Funded by Massachusetts ratepayers, the New England Clean Energy Connect would supply up to 1,200 megawatts of Canadian hydropower to the New England power grid. That’s enough electricity for 1 million homes. Hydro-Quebec has said the project would cut three million metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year — the equivalent of taking 700,000 cars off the road.

Energy competitors are accused of having stoked the fears of citizens by financing opposition to the project. A Florida-based company called NextEra spent more than $20 million encouraging voters to block the project. NextEra operates a nuclear plant in New Hampshire that would face competition from the cheaper electricity carried by the Hydro-Quebec line.

Some Mainers were frustrated that the referendum took place at all, saying it was bad public policy to retroactively vote down a project that had already been approved by multiple state and federal agencies.

Quebec’s Energy Minister, Jonatan Julien, told reporters on Nov. 3 in Quebec City that the project should be completed because all authorizations have been granted and work is underway.

Hydro-Quebec, meanwhile, said it would continue with the court fight. “We are going to take legal action,” said Lynn St-Laurent, spokesperson for the public utility.

The referendum results mark the second recent setback for Hydro-Quebec’s plan to export power to the United States. In 2019, the utility abandoned a plan to export power through New Hampshire because of public opposition.