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New 30-mile Cos Loop leg would be boon to City, mayor says



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Mayor Paul Grenier of Berlin, wearing his Notre Dame Arena and New England Patriots vest, testified in favor of the Northern Pass Transmission project at the Jan. 20 information session at the Mountain View Grand in Whitefield. (Photo by Edith Tucker) (click for larger version)
January 27, 2016
WHITEFIELD — Mayor Paul Grenier detailed some of the reasons why the City Council voted unanimously on Dec. 7, 2015, to support the proposed Northern Pass project in his testimony before the state Site Evaluation Committee (SEC)-sponsored information session on Wednesday, Jan. 20, held at the Mountain View Grand.

"The City of Berlin potentially stands to lose a lot of property tax revenue if the Northern Pass Transmission (NPT) project and the Cos Loop upgrade is not built," Grenier explained. "The City and Berlin Station LLC (Burgess BioPower) signed a Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILT) agreement in Aug. 2011, in which Burgess is required to pay the City 15 percent of gross revenue of all RECs (Renewable Energy Credits) that are produced over the 400,000 REC threshold that Eversource is required to purchase.

"Since the (woodchip-burning) plant has the ability to produce upwards of 100,000 additional unsold RECs on the open market, the City's lost revenue is estimated to be in the $9.7 million range (over 14 years).

"But the plant has to operate at capacity — or near capacity — for that to occur," the mayor said. "Burgess Biopower has already faced some production curtailments because the Cos Loop cannot handle the export load."

The NPT project with its ancillary project — the replacement of poles and wires on the northern 30.19-mile-long Cos Loop from Dummer through Stark, Groveton, and Lancaster to Whitefield — would not only address today's curtailments but would also allow for more renewable energy production to be built here in the future, he explained. Under the NPT proposal, Eversource would pay for this costly upgrade, rather than requiring the "green" alternative fuel power developers.

The southern leg from Berlin to Whitefield is not on the docket to be upgraded.

The mayor, who also serves as a Cos county commissioner, spoke to the overall importance of lowering the cost of electricity in the county. NPT would reduce the cost of power by five percent, Eversource NH president Bill Quinlan said in his testimony.

"Future economic development here in Cos County will depend on availability of less expensive and dependable electricity," Grenier testified. "With thousands of megawatts of fossil-fueled and nuclear power coming off production, northern New England faces still greater obstacles if this problem is not solved soon. I personally have been very active in business development recruitment in Berlin and the high cost of electricity is difficult to mitigate. Left unchecked, still higher cost of electricity will be Cos County's Alamo," a battle in 1836 in which all Texas defenders were killed by Mexican troops.

Grenier also submitted a Dec. 7, 2015, letter signed by all members of the City Council: "Northern Pass is a utility project that will provide much-needed tax revenue to Cos County and the communities through which it passes. In addition, it will provide an economic stimulus through the construction jobs required to build the project.

"The City is home to electricity generation from wind, biomass and hydro facilities. The City is in support of bringing hydro-generated electricity into New England from Canada, in turn, off-setting power generation that may otherwise occur through fossil-fuel consumption and carbon emissions that negatively affect us locally and globally."

The letter also noted that NPT and its staff have been working diligently to address concerns regarding aesthetic issues created by overhead power lines, seeking to come up with "a final product that results in the anticipated economic and environmental benefits while minimizing negative effects on the landscape."

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