A majority of Maine voters have said no to having a Hydro-Québec transmission line pass through the state, but the Quebec government says it remains confident the utility’s $10-billion energy corridor will go ahead.
Premier François Legault said at a news conference that he knew the results of the referendum in Maine would be tight, adding there are other options on the table, and that 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.”
In a ballot referendum in early November, Maine voters rejected the proposed energy corridor, known as the New England Clean Energy Connect, by about a 60 to 40 per cent margin.
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 one million homes.
Hydro-Québec 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.
Premier Legault said Hydro-Québec has already invested $400 million into the project and built 200 kilometres of the line, working with its partner, Central Maine Power.
Environmental groups in Maine have raised concerns about the impact of the proposed power lines through the northern part of the state, particularly the 85 kilometres of new lines that would cross the North Maine Woods. Three-quarters of the trees needing to come down had already been removed for the project, which calls for a transmission line that mostly follows existing utility corridors.
There has also been opposition to the line from energy competitors. A Florida-based company called NextEra Energy Resources 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-Québec line.
The referendum results mark the second recent setback for Hydro-Québec’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.