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Developer pulls plug on transmission project that would have brought millions to Northeast Kingdom

An electricity transmission tower stands with power lines coming to and from it before a blue sky with pink-hued clouds.
Nikola Johnny
A proposed transmission line would have brought millions in revenue to Northeast Kingdom host communities. The developer says the project is dead.

Energy company National Grid has pulled the plug on building a major transmission line that would have carried power between Quebec and New England.

The project would not have brought electricity to Vermont’s grid, but it would have brought millions in payments to Northeast Kingdom communities.

The 1,200 megawatt Twin States Clean Energy Link would have run 211 miles from Quebec, through northeastern Vermont and into New Hampshire.

Its proposed route entered Vermont in the town of Canaan, and ran south from there, underneath the Connecticut River.

David Snedeker, who leads Northeastern Vermont Development Association (NVDA), says National Grid negotiated a benefits package that would have brought $20 million over a 30-year period to host communities in the region in the form of grants and low-interest loans.

“Without fully understanding the reasoning of National Grid’s decision to pull the plug on the Twin States Clean Energy Link project, I will say that the news was unexpected and disappointing from NVDA’s perspective (and likely some of the host communities),” Snedeker said in an email.

He says the organization was envisioning using the funds to support local projects like senior centers, career and technical education and business development in the area.

Kerrick Johnson, a spokesperson for Vermont Electric Power Company, or VELCO, Vermont's grid operator, said they were largely ambivalent about the decision because it would have had minimal impact on Vermont’s grid – though it was projected to potentially lower regional electricity prices.

"From VELCO – Vermont Electric Power Company's perspective, one of the key values of this project was the potential value it could bring to the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont,” Johnson said.

In a statement to New Hampshire Public Radio, the project's sponsor, National Grid, said it "determined that the project is not viable at this time."

The roughly $2 billion project had substantial financial support from the Department of Energy’s Transmission Facilitation Program.

The company did not say why the project wasn’t financially viable, but thanked the communities along its path who engaged with the company and supported the project.

National Grid says it plans to continue to pursue “much-needed transmission capacity for the region and our customers and communities.”

If it had been built, this would have been the first transmission line between New England and Canada that could send power both ways – something VELCO says would be a boon for decarbonizing the regional grid.

Johnson, with VELCO, says this would have more closely connected nascent offshore wind and New England’s power supply with Hydro Quebec.

He said VELCO supported the project.

“Candidly, National Grid was difficult to work with,” he said. “They’re a big corporation and unlike some of the stakeholders we’ve engaged in other projects, it was a bit difficult. But we were hopeful to get things done.”

Johnson says there are two other transmission projects in the works that could do more than the Twin State Clean Power Express would have done for Vermont’s efforts to decarbonize its power supply through the addition of new renewables to the state’s grid — the New England Clean Power Link and nascent Alliance Transmission project.

Johnson said the National Grid project would have helped to connect emerging offshore wind with what he called “the largest battery in North America,” referring to Hydro Quebec.

“There’s an affordability get for Vermont by accomplishing that,” Johnson said. “There’s even additional benefit in part of that solution of connecting offshore wind with Hydro Quebec if we can secure value for Vermont in the process of making that connection.”

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Abagael is Vermont Public's climate and environment reporter, focusing on the energy transition and how the climate crisis is impacting Vermonters — and Vermont’s landscape.

Abagael joined Vermont Public in 2020. Previously, she was the assistant editor at Vermont Sports and Vermont Ski + Ride magazines. She covered dairy and agriculture for The Addison Independent and got her start covering land use, water and the Los Angeles Aqueduct for The Sheet: News, Views & Culture of the Eastern Sierra in Mammoth Lakes, Ca.