Maine & New England looking at Canadian hydro

Hydro power in Maine.

AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Governor LePage will be in Boston later this week to talk about energy with the Premier of Quebec. That meeting will follow a speech by LePage to a New England and Canadian conference about energy issues, and hydropower is expected to be the prime focus.

The LePage administration wants less expensive sources of electricity, and the Governor has repeatedly talked about getting cheap hydropower from Quebec or Labrador. The other New England states have also started looking north because several big power plants in Massachusetts and Connecticut will be shutting down. Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island recently issued out a joint request for proposals (RFP), to explore the possibility of new, renewable electricity. Patrick Woodcock, director of the Governor's energy office, says the interest in southern New England could have a major impact on what happens in Maine.

"We've never seen what the pricing is for a thousand megawatts, the equivalent of a nuclear power plant," said Woodcock. "What would they offer the New England states and on what terms? And does that make sense for ratepayers and the environment?"

A bipartisan group of Maine legislators traveled to the Churchill Dam complex in Labrador last month, to get a first-hand understanding of the issue. Rep. Mark Dion of Portland, a Democrat, who co-chairs the Legislature's Energy and Utilities Committee, was part of the group. Dion says there would be an engineering challenge to connect Maine to those power sources because there currently is no link between the state and those provinces. He also says the bigger political issue would be opposition from Maine wind, solar and biomass generators, who would see Canadian hydro as direct renewable competition.

Republican House leader Rep. Ken Fredette, who also was on the trip, said he thinks Maine needs to take a serious look at Canadian hydro because it could be less expensive for ratepayers.


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