Construction in Maine will resume next week on an electricity transmission project bringing Canadian hydropower to the New England power grid despite a half-billion dollar cost increase, the head of Avangrid said Thursday.
CEO Pedro Azagra Blazquez said on an earnings call that the cost of the project, originally estimated at around $1 billion, has grown to $1.5 billion as litigation delayed construction and inflation cause prices to creep upward.
Avangrid, the corporate parent of Central Maine Power, partnered with Hydro-Quebec on the power line project — dubbed the New England Clean Energy Connect — to bring 1,200 megawatts of hydropower to meet green energy goals in Massachusetts. That represents enough electricity for about 1 million homes.
It received all regulatory approvals but has been plagued by delays and litigation. The developers and Massachusetts utilities are trying to sort out how the cost increases will be shared.
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection restored permits for the project in May after a lengthy court battle, but work did not resume immediately because of concerns about the growing costs. The Massachusetts Legislature is advancing legislation allowing transmission service agreements to be renegotiated to recover the cost increases.
The 145-mile power transmission line will stretch from Lewiston, Maine, to the Canadian border, mostly following existing utility corridors. The permit fight was over a new, 53-mile section in western Maine.
Work will resume Aug. 3 at a substation in Lewiston, Azagra said during an earnings call on Thursday. He didn’t elaborate on the timetable for construction on other parts of the project. “Once complete, NECEC will benefit all of New England by reducing the region’s dependence on fossil fuels and providing more stable energy prices,” he said.
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