In 2014, 1.6% of electricity purchased in the U.S. came from Canada, and 60% of that went to New England and New York, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
In June, the EIA forecast New Englanders would pay the highest cost in the U.S. for energy -- 20.2 cents per kWh -- in the third quarter of this year. New York and New Jersey are expected to pay 16.5 cents per kWh, but in the six New England states the cost is almost 7 cents higher than the national average.
New England’s current power generating capacity is 31 GW.
In 2014, Hydro-Quebec, the largest Canadian hydropower provider to New England, exported more than 28% of the Canadian hydropower sold to the United States. Hydro-Quebec has 61 hydropower plants that can generate 36.5 GW of electricity.
“Our view is that there is a role for Canadian hydropower in the New England power grid,” said Tom Irwin, vice president and director of Conservation Law Foundation-New Hampshire, an environmental advocate. “It’s had a role, we expect it will continue to play a role and we expect that role will increase. But we think that to the extent it increases, that it be done in a thoughtful way and in a way that doesn’t undermine the development of renewable resources at the local level.”
The six New England governors say reining in costs is a high priority, and in April announced they would work together on solutions. In August, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker sought to require utilities to work with the state to pursue long-term contracts to supply hydropower as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help ratepayers.
Canada is the world’s third-largest hydropower generator, behind China and Brazil, and published reports indicate Canada still has plenty of untapped capacity. Canadian generators added 5,000 MW of hydropower over the past 10 years – enough to power 5 million homes – and expect to match that in the coming decade, said Jacob Irving, president of the Canadian Hydropower Association. The country could potentially double its existing capacity, he said.