Hydro-Québec to buy Great River Hydro
The Vernon Dam was among more than a dozen hydroelectric facilities on the Connecticut and Deerfield rivers that were purchased by Hydro-Québec last week.

Hydro-Québec to buy Great River Hydro

The $2 billion deal includes 13 power stations and three reservoirs in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts, including five properties in Windham County

Hydro-Québec, a large-scale hydropower company based in Canada from which Vermont draws a significant portion of its electricity, plans to purchase 13 generating stations and three storage reservoirs in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts.

A subsidiary, HQI US Holding LLC, announced its plan on Oct. 12 to purchase Great River Hydro LLC, an affiliate of ArcLight Capital Partners, for $2 billion.

Great River Hydro, based in Westborough, Massachusetts, operates dams, power stations, and storage reservoirs along the Deerfield and Connecticut rivers. According to a map on the company's website, it owns seven stations along the Vermont–New Hampshire border, including the Vernon and Bellows Falls power stations, and three on the Deerfield River in southern Vermont, including Somerset and Harriman reservoirs.

The stations represent the largest hydropower fleet in New England and can generate up to 589 megawatts of electricity, powering around 213,000 homes in the region, according to a press release from the two companies.

Officials with Hydro-Québec pointed to New England's “ambitious decarbonization and electrification objectives” and said the region is a place where the amount of electricity generated from renewable sources is “poised to increase sharply.”

Hydro-Québec, which is owned by Québec's provincial government and generates, transmits, and distributes electricity, has been exporting hydropower to New England since the 1980s. One of the largest hydro producers in the world, it is Canada's largest electricity producer.

“This acquisition represents a unique opportunity to combine our know-how in managing and leveraging hydro facilities with Great River Hydro's thorough understanding of the New England market,” Sophie Brochu, president and CEO of Hydro-Québec, said in a statement.

“By combining our strengths, we can support the development of new renewable energy projects in a market where such resources are in high demand,” she said.

Great River Hydro will remain a separate entity and retain its approximately 100 employees, according to officials.

Scott Hall, Great River Hydro's president and CEO, called Hydro-Québec “an ideal fit.”

“We look forward to continuing to provide clean, renewable hydroelectricity to our New England neighbors for years to come,” he said.

Vermont considers hydroelectric power to be renewable, though some dispute that label, referencing ecosystem damage and carbon emissions from large-scale hydro operations.

Dams along the Connecticut River are in the midst of a relicensing process with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Licenses last 30 to 50 years, after which the dams are reassessed to make sure they comply with all relevant state and federal regulations.

Kathy Urffer, the Vermont-New Hampshire river steward for the Connecticut River Conservancy, does not expect the sale to significantly impact the relicensing process.

“The [FERC] license is essentially a contract negotiating how our rivers are going to be treated by a for-profit company,” she said. “When they're bought and sold like this, it underscores that these companies are really trying to make as much money as they can.”

Urffer said companies that hold multiple hydro facilities use them as financial assets, buying and selling them often.

“Some facilities get flipped like houses,” she said.

In fact, Great River Hydro purchased the facilities it is now selling in 2017 from TransCanada.

Officials from Hydro-Québec said the acquisition will enable the company to diversify revenue in its main export market. The sale includes around 30,000 acres, “allowing for the possibility of various renewable energy projects,” officials said. A fifth of the energy generated is subject to long-term supply contracts.

Some regulatory approvals are still needed before the sale is finalized.

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