Over the past couple of years there has been a remarkable nation-wide surge in the awareness of the climate change threat. The growing awareness has also helped refute the denial by some politicians and citizens that the cause is human use of fossil fuels. That’s encouraging, but we need to urgently focus on implementing projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In order to meet Governor Mills’ 2050 goals, we need to electrify transportation and heating which would double electricity demand. Electrons run free in the New England grid, so it’s important to look at the larger picture, not just “What’s in it for Maine?”

Currently, the combination of wind and solar provide 4 percent of New England’s power, 30 percent is from aging nuclear plants and 49 percent from natural gas. Recent scientific studies indicate that when leaks from fracking and pipelines are included, natural gas emissions are as damaging as those from coal.  If we try to meet the governor’s 2050 goals of 100 percent clean power with only solar and wind, it would require 50 times the current capacity. Because wind and solar have high hourly, daily and seasonal variability, we would need a massive battery backup and more power lines.

So are we willing to consider any other sources of clean energy even if they might be unpopular?

The NECEC project is a Massachusetts initiative to purchase Hydro Quebec power to meet that state’s clean energy goals. The opposition to NECEC instead describes it as a CMP initiative. The opposition complains that some of CMP’s profits would go to its Spanish parent company, Iberdrola, a world leader in offshore wind.  I’ve heard no complaints about natural gas industry profits, some of which help fund the NECEC opposition.

Opponents argue that Hydro Quebec will not send clean energy to the New England grid, but those arguments are completely unfounded according to PUC research. If it’s not clean power, why would the Union of Concerned Scientists support NECEC?  Canadian hydropower could also provide a much less expensive form of battery backup for solar and wind which need to grow enormously.

As a long term hiker, I have to say that many summit views in Maine often include cell or microwave towers, wind turbines, ski lifts and so on. All of this existing infrastructure required tree removal, roads with stream crossings, etc.  Are people ready to remove cell towers and ski resorts? A power line through an existing corridor with 50 miles for a new corridor through a heavily logged region is not the threat to Maine’s wilderness that opponents claim.

If people who are concerned about climate change aren’t willing to make the sacrifice of promoting a project such as NECEC because it’s not popular, we’re all in big trouble. The real threat to the northern forest is climate change which will devastate the boreal forest.  Other Maine forests will also be  threatened by insects like the southern pine beetle which is moving north according to the University of Maine Climate Change Institute.

It’s time to develop and implement a realistic plan to meet the Governor’s 2050 goals and implement all proven forms of clean energy including those that may require some regional or local sacrifices. We need to fight climate change like a war to protect our children and grandchildren. Wars require heroic sacrifices.

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