The lattice towers Central Maine Power said it is proposing for its New England Clean Energy Connect hydropower line from Canada to Lewiston. Credit: Courtesy of Central Maine Power

The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities has approved power purchase agreements that are key to the proposed $1 billion hydropower transmission line through western Maine.

Hydro-Quebec, which is a partner with Central Maine Power on the proposed line, said Wednesday that the regulator had approved the agreements signed between Hydro-Quebec and Massachusetts electric distribution companies for the proposed New England Clean Energy Connect hydropower project.

The approval comes about one year after CMP, Hydro-Quebec and the distribution companies signed long-term contracts. The regulators’ approval was required after that.

The electric distribution companies transmit and deliver electricity to homes or businesses.

“Approval of the contracts by Massachusetts is an important step toward a clean energy future in the Northeast,” Eric Martel, Hydro-Quebec’s CEO, said in a prepared statement. “We will continue to work closely with our partner Central Maine Power to secure the remaining permits necessary for the transmission line that’s needed to deliver that energy, both in Maine and in Quebec.”

CMP received a key permit from the Maine Public Utilities Commission in April. It is awaiting other regulatory approvals, including from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and which are expected this fall. The project also has received a permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee, according to Hydro-Quebec.

In its Wednesday announcement, Hydro-Quebec said the Massachusetts regulatory agency in its decision underscored that “the energy delivered under the [power purchase agreements] will create steady greenhouse gas emissions reductions benefits to Massachusetts.”

The contracts with the Massachusetts electric distribution companies provide for the delivery of about 9.45 terawatt hours annually of baseload power for 20 years. The energy will be supplied by Hydro-Quebec’s hydropower generating fleet.

CMP said in a news release that “the Massachusetts regulators concluded that NECEC will lower carbon emissions in the region by removing 3 to 3.6 million metric tons of greenhouse gases per year – the equivalent of removing annual emissions created by 700,000 cars – while providing direct savings to ratepayers for decades to come.”

Opponents of the project in Maine have questioned those projections and sought greater assurance that the power delivered to the grid will derive from renewable sources.