BOSTON >> Approval of an electrical transmission line through Vermont signals potential competition that could drive down the price of hydroelectricity, though Massachusetts would need a new law to tap that supply, according to the state's top energy chief.

This week's action by Vermont's Public Service Board for the 1,000-megawatt 154-mile project dubbed New England Clean Power Link advances an alternative to the proposed Northern Pass through New Hampshire.

"People just always point to Northern Pass as the option where all our eggs are in one basket with Northern Pass. Well, we've said from the beginning there's five, six, seven different projects that could come to fruition if we have the authorization to test the market and see what projects actually do exist, and now we actually see one that has already gotten approval in the state of Vermont," Matt Beaton, secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, told the News Service on Friday.

Beaton said Gov. Charlie Baker's hydroelectricity bill (S 1965) would need to become law to take advantage of the transmission line. With the 680-megawatt Pilgrim Nuclear Power plant scheduled to shut down, the Baker administration has argued hydropower imported from Canada is a good option to replace the loss of the constant, emissions-free power source.

Barring a change, policymakers have said the state is on track to miss its statutory goal of reducing emissions 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. Beaton said importation of large-scale clean energy will represent "4.2 percent of the 25-percent reduction target."

Multiple options to import clean-energy could spur price competition that would benefit ratepayers, according to Beaton.


"That's precisely why we wrote it that way to create that competition amongst the various projects, to deliver it in the most cost-effective way for our ratepayers," Beaton said.

The Clean Power Link would carry power underground and for 97 miles beneath the waves of Lake Champlain. The transmission line was proposed by TDI New England and a map depicts the line terminating in Ludlow, Vt., well north of the Massachusetts border.

Although hydroelectricity could be procured from Hydro-Quebec or another water-based power generator in the frigid north, the turbines that make the electricity are sufficiently deep that water continues to flow, according to Beaton.