National Grid moves forward with transmission projects in New York, New England

National Grid USA is working on maintaining reliability in the northeast with various projects, including a 345-kV project in Rhode Island, and continues to press forward with “public policy projects” involving renewable energy.

The New England East-West Solution is not only National Grid’s biggest transmission capital project, but the company’s biggest capital project in its entire U.S. business, Peter Flynn, president of National Grid’s FERC-regulated businesses, told TransmissionHub.

According to National Grid, NEEWS is four related transmission projects developed by a working group from National Grid, Northeast Utilities (NYSE:NU) and ISO New England to solve these five transmission problems identified by the ISO in its regional planning process:

  • Limitations to east-west movement of electricity on the New England power grid.
  • Weaknesses in transmission around Springfield, Mass.
  • Limitations to moving electricity across Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
  • Rhode Island’s dependence on single transmission lines or autotransformers for reliability.
  • Limitations to the power that can flow from east to west within Connecticut.

The four projects are National Grid’s Rhode Island Reliability Project and the Interstate Reliability Project, and Northeast Utilities’ Greater Springfield Reliability Project and the Central Connecticut Reliability Project. The projects’ main components are 345-kV lines, but they also include upgrades to substations and improvements to the region’s 115-kV electric system, according to National Grid.

The Rhode Island Reliability Project is a 345-kV transmission project that runs from North Smithfield to Warwick in an existing transmission right-of-way, according to National Grid.

The project is under construction and National Grid is looking at an in-service date of likely the end of 2012, Flynn said, noting that it will be significantly done by then and some work may follow into 2013.

National Grid is about to enter the siting phase for its Interstate Reliability Project, he said. “The key piece of it is a 75-mile, 345-kV line that will extend from Massachusetts, go through Rhode Island and end up in Connecticut,” Flynn said, noting that National Grid will build the Massachusetts and Rhode Island piece, while Northeast Utilities is working on the Connecticut piece.

This project is planned to be in service by 2015.

“These two pieces for us – the Rhode Island Reliability Project and Interstate Reliability Project – we have a forecasted cost in excess of $630m, so it’s the largest capital project on our system,” Flynn added.

The company is also working on the Spier-Rotterdam project, an estimated $40m, multi-year project designed to reinforce the transmission system in Saratoga, N.Y., he said. That project is being driven by the need of a new customer load, Flynn said, noting that the expected electricity demand growth in the region is driven by a new manufacturing facility in Saratoga.

Upgrades the company is doing include a new substation and four new 115-kV lines, as well as various reconductoring projects, he said, adding that the project is expected to be completed by the end of 2013, with some work going over into 2014.

National Grid is also doing work in Vermont and New Hampshire, involving refurbishing a 29-mile transmission line that serves as a key electricity feed to utilities in Vermont. Work is underway and expected to be completed in 2012, Flynn said of the project that has a cost in excess of $20m.

Looking ahead

One of the most important reliability projects National Grid foresees is a project associated with the closure of Dominion’s (NYSE:D) Salem Harbor generating plant, which is expected to close in 2014, Flynn said. ISO New England has indicated a need for 420 MW to 560 MW to maintain reliability in northeastern Massachusetts once that plant closes.

“The plan that has been triggered is for National Grid to upgrade the transmission system in northeastern Massachusetts, and that’s going to involve reconductoring five 115-kV lines and to do it by 2014,” Flynn said. “The timeline is tight, but doable. … We estimate the upgrade will cost about $60m, and that’s a planning estimate with plus or minus 25% accuracy.”

In New York, meanwhile, National Grid’s assets are aging and in order to maintain reliability, the company is forecasting a need to step up the level of transmission spending. “We’re in discussions today with the [state] Department of Public Service to try to develop a common view as to what the right level of spending should be in the future,” Flynn added.

The need really differs between New York and New England, he said, noting that in New York, the need is really to step up the level of investment above what is being done today.

In New England, the process in place from a policy perspective is working quite well, Flynn said, noting that the regional system planning process is very collaborative across the region.

FERC’s Order 1000

Flynn said National Grid views FERC’s Order 1000, which was issued in July and reforms the commission’s electric transmission planning and cost allocation requirements for public utility transmission providers, “as pro-customer and pro-transmission.”

He said: “I think the work to be done in New England and New York will be with regard to planning, meeting the requirement to begin to plan for public policy projects. Today, the two regions plan for reliability and economics, but not for public policy projects.”

FERC has left it to the regions to develop the process for identifying which public policies should be incorporated into the regional system plan and the one that stands out for National Grid, Flynn said, involves renewable energy. “All of our states have, at this point, public policies that they have adopted supporting the development of renewables,” he said, referencing renewable portfolio standards.

In order to reach those requirements, it is likely that new transmission will be needed, he said. “What FERC has done, I think, reflects the congruence of federal and state policies – the states saying [they] want to develop additional renewable resources but transmission will likely be required, and FERC now saying that they’re looking for regions to develop a process for identifying and evaluating public policy projects to meet public policy requirements, such as the renewable targets,” Flynn said. “We think that’s all very positive and reflects consistency in the views of both FERC and the states in our region.”

He also noted that FERC “quite logically” called for the development of a cost allocation methodology up front.

“New England has actually been quite successful at doing this…[on] reliability projects,” he said. “I think it’s one of the chief reasons why New England is getting transmission built relatively more successfully than most…parts of the country because it does have this methodology in place.”

National Grid has contracts to purchase power from Energy Management’s Cape Wind Associates’ offshore wind energy project in Massachusetts, as well as from Deepwater Wind’s offshore wind energy effort in Rhode Island.

National Grid is a subsidiary of National Grid plc.

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About Corina Rivera-Linares 2986 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares, chief editor for TransmissionHub, has covered the U.S. power industry for the past 15 years. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines. She can be reached at clinares@endeavorb2b.com.