Maine approves development of pilot plan evaluating non-transmission alternatives

Maine regulators have authorized the development of a pilot plan to evaluate the ability of non-transmission alternatives (NTAs) to meet reliability needs in the Boothbay, Maine, sub-region of Central Maine Power’s (CMP) mid-coast grid area.

According to an April 30 statement from GridSolar, the pilot plan stems from an agreement approved by the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC), that involves GridSolar, the state Public Advocate, Conservation Law Foundation, Environment Northeast and the Efficiency Maine Trust. The agreement involves development of a smart grid pilot project designed to test the use of NTAs as a way to avoid building an $18m upgrade to a transmission line from Newcastle to Boothbay Harbor. NTAs can include energy efficiency, demand response and renewable and non-renewable distributed generation.

According to the April 30 PUC order, the PUC approved a stipulation in June 2010 that recommended approval of nearly all elements of CMP’s Maine Power Reliability Program transmission project. The parties agreed to develop a NTA pilot to address the reliability needs in the mid-coast area, as well as the Portland, Maine, area.

According to TransmissionHub data, the Maine Power Reliability Program is a 440-mile, 345-kV transmission line that originates at Eliot and ends at Orrington, Maine. It is set to be complete in 2015.

The NTA pilot project to be developed for the Boothbay region includes certain transmission improvement in the mid-coast area, including rebuilding the 115-kV Newcastle substation to a four-breaker ring bus, the PUC said.

The NTA must also be capable of reliably reducing load by 2 MW in the Boothbay sub-region of the mid-coast area at a CMP system-wide load level of 2,000 MW. This 2-MW net load reduction would avoid the need for the $18m rebuild of the line from Newcastle to Boothbay Harbor.

The PUC also said that CMP and GridSolar are to submit a proposed competitive process to solicit NTA resources to supply grid reliability services within the Boothbay sub-region for an initial contract term of no more than three years. The process is to evaluate the availability, suitability, cost-effectiveness, reliability and efficiency of various potential NTA solutions, including dispatchable and passive resources, energy efficiency, distributed renewable and non-renewable generation, and demand response.

The proposal is to include drafts of request for proposals (RFP), NTA contract and terms, RFP review process and selection criteria. GridSolar is to submit recommended contracts to PUC staff and others by Dec. 31.

The PUC also said that GridSolar is to include, to the extent feasible, at least 250 kW of NTA resources in energy efficiency, demand response, renewable distributed generation – at least half of which is to be photovoltaic solar energy – and non-renewable distributed generation – with preference given to resources with no net greenhouse gas emissions. The cost per kilowatt of each source may not exceed the cost per kilowatt of the replaced transmission of the pilot.

Among other things, the PUC said that since the smart grid platform and pilot project are aimed at furthering development of transmission alternatives and reducing the need for transmission, the parties agreed that the associated costs should be deferred by CMP and recovered in transmission rates with carrying costs equal to CMP’s most recently approved Maine jurisdictional weighted average cost of capital.

CMP supported the pilot project, but objected to one provision of the agreement, according to GridSolar.

Indeed, according to the PUC, CMP does not support the fact that the stipulation does not include a provision to allow for the Highland substation, which the company said is the hub for transmission support for the mid-coast region, to be rebuilt to a breaker-and-a-half configuration. However, the company said that if the PUC approved the stipulation, it was prepared to go forward with the pilot program as designed and to cooperate with GridSolar on implementation issues as appropriate.

A CMP spokesperson could not be immediately reached for comment on May 2.

The PUC said the stipulation “furthers the goals set forth by the legislature in the Smart Grid Policy Act of improving the overall reliability and efficiency of the electric system, reducing ratepayer costs in a way that improves overall efficiency and better manages energy consumption and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.”

The pilot will provide valuable information in assessing, for instance, whether and what type of NTAs can be acquired at a reasonable cost to meet grid reliability requirements, the PUC said.

Beth Nagusky, Maine director of Environment Northeast, said in the GridSolar statement that the group is “excited” to move ahead with the pilot project, noting, “Transmission rates are skyrocketing in New England, in large part due to the construction of expensive new transmission lines.”

CMP is a subsidiary of Iberdrola USA, which is a subsidiary of Iberdrola S.A.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3286 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares was TransmissionHub’s chief editor until August 2021, as well as part of the team that established TransmissionHub in 2011. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial from 2005 to 2011. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines.