Conn. seeks to increase RPS, keep transmission costs down

A first-ever comprehensive energy strategy has been proposed for Connecticut by Gov. Dannel Malloy that outlines an electricity sector strategy to increase state clean energy mandates and keep generation and transmission costs down.

Malloy unveiled the draft energy strategy at a conference in Cromwell, Conn., Oct. 5, highlighting the benefits of the plan to addressing environmental, energy, and economic challenges in the state.

“Tackling [these challenges] together offers the best chance to lower the cost of electricity and heat for our families and seniors, the best chance to lower the cost of power and make our businesses and industries more competitive so [they] can create the jobs that our residents need, and the best chance to reduce air emissions and other harmful impacts on our land and water,” he said in a statement.

Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) developed the draft strategy for energy market issues underlining energy efficiency, electricity, industry, natural gas, and transportation in accordance with Public Act 11-80, passed in 2011.

James Torgerson, CEO of UIL Holdings (NYSE: UIL), praised the draft strategy in a statement, saying the state has “languished without a comprehensive policy to address pressing energy issues.”

UIL is the parent company of The United Illuminating Company, which provides transmission and electricity services for the New Haven, Conn., and Bridgeport, Conn., areas.

“I have always supported energy policies that encourage growth and improve efficiency and diversification of resources,” Torgerson said.

The draft’s electricity sector strategy to advance an agenda of cheaper and cleaner power for the state proposes to “keep both generation and transmission costs down through proper planning, infrastructure investments, and engagement in federal and regional energy decision-making processes, including increased scrutiny of the rules and incentives established by FERC and the [New England] Independent Systems Operator, which runs the wholesale electricity marketplace in our region.”

In addition to its two major components – reducing natural gas prices and expanding efficiency programs – the plan considers raising Connecticut’s current 20% by 2020 renewable portfolio standard and expanding the resource mix of its power portfolio.

Based on a forecasted annual electricity load for Connecticut in 2020 of 30,981 GWh, the draft strategy estimates it would take 1.09 GW of wind generating capacity and 2.72 GW of solar-PV generating capacity to meet a requirement of 6,196 GWh of Class I renewable generation.

The draft strategy provides an overview of the technical potential of renewable resources in Connecticut and highlights Canadian hydroelectric resources as a low-carbon generation option, calling hydropower potential “enormous,” despite the lack of transmission to interconnect the regions.

The Northern Pass transmission project, a joint venture between Northeast Utilities (NYSE:NU) and NSTAR Electric, a utility subsidiary of Northeast Utilities, is highlighted in the strategy as a potential near-term solution to accessing hydroelectric resources in Quebec, but other new transmission projects, the strategy noted, would increase the portion of hydroelectricity for New England.

Northern Pass would include 140 miles of 300-kV DC and 40 miles of 345-kV AC transmission lines to connect Quebec and New Hampshire.

The draft comprehensive energy strategy has been presented for public comment. DEEP scheduled a series of technical workshops the week of Nov. 14 on major elements of the overall plan, and four public hearings are scheduled throughout Connecticut in November.