2013 Energy Outlook: Northeast utilities move forward on transmission

Various transmission projects on the East Coast are moving towards completion this year. TransmissionHub presents the plans by Northeast Utilities (NYSE:NU), National Grid plc subsidiary National Grid USA and Vermont Electric Power Company below.

Northeast Utilities

“In 2013, our transmission projects will address areas of needed electric reliability improvements in southeastern Massachusetts and Cape Cod, and between the greater Springfield, Mass., area to north central Connecticut,” Northeast Utilities spokesperson Al Lara told TransmissionHub. “We will also continue work on transmission solutions between the tri-state area of Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts; and in Stamford, Conn., to address growing demand and to conform to national and regional reliability standards. Additionally, we continue to develop a direct current cable to deliver clean – predominantly hydro– power from Québec to New England.”

The Southeast Region Reliability Project and the Greater Springfield Reliability Project will be completed in 2013, he said.

The $106m Southeast Region Reliability Project, in southeastern Massachusetts and Cape Cod, seeks to improve reliability in the region with 18.5 miles of new 345-kV overhead construction on existing rights-of-way and a third 345-kV line crossing the Cape Cod Canal, he said.

“The project will provide additional backup to existing lines and will bring a new highly reliable source of power into the center of the Cape Cod,” Lara said.

Construction on the project began in September 2012 and is expected to complete in June.

The estimated $718m Greater Springfield Reliability Project is expected to be completed and go into full service later this year, he said, adding that construction began in 2010 to address transmission reliability problems from the greater Springfield area to north-central Connecticut. It involved 39 miles of new and reconstructed transmission lines between the two states and three major substation upgrades, he said.

This year, Northeast Utilities will continue working on such projects as the Interstate Reliability Project, which has an estimated cost of $218m and is acollaboration with National Grid USA to improve electric reliability between Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

National Grid USA is a subsidiary of National Grid plc.

New overhead 345-kV transmission line will be installed on 37 miles of existing right-of-way from Lebanon, Conn., to the Rhode Island border in Thompson, Lara said, noting that National Grid will build a 38-mile segment through its service areas in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Earlier this month, Northeast Utilities subsidiary Connecticut Light and Power (CL&P) received approval from the Connecticut Siting Council for the segment in that state. Lara also said that siting decisions for Rhode Island and Massachusetts are expected to take place later this year, and if approved, the line could be in service by late 2015.

Another project that the company will continue to work on this year is the Stamford Reliability Cable Project, which has an estimated cost of $47m. It is a proposal for an underground, 115-kV transmission line and associated facilities in Stamford, Conn., for improved reliability and the ability to accommodate growing energy needs in the area. Lara also said that CL&P filed an application earlier this month with the Connecticut Siting Council. Pending regulatory approvals, construction could begin in 2014.

He also noted that work will continue this year on the Northern Pass transmission project, which has an estimated cost of $1.1bn. The project is acollaboration between Northeast Utilities and Hydro-Québec for the construction of a direct current transmission line to deliver up to 1,200 MW of competitively priced, clean energy, predominantly hydropower, from Québec into New England’s power grid, he said.

In response to concerns about potential local impacts of a preliminary route, a new route has been identified and is expected to be submitted to the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Commission later this year for review, he said.

Lara also noted that Northeast Utilities’ operating companies’ rates in Connecticut and Massachusetts are frozen as a result of merger-related settlements entered into to secure approval of Northeast Utilities’ merger with NSTAR in 2012.

Rates for CL&P customers are frozen until Dec. 1, 2014. In Massachusetts, rates for customers of NSTAR – electric and gas – and Western Massachusetts Electric are frozen through Dec. 31, 2015. Lara also said that Public Service of New Hampshire is operating under a five-year distribution rate settlement agreement that began on July 1, 2010, and expires on June 30, 2015.

No other Northeast Utilities operating company expects to file rate cases this year, he said.

National Grid

National Grid spokesman David Graves told TransmissionHub that while the company invests, manages and delivers a wide portfolio of transmission projects and upgrades across the Northeast states of New York and New England within the companies’ service territories every year, there are a few highlighted key initiatives expected to be completed or significantly progress in 2013, within each of the different states.

“National Grid works closely with its state regulators, customers and independent system operators in planning, siting and delivering all of its transmission infrastructure projects critical to reliability and in the best interest of the communities and economies we serve,” Graves said.

In Vermont and New Hampshire, the company continues to reinforce its transmission infrastructure as needed to enhance reliability. “In 2013, the company anticipates completing the refurbishment, reconductoring and additions of remote switching capabilities for its 69-kV transmission line traversing towns in southeast Vermont and bordering communities in southwest New Hampshire,” Graves added.

National Grid continues to move ahead as planned to complete five major 115-kV transmission line upgrades in the northeast region of Massachusetts to meet reliability needs before the Salem Harbor coal power plant’s remaining units retire in June 2014. Graves added that the company expects investments for these multi-year upgrades to total about $50m.

In Rhode Island, the company anticipates completing the Rhode Island Reliability Project, part of the New England East-West Solution this year, he said. The multi-year project, with a cost of about $300m, includes a new 21-mile, 345-kV line along with various transmission line reconductoring and upgrades, as well as numerous substation equipment updates and installations across Rhode Island.

In New York, National Grid expects to complete the Clay 115-kV Substation Rebuild, which costs about $40m and includes a new control house, new station bus work and replacement of equipment in seven bays. The company is also implementing a multi-year plan to strengthen the reliability of the transmission system in western New York, Graves said, adding that this scope of work is located primarily in the company’s Frontier and Southwest regions of western New York, with costs estimated at $20m.

Also in New York, National Grid expects the state Public Service Commission to act on a proposed upstate – Niagara Mohawk – electric and gas rate case settlement in March. The settlement, as proposed, includes investment of about $200m a year for three years, beginning in April, if approved, in upstate New York electric transmission and sub-transmission asset investment.

VELCO

Vermont Electric Power Company (VELCO) spokesperson Shana Duval told TransmissionHub that VELCO will address transmission upgrade needs in northern, central and southern Vermont.

A number of transmission projects will be completed this year, including the $28.4m, 115/46/69-kV Bennington Substation Upgrade in Bennington, Vt., $23m, 115/46-kV Ascutney Substation Upgrade in Weathersfield, Vt., and $20.3m, 345-kV Reactors Project in New Haven, Vernon and Coolidge, Vt. Duval also said that other projects to be completed this year are the $5.8m, 115-kV K41 Line Upgrade in Northeast Kingdom, Vt., and the $1.4m, 115-kV Grand Isle Terminal Upgrade in Grand Isle, Vt.

Duval said the company will continue to work on the $93m, 115-kV Coolidge to Ascutney Project in Central Vermont, Vt., through 2015.

On rates, Duval noted that the transmission investments in Vermont are recovered under two primary transmission tariffs, the regional network service (RNS) and the Vermont Transmission Agreement (VTA).

The RNS rates are established by ISO New England (ISO-NE) based on transmission upgrades throughout New England while the VTA provides a cost recovery mechanism for transmission investments supporting local transmission service.

Distribution utilities are responsible for covering these costs and presenting these as part of their individual rate cases, which VELCO does not participate in, Duval said, noting that the only rate proceeding VELCO is involved with is a challenge to the current return on equity (ROE) of all New England Transmission Owners that is pending before FERC.

On Jan. 18, FERC trial staff financial analyst Sabina Joe submitted testimony with FERC recommending that the commission lower the base ROE recovered through ISO-NE’s open access transmission tariff to 9.66% from 11.14% (FERC Docket No. EL11-66).

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3152 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.