The Maine Public Utilities Commission (MPUC), in a Dec. 28, 2015, order, approved a stipulation filed in November 2015 by Central Maine Power (CMP), and signed by CMP and the state Office of the Public Advocate (OPA), in relation to the Waterville/Winslow Transmission Project, and granted CMP’s petition for a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) for the project.
As TransmissionHub reported, CMP, the OPA, and other parties recommended in the stipulation that the MPUC grant a CPCN for the company’s proposed Waterville/Winslow Area Reinforcement Project, which consists of building about seven miles of a 115-kV transmission line, Section 241 (an extension of existing Section 241); re-rating the existing Section 241A (renamed Section 281); and replacing the Rice Rips 115/34-kV substation with the new 115/34-kV County Road substation.
The project’s estimated cost is about $38.3m, of which about $24.5m is anticipated to qualify as Pool Transmission Facilities (PTF) under the ISO New England (ISO-NE) tariff. Costs associated with approved PTF are recovered through Regional Network Service rates under the ISO-NE tariff, the stipulation said, noting that CMP will submit a Transmission Cost Allocation (TCA) application for the project with ISO-NE.
If ISO-NE provides a TCA determination, that is consistent with CMP’s expectations, CMP’s customers would be responsible for about 7% of the PTF project costs and Maine customers would be responsible for about 8.3%.
The stipulation also noted that the project is required to mitigate low voltages, thermal overloads, voltage collapse conditions and potential 60 MW loss of load criteria violations in the Waterville, Winslow, Oakland, and Fairfield areas. Those violations occurred under planning conditions that were adopted as safe harbor provisions in a February 2013 MPUC order, the stipulation said.
According to the stipulation, CMP in February 2014 filed a notice of intent to file a petition for a CPCN for the project. That was done to alert the MPUC of the pending filing in order for the MPUC to retain a consultant to conduct a non-transmission alternatives (NTA) analysis as required. The MPUC in August 2014 entered into a contract with La Capra Associates to conduct the NTA analysis.
As noted in the MPUC’s December order, GridSolar is the only party to oppose the stipulation. GridSolar analyzed the need for the project, using different assumptions than those approved by the MPUC in a February 2013 order, the MPUC said, noting that GridSolar used a different output for the in-region hydro generation than that resulting from the methodology approved in the 2013 order. Additionally, GridSolar used a different load level for a maintenance outage than the 85% of 90/10 approved in that MPUC order, and GridSolar did not use the transmission line ratings resulting from using a 95˚ F ambient air temperature uniformly in determining the transmission need.
The February 2013 order involved an investigation in electric utilities transmission planning standards and criteria (Docket No. 2011-00494).
The MPUC added that while GridSolar acknowledges the existence of that 2013 order and the safe harbor standards that were approved therein, GridSolar argues that that order does not control the outcome in this case. Among other things, the MPUC said that GridSolar said that “if the commission has the plenary authority to depart from its rules for good cause, then it certainly has the authority to re-evaluate a three-year-old order to determine if it is appropriate to apply all or parts of the decision to the specific facts and circumstances of this case.”
CMP argued that GridSolar’s arguments are an untimely request for reconsideration of the 2013 order, and the OPA, although supporting the stipulation, suggested that it would be appropriate to reopen the MPUC’s 2013 order to permit non-utility parties the opportunity to propose practices and assumptions in CPCN cases “that may ensure reliability but be less costly than the safe harbor assumptions.”
The MPUC added that the record shows that the parties joining the stipulation represent a sufficiently broad spectrum of interests and that the process that led to the stipulation was fair. The MPUC said that it concludes that the stipulated result is reasonable, not contrary to legislative mandate, and that the result is consistent with the public interest.
The project recommended in the stipulation is the least-cost solution, including consideration of possible NTAs, that resolves the local electric reliability needs in the Waterville-Winslow Area. The needs are driven in large part by the transmission planning standards, specifically maintenance outage testing at an 85% of 90/10 load level and the methodology for determining hydro output, approved in the February 2013.
The MPUC added that it does not agree with GridSolar that the commission can simply disregard the safe harbor standards in this case.
Based on CMP’s transmission planning standards, the MPUC said that it finds that the project is needed and that it is the least-cost solution. However, should PTF treatment not be granted for the project, the MPUC said that it may reopen this matter for further consideration of needs and solutions.
Among other things, the MPUC said that CMP is to begin construction of the project no sooner than 45 days from its receipt of ISO-NE’s decision on CMP’s TCA application for the project.
CMP is a subsidiary of Iberdrola USA, which is a subsidiary of Iberdrola S.A.