Maine regulators seek comments on rules related to NWA coordinator investigations

As noted in the filing, the Maine Legislature, during its 2019 session, enacted An Act to Reduce Electricity Costs through Nonwires Alternatives, which established the position of “nonwires alternative (NWA)” coordinator in the Office of the Public Advocate

The Maine Public Utilities Commission on Jan. 14 issued a notice of inquiry seeking comments on rules related to non-wires alternative coordinator investigations.

As noted in the filing, the Maine Legislature, during its 2019 session, enacted An Act to Reduce Electricity Costs through Nonwires Alternatives, which established the position of “nonwires alternative (NWA)” coordinator in the Office of the Public Advocate. Generally, the commission said, the duties of the NWA coordinator are to investigate and identify NWAs to transmission and distribution line projects, as well as to evaluate the costs and benefits of such NWAs compared to utility capital investments in the transmission and distribution system.

The commission said that the Act states, in part, that the commission, by rule, is to develop criteria to exclude from investigation by the NWA coordinator small transmission projects and distribution projects best suited to transmission and distribution investments, including projects that are:

  • Necessary for redundant supply to a radial load
  • Necessary to address maintenance, asset conditions, or safety needs
  • Necessary to address stability or short-circuit problems
  • Required to be in service within one year based on the controlling load forecast

According to the “printed chapter” of the legislation posted on the Legislature’s website, each transmission and distribution utility is to file annually with the commission and the Office of the Public Advocate, for review by the NWA coordinator, a schedule of transmission line rebuilding or relocation projects that it intends to carry out during the next five years concerning transmission lines that will become, or will remain at, voltages of 69 kV or more. The schedule must describe each project, showing the length, location, and estimated cost. The printed chapter further noted that if the commission determines that an investigation of any transmission line rebuilding or relocation project is warranted, it is to notify the transmission and distribution utility within 60 days of the annual filing and the transmission and distribution utility is then required to comply with the provisions of the legislation with respect to that project.

Among other things, the printed chapter further noted that each domestic transmission and distribution utility is to file annually with the commission and the Office of the Public Advocate, for review by the NWA coordinator, a schedule of minor transmission line construction projects that it intends to carry out during the next five years concerning transmission lines that will be capable of operating at 69 kV or more. A minor transmission line construction project is a transmission line construction project that has a cost that does not exceed 25% of the utility’s current annual transmission property depreciation charge.

The commission said in its notice that it requests comments on the specific criteria that should be included in the rule to determine which transmission and distribution projects are excluded from the requirement for an investigation by the NWA coordinator.

The commission said that it also requests comment on whether the rule should contain other provisions to facilitate the NWA investigation process. For example, the commission requests comment on whether the rule should contain provisions on the criteria for the cost/benefit analyses of NWAs.

The commission added that it requests that comments be filed by Jan. 27.