January 28, 2019

Saviello requests PUC amend NECEC schedule to consider alternatives

Courtesy / CMP
Courtesy / CMP
Map showing Central Maine Power's New England Clean Energy Connect transmission proposal to connect Hydro-Quebec power to the New England power grid.


Central Maine Power's $950 million New England Clean Energy Connect project was selected in response to a Massachusetts initiative to increase the supply of clean energy as required under the Bay State's Global Warming Solutions Act.

In Maine, the project requires a transmission line from the state's border with the Province of Quebec runs 145 miles to a new AC/DC converter station in Lewiston. The new line, in combination with additional smaller improvements at various facilities in Maine, will have the capacity to deliver up to 1,200 megawatts of power from Hydro-Québec to Massachusetts consumers through the existing regional grid,

CMP has stated it will produce nearly $1 billion in economic benefits through construction employment, electricity cost savings, local property taxes, and enhanced economic growth between 2017 and 2027. The 20-year Massachusetts contracts will produce additional economic and environmental benefits in Maine through 2043, according to CMP, and separate agreements between CMP and Hydro-Québec could extend the delivery of clean energy benefits to Maine and the region to 2063 or beyond.

Former state Sen. Tom Saviello has filed a motion with the Maine Public Utilities Commission asking that it amend its schedule for ruling on Central Maine Power's New England Clean Energy Connect transmission line until it addresses a requirement of analyzing alternatives that aren't transmission lines.

The PUC is considering a request by Central Maine Power, a subsidiary of AVANGRID (NYSE: AGR), for a certificate of finding of public convenience and necessity for the 145-mile New England Clean Energy Connect line, which would bring Quebec Hydro power from Canada to Massachusetts.

Saviello's motion refers to a 2017 amendment to state Title 35-A, regulating public utilities, requires third-party analysis of the cost of the transmission lines as compared to the cost of alternatives.

The statue requires the commission to determine whether there are non-transmission alternatives "that can sufficiently address the identified public need over the effective life of the transmission line at lower total cost."

"The statute is very clear," he wrote in his motion. "The PUC shall perform the investigation and may evaluate any alternatives for said line. The investigation shall make findings with regard to the likelihood that non-transmission alternatives can sufficiently address the identified public need."

The PUC responded to Saviello's motion on Sunday, inviting comments on it through Friday.

Saviello, a Wilton Republican, was chairman of the Joint Standing Committee on Environment and Natural Resources when the amendment was passed. His term ended last year and he didn't run for reelection because of term limits.

The transmission line would run through 145 miles through Franklin, Somerset and Androscoggin counties.

The commission held general public hearings last fall, and earlier this month held public hearings for those who petitioned for formal intervenor status. It is expected to rule on the CMP request in March.

Saviello acknowledged in his motion that the PUC, a year ago recognized the requirement to perform a non-transmission alternatives analysis, "but the commission has not given us any indication about how the important issue will be addressed."

"At this point in the procedural schedule the only opportunity for the commission to perform an independent [non-transmission alternative] is between now and the final order, with no opportunity for public comment."

He asks that the commission's procedural schedule be amended "in whatever way necessary a) identify the process that will be used and whether it will be performed independently within the PUC or by an outside contractor; b) allow parties to comment on the scope of the NTA; and c) allow parties to comment on the results of the NTA before the commission issues a final decision in this docket."

Saviello has been a vocal opponent of the line, which would enter Maine from Quebec in northern Franklin County, cut west to Somerset County, where it would run south, before cutting into southern Franklin County and crossing through the Farmington-Wilton area. It would end in Lewiston, in Androscoggin County.

He said that the purpose of the amendment "is clear the Legislature wanted to make sure that intrusive power lines only get built when there are no other alternatives."

Saviello cites the fact that the "public need" for the transmission line is "a Massachusetts public need related to addressing Massachusetts greenhouse emissions… Therefore, the Commission must determine whether there is a likelihood that any alternatives to NECEC can meet that need."


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