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February 21, 2019

CMP's sweetens the deal, picks up support from Mills and others for $950M project

Photo / New England Clean Energy Connect
Photo / New England Clean Energy Connect
The 145-mile transmission line proposed by Central Maine Power for its $950 million New England Clean Energy Connect follows what CMP describes as a "carefully planned route: that takes advantage of existing corridors along 73% of the proposed route. CMP today stipulated a detailed proposal it hopes will result in the Maine Public Utilities Commission approving the project.

Central Maine Power announced this morning it has signed a stipulation asking the Maine Public Utilities Commission to authorize its $950 million transmission project to deliver Canadian hydropower through Maine to Massachusetts.

The proposed settlement includes conditions that Acadia Center and Conservation Law Foundation sought directly from CMP under a Jan. 30 memorandum of understanding signed by CMP President and CEO Doug Herling and CMP Vice President, Treasurer and Controller Eric Stinneford.

In a statement provided to Mainebiz, Acadia Center stated CMP agreed to:

  • Provide clear, measurable benefits to Maine ratepayers and affected communities.
  • Support Maine's efforts to expand its clean energy economy.
  • Increase access of all Maine residents to clean transportation and clean distributed energy resources such as solar.
  • Make CMP's planning and decision-making more transparent to expand opportunities for alternative investments in solar, storage, and efficiency.
  • Ensure that the NECEC line does not create barriers to the potential expansion of renewable energy generation within Maine.
  • Support a study examining pathways to achieve regional decarbonization goals.

Here's what CMP is proposing

Courtesy / CMP
Courtesy / CMP
Central Maine Power Co. President and CEO Doug Herling.

Included in its 50-page stipulation filed today with PUC, CMP is proposing:

  • To transfer ownership of the 145-mile New England Clean Energy Connect transmission line, upon completion, to NECEC Transmission LLC, "a Delaware limited liability company that is a wholly owned subsidiary within the Avangrid Networks family of companies and is not a subsidiary of CMP."
  • Increase Maine's Renewable Portfolio Standard to include up to a 50% new renewable energy requirement by 2030 and an enhanced long-term contract renewable energy procurement obligation of no less than 20% of load by 2030.
  • Establish a $50 million NECEC Low-Income Customer Benefits Fund to fund one or more programs that benefit low-income energy customers in Maine in a manner designated by the the Maine Public Advocate's Office in consultation with the Efficiency Maine Trust and Gov. Janet Mills' designee(s). The funding would be made in $1.25 million installments over 40 years.
  • Establish a $140 million NECEC Rate Relief Fund to be used to provide per-kilowatt-hour rate relief for retail electricity customers within CMP's service territory.
  • Design the NECEC transmission lines so that they can provide additional fiberoptic capacity in the corridor's host communities, with an estimated value of $5 million.
  • Establish a $10 million NECEC Broadband Fund, to be funded with five annual contributions of $2 million. The fund would provide grants to support the implementation and maintenance of high-speed broadband infrastructure in the host communities along the transmission corridor.

Mills supports CMP proposal

Gov. Janet Mills announced this morning that the Governor's Energy Office had signed onto CMP's stipulation document and is asking PUC to issue a "Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, which will allow the New England Clean Energy Connect project to undergo further review before other state and federal agencies."

Here are excerpts from her written statement sent to Mainebiz:

"We cannot afford to do nothing.

"...[D}iscussions in recent weeks have brought to the table the largest generator of renewable energy in North America — HydroQuebec. Partnering with this provincial company to our north, with its plentiful low carbon generation, along with local renewable generators, will not only bring down the price of power for consumers of all sizes but will also help us wean off of fossil fuels in a significant way.

"This project, if further permitted, will put our state and our region on the road to a zero carbon economy by 2050.

"Joined by several prominent environmental groups, western Maine organizations, and others, the Stipulation will allow thousands of Maine low and middle income families to shut off the furnace and heat their homes in the winter and cool them in the summer with modern heat pumps.

"It will put our state in the lead nationally, per capita, in electric vehicle usage.

"By all objective analyses, it will suppress the price of electricity in Maine and in the region, saving Maine residents millions of dollars each year in electricity costs.

"With a substantial investment in broadband, education and other community benefits, it will boost, not diminish, the western Maine economy.

"Finally, while enhancing the reliability of the New England grid to avoid blackouts and brownouts, the project will reduce carbon dioxide emissions in New England by 3.6 million metric tons per year.

"And it will cost Maine ratepayers nothing. Massachusetts will foot the bill."

Mills said the agreement announced today is "markedly different" from where the discussion started. She noted that over the past several weeks, the Conservation Law Foundation and Acadia Center, the Industrial Energy Consumers Group, the Office of the Public Advocate, and the Governor's Energy Office and others "have brought HydroQuebec to the table and have pushed both HydroQuebec and Central Maine Power to an agreement that provides significant economic and environmental benefits for Maine people."

She acknowledged the project has generated strong opposition in western Maine, but concluded that the benefits outlined in CMP's stipulation make the project "on balance, worth pursuing."

NRCM: Settlement still a bad deal

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.

Natural Resources Council of Maine, which has been one of the more vocal opponents of the NECEC project, characterized CMP's proposed settlement as "much less than meets the eye and is not worth the damage and destruction that would be done to the North Woods."

"The purported settlement would not address the fundamental flaw in the transmission project: it would harm Maine substantially — from the state's forests, waters, and wildlife to local clean energy projects and jobs — without benefitting the climate," NRCM stated on its website.

NRCM cited opposition that includes more than 10,000 people have already signed petitions opposing CMP's corridor line (including 5,000 on a petition from NRCM), seven towns or plantations have rescinded their support or come out in opposition to the project, opposition from the Maine State Federation of Firefighters and Sportsman's Alliance of Maine.

Its statement online includes a point-by-point critique of CMP's proposed settlement.

"Mainers don't support CMP's corridor project because it is a bad deal for Maine and our environment," said NRCM Clean Energy Project Director Dylan Voorhees. "This massive corridor would cause large-scale damage to Maine's North Woods, would not reduce carbon pollution, and could block local clean energy projects that would provide real jobs and benefits for Mainers. CMP's settlement offer doesn't change these fundamental problems. It strikes us as being a desperate and calculated move to win support."

DOWNLOAD PDFs

CMP's stipulation proposal filed with Maine PUC

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