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March 3, 2022

NY utility giant Con Ed proposes power transmission project through northern Maine

towers and sun Courtesy / Maine Public Utilities Commission Facebook New York utility giant Con Edison proposes to build a transmission project to facilitate delivery of renewable energy from northern to southern Maine.

Con Ed, a $14 billion utility conglomerate in New York City, wants to build a transmission system in northern Maine to deliver 1,200 megawatts of renewable energy to the New England power grid. 

The Maine Power Link system would use some existing rights-of-way and would deliver energy from wind, solar and biomass generators, according to a news release.

A subsidiary of Consolidated Edison Inc. (NYSE: ED) submitted the proposal to the Maine Public Utilities Commission on Tuesday.

“The Maine Power Link transmission line will boost employment requiring hundreds of jobs to help construct the project,” said Robert Clark, executive director of the Northern Maine Development Commission. “The renewable wind, solar and biomass energy projects it will facilitate will drive the demand for local businesses such as mills to produce timber products, fuel and aggregate suppliers and heavy equipment rentals to support construction activities.”

Con Ed did not disclose the expected cost of the project.

Energy delivery

Like Central Maine Power Co. and its partners, which have begun building a transmission system of their own before hitting legal obstacles, Con Ed touts numerous benefits to its proposal.

“We believe that this project will help the people of Maine achieve their clean energy goals, bring needed clean energy generation to market, preserve the beauty of Maine’s communities and create sustainable economic opportunity,” said Stuart Nachmias, president and CEO of Con Edison Transmission. 

Con Ed said the project, if approved, would add capacity to Maine’s electric grid, cut dependence on fossil fuel imports and help reduce Maine's energy-associated carbon emissions by more than 50%.

The use of existing rights-of-way would minimize the visual and environmental impacts of the project and create cost savings.

Con Ed said it would “set a new standard of cooperative engagement with local communities and stakeholders throughout the siting, permitting and construction process.”

Maine Audubon lauded Con Ed for trying to minimize the environmental impact of the project.

“We are optimistic that early engagement with stakeholders, including conservation and clean energy advocates like Maine Audubon, will result in both more efficient processes and better environmental outcomes,” said Eliza Donoghue, Maine Audubon’s director of advocacy. 

Energy creation

The proposal came in response to MPUC’s request last November for proposals to develop and transmit renewable energy from northern Maine to the regional power grid, the Independent System Operator of New England system.

The RFP resulted from legislation passed during the 2021 session that was designed to “remove obstacles to the use of and to promote development of the substantial renewable energy resources in northern Maine.”

The act directed MPUC to approve a contract or contracts for selected transmission line and generation proposals, and created the Northern Maine Renewable Energy Development Program.

A second RFP from MPUC calls for renewable energy generation projects that will use the selected transmission project. Responses to the second RFP are due May 2.

Con Ed said its Maine Power Link would:

• Reduce generation from fossil fuels by up to 10% per year and an estimated total of 3.8 million metric tons of carbon emissions over the project life in Maine

• Unbottle limitations of the energy grid by allowing renewable energy in northern Maine to be delivered economically to the rest of the state and ISO-NE.

Con Edison Transmission has been active in Maine and New England for several years, proposing a variety of transmission projects for renewable power sources.

The project would include the creation of a fixed 30-year Transmission Services Agreement structure.

Earlier this week, Con Ed launched a Maine Power Link website. to communicate with stakeholders regarding project design, routing, costs, benefits and status with the Maine Public Utilities Commission RFP. Click here to visit the website.

Route to be determined

The exact route of the transmission line hasn’t yet been determined.

“The Maine Power Link has submitted a proposal that intends to maximize the use of existing infrastructure rights-of-way as much as possible along the proposed route," Con Ed said. “For the areas where expanded or new ROWs are needed, the team has proposed a novel approach to siting by first collaborating with stakeholders, environmental and conservation organizations, and communities to identify preferred routes before speaking with any landowners.

“Once a preferred route has been identified, the team will seek the appropriate options, conduct environmental studies, and submit siting applications with buy-in from stakeholders, thus ensuring an open and transparent process and allowing for more efficient permitting approvals.”

The MPUC said transmission proposal information will be available to the generator bidders under a non-disclosure agreement on March 7. The second phase solicits generation proposals to be submitted by May 1. 

The commission will review proposals with decisions to be made by Nov 1.

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