With no regional solution in sight, New Hampshire should establish a commission to take charge of expanding electric transmission capacity in the North Country, a state senator said Tuesday.
Without more transmission capacity, development of renewable power is largely stymied in New Hampshire, Sen. Martha Fuller Clark told a Senate committee. Clark said her bill would create a single entity to develop a plan to pay for the expansion.
Renewable power projects that would produce roughly 400 megawatts of power are competing for about 100 megawatts of available transmission capacity in Coos County. The proposed expansion could cost $200 million to connect the projects to the rest of New England.
Last year, New Hampshire joined other New England states in adopting renewable energy standards, which require electric utilities to obtain renewable energy certificates for a certain percentage of the power they supply to customers. Each certificate represents one megawatt of power generation from a renewable source, such as solar, geothermal, biomass, wind or hydro.
Gov. John Lynch also has joined governors and business leaders nationwide in endorsing 25 x 25, an effort aimed at producing 25 percent of the energy consumed in the United States that comes from clean, renewable power by 2025. Renewable energy portfolios are intended to increase the development of renewable sources.
But achieving the goal faces high hurdles – chief among them the lack of transmission capacity in northern New Hampshire. That is where the best locations are for wind and biomass plants because of prevailing wind currents and the proximity to wood.
Doug Patch, representing Noble Environmental Power, said little progress has been made to upgrade the transmission line in Coos County. Noble has one wind project that is first in line for the 100 megawatts of available capacity. Noble can’t move ahead with a second 146 megawatt wind project without an upgrade, said Patch.
“It has been Noble’s position, a position shared by some of the other stakeholders, that the best solution to this upgrade would be to have the costs socialized across New England, like many other transmission projects have been over the years,” he said. “If this is the case, New Hampshire would only pay approximately 9 percent of those costs.”
Patch said Noble is willing to pay its fair share of the transmission upgrade – estimated to cost $200 million.
So far, the upgrade has not won support from ISO New England, which manages power for the region and would decide if all New England electric users would benefit and consequently should share in its cost.
Spokesman Steve Rourke told the committee ISO is beginning to review how to incorporate New England’s renewable power transmission needs into the regional plan.
“The region obviously has established lofty goals for renewable power,” he said.
Rourke acknowledged renewable power producers’ hurdle is transmission.
“They’re constrained by location. They’re in far northern Maine. They’re in far northern Vermont. They’re in far northern New Hampshire. They’re off shore,” he said.
Fuller Clark said she will entertain possible solutions to put before the Senate in her bill. As it stands, her bill would have the commission study a New Hampshire-only funding approach. She said she plans to amend the bill after more discussions with stakeholders.
By Norma Love
Associated Press Writer
19 February 2008
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