Connecticut regulators allowed the state’s two investor-owned utilities to recover from ratepayers the cost of power from a Maine wind farm, but questioned whether the output of the wind farm would ever get delivered to Connecticut consumers.
The Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority was not asked to determine whether the power purchase agreements for 250 MW from a wind farm in Maine and a 20-MW solar facility in Connecticut would provide net benefits to ratepayers – that decision was made in September by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
PURA’s role was to determine whether the utilities, Northeast Utilities subsidiary Connecticut Light and Power Co. and UIL Holdings Corp. subsidiary United Illuminating Co., could recover the cost of the power purchase agreements from ratepayers. On Oct. 23, the PURA said the utilities could.
But not without reservations. “PURA notes that 90 percent of this investment is made to generate electricity through wind power in northern Maine,” the order says. “Because of transmission limitations, it appears that the electricity generated by this project will remain exclusively or largely in Maine and not be delivered to Connecticut or elsewhere outside of Maine. Moreover, the environmental effects of the investment (electricity generated with absence of air pollution) will primarily accrue to the citizens of sparsely populated [Aroostook] County, certain parts of Canada’s Maritime Provinces, and the Atlantic Ocean.”
To help Connecticut meet its renewable energy supply mandate of 20% by 2020, the state DEEP in September approved a 15-year power purchase agreement between the utilities and EDP Renewables North America’s proposed Number Nine wind farm and a 20-year power purchase agreement for the output of the 20-MW Fusion Solar Center, being developed by HelioSage Energy LLC in eastern Connecticut. Under the terms of the PPAs, the two facilities are required to be in service by the end of 2016.
The PURA said in the order, “The findings that northwest Maine wind power benefits Connecticut ratepayers by generating deliverable electricity and providing environmental benefits is made by DEEP.” (Docket No. 13-09-19)
Just days after the Connecticut PPAs were announced, Massachusetts utilities secured PPAs with six proposed wind energy facilities, five of which are in Maine. For those projects as well, additional transmission capacity is needed to deliver their output to southern New England.
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