MONTPELIER – Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said he would encourage his five New England counterparts to work with the company that manages the regional power grid to take better advantage of fast expanding sources of clean energy to replace electricity generated by fossil fuels.
He said the discussion between the governors and ISO New England is critical because of the region-wide rush to add more sources of wind and solar power, from industrial scale wind projects to small roof-top solar panel installations.
“We want to build renewables as fast as we can without always recognizing the need to work collaboratively to ensure that the infrastructure is in place to use 100 percent of that juice,” Shumlin said Wednesday, a day after touring ISO New England headquarters in Holyoke, Mass.
ISO New England spokeswoman Ellen Foley said Shumlin was invited for a routine visit to see how the region’s power grid is managed. “It was a very cordial meeting and a good discussion of the regional energy issues,” Foley said.
The Shumlin administration and the state’s largest electric utility, Green Mountain Power, have been working to resolve what some describe as an ongoing difference of opinion with ISO New England about the best way to bring that renewable electricity to customers.
Last summer, Shumlin criticized ISO New England after it ordered GMP’s Lowell Mountain Wind project to stop sending power to the grid during a July heat wave. ISO argued the distribution system in the area wasn’t sufficient to handle the power produced by the Lowell project.
Since then, GMP has upgraded a power line from Lowell Mountain, making it possible for the utility to send more power to the grid. The utility is in the process of installing equipment expected to ensure the utility will be able to send the project’s full output to the grid.
ISO New England is also working to incorporate into its planning how to account for the small amounts of power generated by individual rooftop solar panels across Vermont. They can provide a significant amount of electricity that hasn’t traditionally been used by ISO New England as part of its planning processes, said Darren Springer, the deputy commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Service who visited ISO headquarters with Shumlin.
Foley said ISO New England had convened a working group of state utility officials and its planners to discuss how the electricity produced in small increments, known as distributed generation, can be planned for as more of it becomes available and older, more traditional sources of power, are retired.
ISO estimates that more than 2,000 megawatts of distributed generation will be available in the region by 2021. By comparison, the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, due to close next year, has a maximum capacity of about 600 megawatts.
“As more and more (distributed generation) comes onto the system… We need to know how much is out there,” Foley said.