Sunday, April 20, 2014
(Continued from page 1)
The 227-mile line, which would carry renewable energy mostly from wind farms to be built in Maine, would be buried along Interstates 95 and 295 from Bangor to the New Hampshire border. Energy would be transmitted primarily to Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Gregory Rec/2010 Press Herald file
Maine also has a strong renewable portfolio standard law, but it has become a political issue and a point of criticism for Gov. Paul LePage. The governor is using a recent report from a conservative advocacy group to assail the above-average power contracts paid for renewables, saying they will cost 1,000 jobs and add $145 million to electric rates by 2017. His attacks foreshadow a likely battle next year between interest groups that want to expand Maine's law, and those that want to gut it.
LePage's opposition won't hamper the Northeast Energy Link, Chasse said, because the line isn't being developed to serve Maine. The biggest obstacle facing the project would be any retreat from current policies by politicians in southern New England. Electricity from natural gas is cheap today, Chasse said, but the project is promising the region the long-term economic benefit of stable electricity prices.
"Will the New England states continue to have the will to push for renewables?" Chasse asked.
Chasse also noted that any new transmission line in Maine must be shown to benefit the state, a determination that will be made by the review panel.
Under state law, the panel must approve a project if it enhances energy transmission within Maine and is likely to reduce the cost of power for homes and businesses.
In their letter to the panel, the utility groups say the project will ease bottlenecks in existing transmission lines, lower energy costs by $714 million for Maine customers over 30 years, and generate revenue in the form of lease payments and local taxes.
The project is also expected to create 450 construction jobs and another 50 related jobs during peak construction, as well as 40 to 50 high-skilled, permanent jobs to operate two converter stations and maintain the transmission lines.
By law, 90 percent of the revenue for use of the corridor will go to the Maine DOT for capital improvements for state highways. The remaining 10 percent of the revenue will be deposited in an energy infrastructure benefits fund and transferred to the Efficiency Maine Trust for grants, loans, programs, and incentives for efficiency initiatives and alternative energy resources.
The issue of long-term costs will be important if the project is to win support from the Industrial Energy Consumer Group, an influential lobby that represents some of Maine's factories and mills.
The turnpike/interstate corridor is an invaluable and irreplaceable energy corridor, noted Tony Buxton, the group's attorney. Canada has more than 20,000 megawatts of hydro planned and 5,000 to 8,000 megawatts under construction in its eastern provinces, he said, virtually all for export to the eastern United States.
"(This project) is only the first such opportunity," Buxton said, "and that fact should cause Maine to maximize the value of our assets, just as Canada has in the past. Any benefits we can obtain should be used to reduce Maine's energy costs."
Tux Turkel can be contacted at 791-6462 or at: