It may be only an intermediate step, but the recommendation by the staff of the Maine Public Utilities Commission on a plan by Central Maine Power Co. to upgrade its transmission lines should not be taken as the final word on the issue.

The PUC has to hold one interest paramount: that of the people of Maine.

True, it is in the people’s interest not to pay for unnecessary expansions or upgrades to infrastructure.

Balancing that, however, is the state’s need for reliable, efficient supplies of electricity generated and delivered by means that are as environmentally friendly as possible.

They should be produced and transmitted by a system that supports a sound economy by being capable of meeting both current demands and future growth.

The commissioners should view CMP’s projections without undue skepticism, because the risk of falling short of meeting the state’s future generation and transmission requirements would mean a serious negative impact on Maine’s growth and prosperity.

What CMP has proposed is upgrading and expanding its power transmission system over its entire service area at a projected cost of $1.5 billion.

The proposal was developed in conjunction with an analysis of the region’s future power delivery needs prepared by ISO New England, which oversees the regional power grid. That body’s approval of any plan is necessary for CMP to get regional cost-sharing aid for construction.

The staff said the cost of the expansion could be reduced by a third, to $1 billion, if several “spurs” were deleted or postponed and construction focused on the system’s high-capacity “backbone” along major transmission corridors.

In addition, the staff report said that turning to “smart grid” technologies and accommodating developments in renewable energy projects, such as solar panels proposed by Grid Solar as a competing plan, could reduce costs and aid reliability as well.

CMP disagrees and will continue to seek approval for its full plan by the PUC, which is holding a hearing May 25 on the issue.

Whatever it decides, its members have to remember that the interests of Maine’s people have top priority.


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