The $1.4 billion Maine Power Reliability Project is considered the largest transmission project ever proposed in Maine. It would create more than 2,000 jobs over the project’s expected four year rollout.
Some opponents, along with experts at the PUC, recommend scaling back the project and cutting its cost by half a billion dollars to $1 billion. The current proposal, however, dismissed that suggestion.
If the current settlement is accepted, CMP will get to build most of what was originally proposed two years ago. The utility has maintained that the upgrade is needed to ensure reliable service and facilitate wind proposed power projects in western and northern Maine.
But Richard Davies, Maine’s public advocate, says CMP’s agreement to fund million of dollars in energy-efficiency programs and embrace new technology that can cut peak demand for power use creates conditions to control rates in the years ahead. “In the future, building new transmission won’t be the answer to all our problems.”
CMP has gone on record saying the project would ensure reliability for years to come, encourage development of renewable energy, and allow for a quick start of construction. “The parties to the [agreement] believe that approval by the MPUC will provide substantial and lasting benefits to Maine.” With the costs of transmission projects shared throughout New England, Maine customers would only pay 8 percent of the bill.
The negotiated proposal was signed in Augusta by CMP and roughly two dozen parties that included state officials, utilities, contractors, power generators and even a birding club. The parties also agreed to help develop a power grid and deploy smart meters and communications systems to monitor electricity use and manage it with “strategically placed solar arrays, other local generators and real-time conservation measures.”
CMP has agreed to work with Portland-based Grid Solar on two pilot projects: Grid Solar is a concept that uses solar panels to meet high demand on hot days. The solar output would be backed up with other forms of generation and “demand response,” such as factories shutting down unneeded equipment or homes automatically turning off air conditioners.