Representatives from the University of Maine, the House of Representatives, and utility companies discussed the benefits, opportunities, and challenges of the smart grid and energy conservation last week at the University of Maine’s Haskell Energy Conference.
Maine lawmakers are deferring to the Public Utilities Commission over whether or not consumers should have the right to opt out of having a smart meter installed by Central Maine Power (CMP). The state legislature’s Utilities and Energy Committee also shelved a bill that would have imposed a one-year ban on installation of the meters, meaning it is up to the Public Utilities Commission to determine the merits, costs, and effects of letting some people opt out of the program.
Maine and Vermont have announced separate smart grid projects. In the first, Maine’s Public Utilities Commission approved Central Maine Power’s proposed $1.4 billion power grid upgrade. CMP, the state’s largest electric utility, plans to build a new 345,000-volt transmission line, doubling the capacity of the grid’s backbone. It is the first major upgrade since 1971, and CMP says the improvements are necessary to keep the power grid stable beyond 2012. CMP spokesman John Carroll reported that the utility expects to get final permits from the Army Corps of Engineers soon and start construction in June ad will finish sometimes in 2015.