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Frustration in Connecticut

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Henry Craver's picture
Small Business Owner , Self-employed

As a small business owner, I'm always trying to find ways to cut costs and boost the dependability of my services. To that end, I've become increasingly invested in learning about energy saving...

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"Come on electric utilities, don’t tell me you are just passing along those high natural gas prices to the ratepayer and at the same time ask the taxpayers to subsidize it more. Let’s together get control over our energy supply chain so (Russian President Vladimir) Putin and the Saudis can no longer control our destiny and our wallets," 

"We have made a start by expanding our wind power, extending our nuclear power, pushing hard to get access to Canadian hydro power, and making our homes more energy efficient – that’s less costs and carbon free."

That’s an excerpt from Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont’s inauguration speech last Wednesday. Gov. Lamont’s speech, along with similar statements from Connecticut Sen. Norm Needleman, reflect growing frustration in the state over years of failed attempts to build transmission between Connecticut and Quebec. 

Sen. Needleman, for his part, has been more pointed in his comments: 

“I beseech the people of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, where we — with adequate transmission lines coming through their states — could access way more power generation from Hydro-Québec,”

The frustration in Connecticut is easy to understand. Canadian hydro power has the potential to rapidly accelerate the state’s effort to reduce emissions while also improving system reliability. As it stands, the existing transmission lines between New England in Quebec are limited to 2,225 megawatts. 

For those who don’t know, New England has seen two attempts at a big renewable-transporting transmission project thwarted since 2018. New Hampshire regulators rejected Eversource’s Northern Pass proposal for a transmission line to transport hydro energy from Quebec to Massachusetts in 2018. Massachusetts then turned to Avandgrid’s NECEC proposal, which has been stuck in limbo ever since. 

New England’s transmission problems are not unique, in fact they’re quite representative of national energy infrastructure development. Consider this fact highlighted in an Atlantic article in late 2021: “Since 2009, China has built more than 18,000 miles of ultrahigh-voltage transmission lines. The U.S. has built zero.” 

Transmission stagnancy has dire consequences for the country’s renewable portfolio, as we’re seeing in New England. A recent Canary Media article on the state of renewables in 2023 argued that interconnection problems pose a bigger threat to the industry than current supply chain issues:

“Clark of LevelTen said his company’s recent surveys of U.S. clean-energy developers and buyers found that most of them think lengthy grid-interconnection queues are more of a problem than supply-chain challenges. 

These grid problems are also likely to take longer to fix than supply-chain problems. While state regulators, regional grid operators and federal regulators are taking steps to expand the grid’s capacity for clean energy, it can take up to a decade for major transmission extensions to move from the planning stage to completion. The Inflation Reduction Act provides relatively little policy support for transmission compared to its incentives for clean energy.”

The public complaints of legislators in Connecticut and news coverage in places like the Atlantic give reason for hope. The better understood this problem is, the more likely it is to be solved. Time, however, is of the essence.


 

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