Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont Working Together on Multi-State Transmission Infrastructure
Cooperative Effort by New England States to Access Renewable Resources and Tap Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Funding Opportunities
(HARTFORD, CT) - A coalition of New England states today jointly announced steps they are taking to pursue federal funding designed to encourage transmission infrastructure investment.
In concept papers filed with the U.S. Department of Energy (“DOE”) recently, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont requested DOE support for innovative electricity transmission proposals that would grow the region’s supply of clean, reliable, and affordable energy.
Achieving the New England states’ energy policy requirements and goals will require substantial new grid infrastructure investment, and federal support – including from DOE – will be crucial to advance innovative and collaborative projects without shifting costs or over-burdening electricity customers.
By pursuing a regional approach, the states aim to optimize transmission infrastructure investments and provide benefits, including cost savings and winter reliability, for residents and businesses across all New England. New England states have unique winter energy security and reliability risks, relying on natural gas to generate nearly half of their electricity needs while sitting at the end of an often-constrained natural gas pipeline system. The states are therefore interested in transmission investments that:
- reduce the region’s reliance on imported fossil fuels in winter months
- help insulate electricity customers from the wild swings in the fossil fuel markets currently leading to high electricity prices throughout New England
- take advantage of diverse energy sources
With potential for more than 14 gigawatts of offshore wind in federal waters off the coast of New England, Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Maine Governor’s Energy Office, Massachusetts’s Department of Energy Resources, and Rhode Island’s Office of Energy Resources proposed, with support from Vermont and New Hampshire, a Joint State Innovation Partnership for Offshore Wind as part of a DOE competitive funding opportunity that will eventually award up to $250 million per project for selected projects that implement innovative approaches to transmission, storage, and distribution infrastructure to enhance grid resilience and reliability.
The proposed partnership between states, transmission providers, and wind developers, working closely with the New England grid operator, would proactively plan, identify, and select a portfolio of transmission projects needed to unlock the region’s significant offshore wind potential, improve grid reliability and resiliency, and invest in job growth and quality.
To help address New England’s winter energy challenges by providing an additional source of reliable, clean power, Vermont’s Department of Public Service proposed, with support from other New England states, another submission for the DOE funding opportunity that requests DOE support for the New England Clean Power Link, a proposed 1,000-megawatt transmission line between Quebec and Vermont. The project would enable additional imports of clean hydroelectric power into the region while additionally providing future capability for New England to export offshore wind to Canada in periods of high production.
The innovative transmission proposals are part of the states’ work together under the New England States Regional Transmission Initiative, a groundbreaking initiative launched last fall to explore investment in the electric transmission infrastructure needed to better integrate clean energy resources into the grid while improving the reliability, resilience, and affordability of the grid for the region’s electricity customers.
In response to the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s call to spur innovations in energy grid infrastructure, the New England states have coordinated with each other and ISO New England, the power system operator for the region, to begin evaluating potential projects. As each of the states is focused on encouraging the growth of the offshore wind industry and importing hydroelectricity, the cooperative effort seeks to:
- encourage the economic and environmental benefits of offshore wind
- facilitate a regional and balanced approach to transmission that has the opportunity to lower costs to electric customers
- harden the grid to improve reliability
- alleviate the concern that traditional offshore “point-to-point” interconnections to land would “use up” the available onshore transmission infrastructure.
In November, as part of the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, DOE invited States, Tribes, local governments, and Public Utility Commissions to propose, by January 13, innovative transmission concepts, like the Joint State Innovation Partnership for Offshore Wind and the New England Clean Power Link, for funding. Over the next few weeks, DOE is expected to evaluate the submissions it received and to invite some of these applicants to submit full proposals for funding, due in May. DOE anticipates awarding up to $2 billion in total in its first funding cycle, with additional funding available in subsequent rounds.
“New England is pioneering the innovative partnerships, technologies, and approaches the nation needs to modernize the transmission system, unlock clean energy, and ensure price stability and affordability by providing reliable clean electricity in the face of fossil fuel-driven price spikes and climate disruption,” said Commissioner Katie Dykes of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. “We are hopeful that DOE views these concept papers favorably, and Connecticut and its partners stand ready to turn the proposals we’ve submitted into tangible models of climate action and its numerous benefits.”
“The Healey-Driscoll Administration looks forward to building a more transparent, modern, and cost-effective electric transmission system with its New England partners to enable the state and region to meet its ambitious climate and clean energy goals and improve electric reliability,” said Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources Commissioner Patrick Woodcock. “Given the recent volatility in oil and natural gas pricing, it is imperative that we transition to a regional electricity system that can support the delivery of both affordable and reliable clean energy to residents and businesses, and we appreciate the collaboration of all the New England states as we continue to work together.”
“Rhode Island is proud to be part of this collaboration with the other New England States, to take part in this opportunity to pool our resources, work together and jointly pursue transmission investments,” said Rhode Island Acting State Energy Commissioner Christopher Kearns. “This will help our regional New England grid make the transition to clean energy, reduce our collective carbon emissions significantly, and deliver a major victory in our fight against climate change.”
Attachment: Image of the offshore wind lease areas off the coast of New England, courtesy of MA-RI-leases.png (2550×3300) (boem.gov)