In 2009, the New England Governors’ Renewable Energy Blueprint identified that one potential mechanism to facilitate development of the region’s renewable resources is coordinated siting of interstate transmission facilities. A comprehensive review of state siting laws indicate that the states’ distinct substantive and procedural statutory siting requirements prescribe in large part the way in which siting review processes must proceed in each state. However, the same laws, to varying degrees, present opportunity for interstate coordination. To the extent siting approvals can be coordinated within the bounds of state law, interstate transmission projects that emerge as cost-effective ways to deliver renewable or low carbon power to consumers could be sited more quickly than would otherwise occur. NESCOE will continue work in this area in the year ahead in coordination with state siting authorities and transmission owners and developers as appropriate.
Separately, in 2010, the National Center for Interstate Compacts, a policy program of the Council of State Governments (CSG), created a National Advisory Panel to examine the potential for interstate compacts on siting interstate transmission lines. CSG invited NESCOE to be on the Panel. NESCOE generally expressed the view that siting processes and challenges are diverse across the country. Hence, solutions to challenges may be most amenable to regional approaches. NESCOE also offered that time spent on coordination of siting interstate facilities may be more effectively dedicated to coordinating processes within current law, as identified in the Blueprint, rather than on developing a compact, which has significant legal, practical and political barriers. NESCOE also provided the New England states’ perspective on CSG’s white paper on siting compacts.
Facilitating Development of the Region’s Cost-Effective Renewable Resources
In 2009, the New England Governors adopted the New England Governors’ Renewable Energy Blueprint (Blueprint). The Blueprint and associated technical analysis conducted by ISO-NE, referred to as the Renewable Development Scenario Analysis, showed that developing far less than New England’s maximum renewable resource potential would enable New England to meet its renewable energy goals and that more aggressive development of generation resources – with corresponding transmission infrastructure investment – would enable New England to export clean power to its neighbors. The data also showed that in-region development of renewables and access to renewable energy from neighboring systems appears possible with significantly less capital investment for transmission infrastructure than would be required to import an equivalent quantity of power from more remote, out-of-region sources on new, high-voltage transmission lines.
In 2009, the New England Governors directed continued work on potential means to facilitate development of cost-effective renewable energy resources located in and proximate to New England. In mid-2010, NESCOE submitted to the Governors a Report to the Governors on Coordinated Renewable Power Procurement (the Report). NESCOE presented the Report to the New England Governors’ Conference, Inc./Eastern Canadian Premiers’ July 12, 2010 Annual Meeting. NESCOE also presented the Report to FERC staff.
To assist in the consideration of next steps, in the summer of 2010, NESCOE solicited stakeholder comments on the Report. In the fall of 2010, renewable developers, transmission companies, ISO-NE and others provided valuable input.
In November 2010, NESCOE announced its intent to issue a Request for Information (RFI) to help identify the renewable energy resources within New England and neighboring regions that have the greatest potential for helping New England meet its renewable energy goals at the lowest overall, or “all-in”, delivered cost of electricity. The RFI was designed to gather information relating to both renewable energy generation projects and associated transmission projects that may be necessary to deliver the output of those projects to load within New England. The RFI solicited information from new generation projects in New England, Québec, the Maritimes and New York whose output would be: 1) deliverable to New England consumers; 2) able to be placed into service in 2016; and, 3) qualify to meet Renewable Portfolio Standards in five New England States (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island) and renewable energy goals in Vermont.
In broad terms, the objectives of the RFI were as follows:
- Identify individual renewable projects, or logical groupings of such projects, for which a targeted coordinated renewables procurement process could meaningfully facilitate commercial operation;
- Provide the basis to identify conceptual transmission designs that could efficiently integrate some or all of the candidate generation projects, with input from ISO- NE and the regional Transmission Owners;
- Broadly estimate the contribution that identified projects, or groups of projects, could make towards meeting the region’s renewable energy goals; and,
- Obtain key non-financial information regarding such projects to allow further analysis and inform decisions.
NESCOE issued the RFI in December 2010, held an informational session for potential respondents in January 2011 in connection with a PAC meeting. The information provided in response to the RFI in early 2011 was to help inform future steps, which may include: no further action; further technical analysis of potential clusters of renewable projects and associated transmission required to move it load; and/or, further consideration a coordinated Request for Proposals to help meet New England’s renewable energy and environmental goals in the most cost-effective manner.