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Integrating New England Renewables

How to manage the green revolution.

Fortnightly Magazine - November 2009

to include possible increased imports from New York and Canada where large-scale generation facilities are under study and development, including wind, hydro, and zero-emission nuclear power.

The technical analysis for the governors evaluates the economic and environmental impacts of numerous scenarios of resource and conceptual transmission development between now and 2030. The results are intended to inform the governors’ and other state policymakers’ decisions about how to meet their stated goals of providing cost-effective, low-carbon, secure electric energy to New England consumers.

The analysis shows that higher concentrations of renewable energy would result in lower wholesale electric energy prices and a significant reduction in emissions compared to conventional fossil fuel generation. It also identifies the conceptual transmission development and estimated costs to integrate the resources envisioned in each scenario.

Because the region’s population centers generally are located far from the remote areas with the best potential for wind development, it’s possible that new backbone transmission facilities will be required to connect wind to demand centers. How large a backbone is needed will depend on how much wind is developed and where it’s sited.

The ISO’s study team evaluated various options and its analysis was presented to the region’s governors for review in September 2009. The 2,000-MW scenario of new offshore wind resources identified conceptual transmission development of about 1,000 miles of new extra-high voltage (EHV) lines (345 kV) and a submarine cable from Maine to Massachusetts. If the region were to fully develop 12,000 MW of wind, the conceptual study indicated more than 4,000 miles of new EHV (500 kV or 765 kV) lines could be needed. The cost estimates for developing the potential transmission configurations range from about $1.6 billion to just over $25 billion.

These conceptual findings will require considerable additional economic and technical analysis before it will be possible to decide how much transmission ultimately may be needed, where it would be built and who would pay for it. New England’s long history of coordinated regional planning will be crucial as the region moves to address the transmission requirements of integrating renewable power.

The Role of Demand Resources

The policies related to renewable portfolio standards require load-serving entities to show electric energy savings through reductions in demand. In New England, demand response already is an important tool used to manage the region’s power system during heavy demand periods. Since 2003, New England has seen a tenfold increase in the amount of available demand resources (DR), due in large part to the region’s forward capacity market (FCM), which has allowed demand response, energy efficiency, and distributed generation to compete on a level playing field with generation in New England’s annual capacity auctions. By 2011, DR is projected to account for nearly 10 percent (3,000 MW) of the region’s capacity—the highest percentage of any region in the nation (see Figure 4).

From a daily operational perspective, a potential 10-percent reduction in electricity use during peak-use periods or unforeseen system events has obvious benefits. In the long term, DR can defer the need to build additional transmission, generation and distribution facilities, reduce