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Integrating New England Renewables

How to manage the green revolution.

Fortnightly Magazine - November 2009

who will pay for them.

New England is fortunate to have already in place a long-term planning structure that has served the region well during the first decade of restructuring. The region’s stakeholders have extensive experience working together to produce annual assessments of the infrastructure needed to maintain a reliable bulk power system. And to stay ahead of the curve, stakeholders in New England already have launched several new, comprehensive planning initiatives to ensure the region’s power system adapts to anticipated changes.

Already underway, these studies and planning initiatives will:

• Model system behavior at various concentrations of wind power;
• Develop a conceptual analysis that looks at how much new transmission backbone may be needed to connect renewable facilities potentially scattered across the landscape, including order-of-magnitude cost estimates;
• Determine how to integrate demand-side resources effectively; and
• Facilitate the use of smart-grid technologies.

These planning initiatives will help ensure the region charts the right course as it prepares for the grid of the future.

Policies and Incentives

Over the past several years, new state and federal environmental policy initiatives have piqued industry and investor interest in developing renewable energy in New England.

Ten Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states have joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the first market-based effort in the United States to reduce carbon dioxide (CO 2) emissions from power plants. RGGI, which went into effect at the beginning of 2009, established a cap-and-trade system, imposing an immediate cap on larger power plants’ CO 2 emissions and mandating a 10-percent reduction in the cap by 2018. RGGI auctions emission allowances for the states, which will use most of the proceeds to promote energy efficiency, renewable energy, and other clean-energy technologies.

Five of the six New England states also have enacted individual renewable portfolio standards (RPS) mandating that varying levels of electricity come from renewable sources and imposing different deadlines. Vermont has established goals, similar to RPS, for renewable energy growth. Combined, the states’ RPS and related targets call for 30 percent of New England’s projected total electric energy demand in 2020 to be met by renewables and energy efficiency.

Considerable momentum also is coming from Washington, where the president and Congress have made upgrading the nation’s power grid a priority. Billions of dollars in the initial federal stimulus bill are dedicated to modernizing the grid and providing grants, tax breaks and loan guarantees to ramp up the development and deployment of renewable power and smart-grid technology.

This potent combination of federal and state initiatives has increased regional activity in developing renewable energy, with most of it now focused on wind.

Integrating Wind Power

Over the course of 2008, wind power in New England grew from 20 MW in operation to nearly 100 MW by year’s end. Although wind energy today represents only a fraction of the region’s total capacity, this growth rate is expected to continue (see Figures 1 and 2) .

In a very short time span, wind has become the dominant choice for renewable energy among developers, and as of Sept. 1, 2009, represented almost 85