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Grid operator thinking ahead

Mar 26, 2010 - McClatchy-Tribune - Luther Turmelle - -New Haven Register

Officials with New England's regional electric grid operator are projecting that it will have to spend billions of dollars to build the new transmission lines needed to bring enough renewable energy into the region if goals set by governors in the six states are to be achieved.

The New England Governors' Conference set a goal of developing 8,500 megawatts of electricity from wind, hydroelectric and other types of renewable energy by the year 2030, officials with Holyoke, Mass.-based ISO-New England said Thursday.

"Dramatic changes in the way electricity is produced, delivered and consumed are in store for us in the coming years," said Gordon van Welie, president and chief executive officer of ISO-NE.

Marcia Blomberg, a spokeswoman with the grid operator, said the report ISO-NE gave to the governors "was prepared to provide the region a general direction on what would be needed to interconnect large scale wind development both on- and offshore in the 2030 timeframe.

"It was not written with any current particular project or projects in mind," Blomberg said. "The cost estimates ... were to help provide guidance on what transmission upgrades would be needed and broad cost estimates of this transmission."

Van Welie said the region's governors "haven't given us any clear direction" on what they want to do if integrating renewables into the grid ends up costing that much. He said that a lack of certainty about where the region and the entire country are going in terms of energy policy could prevent companies from investing in generation and transmission projects in the future if some decisions aren't made in a timely manner.

Steve Rourke, ISO-NE's vice president of system planning, said companies have invested $4 billion in transmission improvement since 2002. Another $5 billion in transmission improvements is scheduled over the next several years, Rourke said.

Contact Luther Turmelle at 203-789-5706 or lturmelle@newhavenregister. com.