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National Grid signs $500-million transmission-line upgrade contract

Apr 1, 2009 - McClatchy-Tribune Regional News -C. Eugene Emery Jr. The Providence Journal, R.I.

National Grid, the state's primary electricity utility, signed a five-year deal with two companies Tuesday to help build new transmission lines and upgrade existing lines, while providing jobs for about 200 Rhode Islanders over the life of the accord.

In all, the agreement with New Energy Alliance -- a joint venture of Balfour Beatty Infrastructure Inc. and MJ Electric -- gives National Grid the design and construction expertise to complete its five-year transmission improvement plan, which calls for $700 million worth of projects and the hiring of about 500 people throughout New England.

"This is a win-win situation for everyone. Anything to improve reliability of the system is good. Customers will see the benefit," said Masheed Saidi, National Grid's chief operating officer for U.S. transmission.

She predicted that, with the upgrades, "the number of outages will be reduced and you'll have improved the probability of the light going on when you turn it on."

National Grid spokesman Chris Mostyn said the improvements should not produce a significant increase in costs to consumers. "Transmission is a relatively small part of the bill [5 or 6 percent], but it helps deliver the best value for the money."

A list of the projects that would be undertaken in Rhode Island under the new agreement was not immediately available.

As for the 200 jobs that should be created locally over the next five years, "These are skilled jobs, these are well-paid jobs" for construction workers, electricians, equipment operators, line workers, engineers and designers, as well as project managers," said Mostyn.

"There's no question that this community needs this kind of investment," said Governor Carcieri, who used the signing ceremony to talk about his enthusiasm for renewable energy, such as wind power.

"Investing in the transmission network is a piece of that" by allowing those energy projects to be tied into the power grid, he said.


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