Blogs > Power to the People

Following energy issues in the state of Connecticut and beyond.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Ripples in the power pool

One of the most interesting aspects of Northeast Utilities' partnership with Hydro-Quebec and NStar in a $1 billion plan to use a high voltage, direct current power line to bring hydropower from Canada into New England is the impact the project will have on the rest of the electric grid.

Since plans for the power line call for the electricity to be delivered to location in New Hampshire that hasn't been determined yet, a key question that needs to be answered is how is the power going to be delivered to the population centers of southern New England?

And while you're pondering that question, a logical follow up should be this: If new power lines are built - or existing ones are up graded - to access the hydropower that is going to be delivered to New Hampshire, who will pay for them?

The regional power grid operator, ISO-New England, will be responsible for coming up with the answers to those questions.

If an expansion of any of the power lines linking New Hampshire with southern New England is deemed to be necessary to assure the reliable delivery of power, then the costs associated with those lines would be allocated across the entire ratepayer base in the six-state region. And while New England will hopefully have emerged from the current recession by 2014, when the line between Quebec and New Hampshire is proposed to be put into service, allocation of costs in that manner would mean higher electric bills for everyone.

We should get a preliminary glimpse of ISO-NE's inclinations on what additional power line projects are needed to service the hydropower super highway from Canada when the grid operator releases its 2009 System Plan in September or October.

"When there’s changes that are proposed to the system, we undertake comprehensive technical analysis to determine whether it would have a negative impact," Erin O'Brien, an ISO-NE spokeswoman, said Wednesday when asked about the grid operator's role in the process.

The System Plan serves as broad road map on what the power grid's needs are for the future. More detailed information on the kind of improvements that are needed to service the southern terminus of the NU-Hydro-Quebec power line "probably won't be available (this fall) … you probably won't see it until there are additional studies done later on," O'Brien said.

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