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Monday
May042015

Regional transmission investment: spring 2015 update

609 projects put into service since 2002 to fortify New England’s transmission system

The ISO recently published the March 2015 update to the Regional System Plan (RSP) Project List, which details Pool Transmission Facility (PTF) projects needed to ensure reliability in New England. The report listed 34 projects placed into service from October 2014 to March 2015, including nine for the Maine Power Reliability Program (MPRP).

About the RSP Project List

Published three times a year (March, June, and October), the RSP Project List describes the status of regional transmission reliability projects. As a part of the regional system planning process, the ISO must continually:

  • Re-assess the timing and components of existing projects to accommodate forecasted changes in net loads, the retirement of generating resources, and the addition or delay of new power resources
  • Study the ability of the New England transmission system to meet federally-mandated reliability requirements and adequately serve the region

Since 2002, a cumulative total of 609 project components representing an investment of approximately $7 billion have been placed into service to help ensure that New England’s transmission system continues to reliably and efficiently move wholesale electricity across the region.  

As of March 2015, the update presentation lists 220 active projects across all six New England states. This includes:

  • 50 projects under construction
  • 72 planned projects
  • 98 proposed projects

The estimated cost of active future projects totals approximately $4.6 billion, with a cumulative investment of approximately $11.7 billion from 2002 to 2019.

Benefits

In addition to helping ensure the region can count on the electricity it needs every minute of every day, transmission system upgrades also help lower wholesale electricity costs and enable the development and use of cleaner energy resources. Improving the movement of electricity across the region and into areas of limited transmission and high demand:

  • Allows more competition among generators, reduces congestion charges in the energy market, reduces the need for expensive generator reliability agreements, and reduces out-of-market generator dispatch payments
  • Allows older, more expensive generators to retire, making way for cleaner, more efficient, less expensive resources

Tempering factors

Regional energy trends can affect transmission needs. For example, the New England states are national leaders in energy-efficiency (EE) policies and programs. From 2019 to 2024, state-sponsored EE programs are forecast to:

  • Save the region about 9,696 gigawatt hours (GWh) of energy—with an average annual savings of 1,616 GWh—keeping regional load growth essentially flat
  • Shave approximately 1,274 MW of peak demand (the points of highest electricity use)—with an average annual peak reduction of about 212 MW

EE savings—when coupled with new generators and other transmission upgrades—may allow the region to defer certain transmission projects deemed necessary to address reliability needs.

With their continued expansion, solar photovoltaic (PV) resources and other forms of distributed generation may also one day be able to alleviate or prevent constraints in regional power system transmission or distribution, and reduce or eliminate the need to install new transmission or distribution facilities. About 2,500 MW of nameplate PV capacity (the maximum amount of electricity a generator is capable of producing) is anticipated in the region by the end of 2024. Most of those PV facilities will be connected behind the meter at customers’ locations or directly to the low-voltage distribution system operated by utilities—and not to the regional high-voltage grid operated by the ISO.

Additionally, market resource alternatives (MRAs)—such as new generators or demand-response resources—may in some cases be able to help alleviate transmission needs. The ISO has performed MRA analysis on select portions of the system to help signal to developers and stakeholders where these opportunities exist.

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