Fall 2021 update on regional transmission investments now available; 12 reliability projects added since June

A dozen new power transmission reliability projects have been added to ISO New England’s Regional System Plan Project List since June, bringing the number of active projects in the region to 55.

The active projects represent an estimated $1.3 billion investment in reliability improvements through 2027, according to the ISO’s October 2021 update. The improvements will serve residents and businesses in all six New England states. The 12 projects added since the June update include four in New Hampshire and eight in Maine.

Since 2002, the ISO’s work in power system planning—one of its three critical roles—has facilitated $11.7 billion in transmission investment. In addition to their primary goal of bolstering reliability, some of the projects have decreased transmission system congestion and prepared the grid for a cleaner future.

Two new upgrades were placed into service in the last few months, bringing the total number of project components put into service over the past two decades to 836.

About the Project List

Published three times a year (March, June, and October), the Regional System Plan Project List describes the status of Pool Transmission Facility projects needed to ensure reliability in New England. 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

A public process

The ISO’s role in system planning includes seeking input from its Planning Advisory Committee. The committee’s open, public meetings provide a forum for stakeholders—including generator owners, transmission owners, government and community representatives and others—to offer feedback on the regional system planning process.

The committee’s next meeting will be held Wednesday, November 17 at 9:30 a.m.

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

Because a reliable system benefits all of New England, eligible costs for transmission upgrades are shared across the region, proportionate to an area’s electricity demand. Transmission owners pay for costs that do not offer a regional reliability benefit. One of the ISO’s responsibilities is to determine, through a collaborative and transparent process, whether project costs will be regionalized or localized.

Tempering factors

Regional energy trends can affect transmission needs. For example, the New England states are national leaders in energy-efficiency policies and programs. Energy efficiency 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 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. Additionally, market resource alternatives—such as new generators or demand-response resources—may in some cases be able to help alleviate transmission needs.

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rsp, transmission planning