December 4, 2023
The proposed Aroostook Renewable Gateway would connect power from a wind farm to the New England grid, but the project has faced many obstacles as its seeks regulatory approval.
BY STEPHEN SINGER STAFF WRITER
Versant Power customers in northern Maine will not benefit from a transmission line connecting wind power generated there to the New England grid, yet will still be required to pay for it, the utility told state regulators in the only public comments on the closed-door negotiations for the project.
In a filing Friday with the Maine Public Utilities Commission, Versant said it is not “fair or reasonable” to require the utility’s more than 35,000 Maine Public District customers in Aroostook County to pay the costs associated with the Aroostook Renewable Gateway project and Longroad wind farm northwest of Houlton. The 140- to 160-mile transmission line proposed by New York-based LS Power would not interconnect Versant’s Maine Public District with the New England grid, the utility said.
Pending final PUC approval, the project would be paid for in part by Maine ratepayers over many years. But Versant said its customers in the Maine Public District, more than 20% of the utility’s 165,000 customers, would not receive direct benefits, such as delivered power, reduced prices and renewable power from the two projects. Versant’s service area also includes the Bangor Hydro District in eastern Maine, which would benefit from the power line.
Central Maine Power, the state’s largest utility, also filed comments Friday, a spokesperson said. A PUC spokesperson said all filings that were due Friday have been received, but with the exception of the cover letter posted publicly at Versant’s request, comments are confidential. The PUC would not comment on a pending case, she said..................
...............Versant’s comments offer the only public view of the closed-door negotiations, but they still only allude to problems in negotiations without providing details.
For example, the utility said – without elaborating – that LS Power’s draft transmission agreement being considered by the PUC includes “contract terms and requirements that are out of alignment with reasonable market practice” and precedent established by Maine regulators and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission...........................
...........................PUC Chairman Philip L. Bartlett II said last week that contract negotiations are continuing and a resolution would be forthcoming “in the very near future.”
The transmission agreement is the first of its kind and must conform to Massachusetts’ commitments, meet Maine’s goals established in a 2021 state law designed to remove obstacles and promote the development of renewable energy resources in northern Maine, and manage risk for ratepayers, Bartlett said.
Versant said it “unequivocally” supports the clean energy policy of the Northern Maine Renewable Energy Development Program and that it’s still possible for the transmission line and Longroad wind farm to meet these goals.
“Versant’s role in this discussion is to ensure that its customers get value for dollars paid in the manner contemplated” by 2021 state legislation and get the same deal as Massachusetts customers and benefits from coordination between the transmission and wind farm projects, it said.
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