Maine should get in on the planning early as the 4 Atlantic provinces and Quebec weigh a grand proposal for clean energy.
By Gordon L. WeilSpecial to the Press Herald
Each year, the Canadian federal government lays out its policies in a parliamentary event known as the Throne Speech.
Last week, just two words in that speech set off what could be an energy revolution for the four Atlantic Canada provinces and Quebec. The words were “Atlantic Loop.” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau followed up with a more detailed explanation.
The Atlantic Loop would be a new series of electric transmission interconnections tying all five provinces together, allowing Labrador and Quebec hydropower to reach other provinces and eliminate their use of coal.
The map of the Atlantic Loop is interesting. Like all loops, it must be a closed circuit. But part of it lies outside the five provinces. The Atlantic Loop, backed by the Canadian federal government, would pass through Maine.
The project is to be financed with the Canadian federal government’s Clean Power Fund. It will give eastern Canada far more access to renewable power and increase markets for Quebec and for the costly Muskrat Falls project in Labrador.
It could promote massive new hydro in Labrador at Gull Island and help resolve a decades-long dispute between Quebec and Newfoundland-Labrador.
Hydropower would flow south to Maine, likely using the proposed new transmission line. That line would connect with the New England grid in Maine. Other lines north, from Maine to New Brunswick, would complete the Loop.............................
.......................................Ultimately, it could give Maine access to an alternative to the costly and complex ISO-New England arrangement. Maine now pays a big share of transmission costs elsewhere in the region. It’s possible the Atlantic Loop market could be simpler and less burdensome, thanks partly to government participation in capital costs. At least the Loop option could give Maine some bargaining leverage in New England.
The fate of the western Maine corridor is still unknown. If it were to happen despite strong opposition in Maine, it might be exploited as part of the Loop for the direct benefit of Mainers.
When I worked with Gov. Joe Brennan on energy policy, together we had good, direct and regular contact with the premier of Quebec and the energy minister of Canada. For Gov. Mills, these people are just a phone call away. Those are calls now worth making.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gordon L. Weil of Harpswell was Maine energy director and the state’s first public advocate. He is author of “Blackout,” a book on the electric industry. As a consultant he had extensive involvement in Atlantic Canada electric policy, and he chaired the negotiations creating the New England grid.
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Maine Center For Public Interest Reporting – Three Part Series: A CRITICAL LOOK AT MAINE’S WIND ACT
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(excerpts) From Part 1 – On Maine’s Wind Law “Once the committee passed the wind energy bill on to the full House and Senate, lawmakers there didn’t even debate it. They passed it unanimously and with no discussion. House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, says legislators probably didn’t know how many turbines would be constructed in Maine if the law’s goals were met." . – Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, August 2010 https://www.pinetreewatchdog.org/wind-power-bandwagon-hits-bumps-in-the-road-3/From Part 2 – On Wind and Oil Yet using wind energy doesn’t lower dependence on imported foreign oil. That’s because the majority of imported oil in Maine is used for heating and transportation. And switching our dependence from foreign oil to Maine-produced electricity isn’t likely to happen very soon, says Bartlett. “Right now, people can’t switch to electric cars and heating – if they did, we’d be in trouble.” So was one of the fundamental premises of the task force false, or at least misleading?" https://www.pinetreewatchdog.org/wind-swept-task-force-set-the-rules/From Part 3 – On Wind-Required New Transmission Lines Finally, the building of enormous, high-voltage transmission lines that the regional electricity system operator says are required to move substantial amounts of wind power to markets south of Maine was never even discussed by the task force – an omission that Mills said will come to haunt the state.“If you try to put 2,500 or 3,000 megawatts in northern or eastern Maine – oh, my god, try to build the transmission!” said Mills. “It’s not just the towers, it’s the lines – that’s when I begin to think that the goal is a little farfetched.” https://www.pinetreewatchdog.org/flaws-in-bill-like-skating-with-dull-skates/
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Hannah Pingree on the Maine expedited wind law
Hannah Pingree - Director of Maine's Office of Innovation and the Future
"Once the committee passed the wind energy bill on to the full House and Senate, lawmakers there didn’t even debate it. They passed it unanimously and with no discussion. House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, says legislators probably didn’t know how many turbines would be constructed in Maine."