Costly power grid upgrade to boost renewables will test Maine’s commitment

And to think that the Maine wind industry, the Maine environmental groups and the Maine media had the brass to tell us the ratepayer-funded $1.5 billion CMP upgrade (MPRP) was due to aging lines and population growth, when in fact it was pure ratepayer robbery for the wind developers who were stuck without the new transmission. Where was the so called "Public Advocate"?

Article:

Maine’s ambitious goal of cutting carbon out of its economy by the mid-21st century is facing a harsh reality: The network of wires and substations built to feed power from central generating stations to homes and businesses isn’t up to the job of handling the two-way, intermittent flow of energy from solar and wind farms to electric vehicles, heat pumps and giant storage batteries.

It’s one thing for politicians to enact aggressive laws and policies, such as Maine’s goal to cut carbon emissions by 45 percent by 2030, and 80 percent by 2050. It’s another matter to figure out exactly how to do that on the ground, and how the billions of dollars in costs to upgrade the system are going to be shared among developers, utilities and customers.

An overall strategy was outlined in December in Maine’s Climate Action Plan, but not at the granular level of grid planning.

It’s becoming clear that achieving Maine’s climate goals is going to require a makeover of its electric grid on a scale that hasn’t happened since the 1970s. A process is ramping up to assess what will be needed to make it happen, and who will pay for it.

Responding to concerns from Gov. Janet Mills and the state’s renewable power industry, the Maine Public Utilities Commission has begun a set of inquiries to help answer those detailed questions. One will look specifically at the events surrounding Central Maine Power’s recent problems in connecting the unprecedented wave of solar projects, a response to state policies and financial incentives meant to attract new renewable energy generation. The second will more broadly examine the future design and operation of the electric distribution system. The process is likely to take several months.

But even now, a fundamental dispute is emerging.

Some energy policy experts say it’s futile to use traditional performance incentives to try to coax the state’s two dominant, investor-owned utilities, CMP and Versant Power, to make the changes needed to meet Maine’s climate goals. History has shown that the financial obligations to shareholders are too great for the utilities to sufficiently act in the public interest, they say, unless the utilities are forced to do so.

For example, when utilities failed in the 1980s to develop new renewable-energy generation, Maine passed laws requiring them to buy it from independent power producers.

When utilities chafed at buying that power in the late 1990s, Maine made them sell off their generating assets, creating the restructured electric industry that exists today.

When utilities lagged in the early 2000s in offering energy-efficiency and conservation programs, lawmakers created Efficiency Maine Trust, a quasi-state agency.

“In all these instances, the traditional utility approach didn’t get Maine where it wanted to go,” said Richard Silkman, chief executive of Competitive Energy Services in Portland, which helps negotiate power contracts for big customers.

Silkman, who wrote a book on how to achieve a zero-carbon economy in Maine by 2050, cited those and other examples in a separate but related case underway at the PUC that’s examining how to measure and create performance incentives for utilities. Comments filed in that case reflect some of the broader challenges facing Maine’s current energy policies.

UPGRADE UPROAR

One of those challenges rocketed into public view last month when Maine’s fast-growing solar industry revolted, after CMP unexpectedly said many of its substations would need million-dollar upgrades to connect the new generation.

Facing a public and political uproar, CMP quickly reversed course and said it had found ways to engineer less-costly solutions. Whatever the PUC determines in its investigation, the solar snafu is serving as an early example of how Maine’s electricity grid isn’t ready for the low-carbon future envisioned by state policymakers.

It also will bring into focus the priorities and commitments of two utilities that are part of foreign corporations – Versant, owned by Enmax Corp. of Canada, and CMP, owned by Iberdrola of Spain.

Silkman questioned why CMP’s domestic parent company, Avangrid, can push ahead with building a $1 billion transmission line through Maine to send Canadian hydropower to Massachusetts, but can’t find the resources to connect 100 solar projects in its service area. An obvious answer is that Avangrid is being paid by Massachusetts utilities to build the New England Clean Energy Connect project. It doesn’t make money hooking up solar farms.

“CMP’s primary obligation is to its shareholders at Avangrid,” he said. “Avangrid wants to be the biggest renewables company in the United States, not have the best (distribution) networks.”

Silkman’s analysis oversimplifies the role of utilities, according to David Flanagan, CMP’s executive chairman. As regulated companies, utilities have obligations to shareholders, but also to customers, state government, and power developers. Over the past decade, Flanagan said, Avangrid has invested more in CMP’s electric system than it has taken out in profits.

“I reject the premise that we have to be beaten like dogs to get us to do anything,” he said.

Flanagan also said the NECEC transmission line actually complements the intermittent nature of solar and wind, providing an always-on source of renewable energy for the region. The net benefits of that energy, however, are disputed by power line opponents.

Versant, formerly Emera Maine, is a smaller company, with 160,000 customers spread across more than 10,000 square miles. That’s going make it harder to line up the resources to meet the state’s current electrification goals – especially, the company says, when policy directions keep shifting.

Continue reading the article here:

https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2021/02/28/costly-power-grid-upgrad...

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Comment by Willem Post on March 3, 2021 at 9:12am

ELECTRIC SCHOOL BUS SYSTEMS NOT COST-EFFECTIVE IN VERMONT AT PRESENT

https://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/electric-bus-systems-l...

 

China, India, New England and Vermont

 

Electric bus proponents often point to China to advance their interests, i.e., sell more electric buses

China has made electric buses and EVs in urban areas a priority to reduce its well-known excessive pollution.

 

This pollution is due to: 1) using a lot of coal in dirty, inefficient power plants, and 2) vastly increased vehicle traffic in urban complexes with 15 to 30 million people each.

 

India has a China pollution problem, but not China's money and work ethic, i.e., few electric vehicles.

 

Those two countries emit about 45 - 50% of all world pollution and GHG.

 

The US has much less of a pollution problem than China, except in its larger urban areas. 

The US uses more domestic gas and much less coal, and nuclear is still around.

 

New England has a pollution problem in its southern urban areas.

 

Vermont, known for its cleaner air, has a minor pollution problem in Burlington and some of its other urban areas, i.e., no need to get panicky, and to use scare-mongering to rush into expensively advancing Montpelier’s( TCI and RE goals.

  

Governor and Senators Seeking More Electric Vehicles and Buses with Federal COVID Money

 

The energy priorities of New England governments are driven by a self-serving cabal of RE zealots, because of excessive subsidies for wind, solar, etc. They have powerful allies on Wall Street, which is molding the minds of people by means of generous donations to universities and think tanks. Here is an example of the resulting double-speak:

 

Vermont’s Governor: “Investing in more energy-efficient public transportation is important for our economy and environment,” the governor said. He added that the COVID money is enabling the transportation agency to replace as many as 30 buses and fund energy-efficient projects."

http://www.truenorthreports.com/governor-and-senators-seeking-more-...

 

The Vermont House Energy/Environment Committee and the VT Transportation Department echo the same message, to "convince" legislators, people in the Governor's Office, and Vermonters to use COVID money to buy expensive electric buses to deal with a minor pollution problem in a few urban areas in Vermont.

Such an electric vehicle measure would be much more appropriate in the over-crowded Boston Area and the Connecticut Gold Coast.

 

They urge Vermonters to buy electric buses at about:

 

$750,000 - $1,000,000 per mass-transit bus, plus high-speed charging systems; a standard diesel mass-transit bus costs $380,000 - $420,000

$330,000 - $375,000, per school bus, plus high-speed charging systems; a standard diesel/gasoline school bus costs about $100,000

https://atlaspolicy.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Electric-Buses-a...

 

Federal COVID Money for Expensive Electric School Buses

 

The Governor and bureaucrats are throwing COVID money, meant for suffering households and businesses, into another climate-fighting black hole.

 

Vermont has cold winters, and hills, and snow-covered roads, and dirt roads in rural areas; kWh/mile would be high.

Those buses likely would need 4-wheel-drive, or all-wheel-drive in rural areas.

 

Spending huge amounts of capital that yield minor reductions in CO2, is a recipe for low economic efficiency, and for low economic growth, on a state-wide and nation-wide scale, which would adversely affect state and US competitiveness in markets, and adversely affect living standards and job creation.

 

Charging Electric Buses During Cold Daytimes and Night-times

 

The electric bus battery uses its own energy to heat itself above a required minimum temperature, during charging, driving and parking to:

 

1) Prevent battery damage at all times, even during Peak-Demand periods, because “waking-up” an expensive, ice-cold battery may take hours, or a day, or more.

2) Provide electricity to operate various “always-on” systems, similar to Teslas and other EVs  

3) Be ready for service, as soon as the driver enters the bus, instead of waiting to warm up the battery 

4) The driver would need at least 70% charge to make his morning round, because batteries would require more energy per mile on cold days. No one should risk having an electric bus run out of juice, with a busload of children, in the winter.

5) Battery University recommends operating batteries between 20% charge and 80% charge for long life, say 15 years. That range also happens to have the highest efficiency.

 

NOTE: If the battery temperature is less than 40F or more than 115F, they will not deliver their peak performance.

They prefer to be around 60F to 80F for high efficiency. Batteries are more affected by temperature while charging.

Pro-bus folks often point to California regarding electric buses, but in New England using electric buses to transport children would be a whole new ballgame, especially on cold days. See URLs

 

NOTE: Where would the electricity come from to charge and protect the expensive batteries during extended electricity outages, due to multi-day hot and cold weather events, as occur in California, Texas and New England?

Emergency standby diesel-generators? Emergency standby batteries?

 

https://www.wired.com/story/electric-cars-cold-weather-tips/

https://www.greencarreports.com/news/1127610_keep-your-parked-elect...

https://www.consumerreports.org/hybrids-evs/buying-an-electric-car-...

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/02/06/aaa-confirms-what-tesla-bmw-nissan-...

 

MASSACHUSETTS ELECTRIC SCHOOL BUS PILOT PROGRAM 

 

An electric bus pilot program was funded through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) with about $2 million, and administered by the Massachusetts State Department of Energy Resources.

Vermont Energy Investment Corporation, VEIC, performed the evaluation of the program

 

The pilot program operated electric buses from the Fall of 2016 to early 2018 

Three eLion buses were used in this pilot program by the school districts of Amherst, Concord, and Cambridge.

 

Lion Corporation of Quebec, Canada, builds eLion electric school buses. The eLion buses can have three, four or five battery packs. Five battery packs would provide about a 100-mile range, using 130 to 140 kWh DC of battery charge. This means the eLion buses would be capable of servicing almost any route of a school district.

 

The capital cost at each site was $327,500 for the bus, plus about $25,000 for single-direction, Level 2 chargers.

 

There are other balance-of-plant costs for a complete electric bus system, but they were ignored for various reasons.

For example, the increased cost of parking facilities with chargers for an electric bus system vs much less costly parking facilities for diesel bus system was ignored

https://thelionelectric.com/en/products/electric

 

Here is an evaluation of the MA electric bus pilot program by VEIC.

See page 4 and 45 of URL

https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2018/04/30/Mass%20DOER%20EV%20...

Comment by Kenneth Capron on March 2, 2021 at 8:42pm

Let the State set up a different distribution network for renewables and make renewable owners use their own energy first. 

Comment by Willem Post on March 2, 2021 at 4:56pm

Penny,

A utility merely adds the cost of any investment to the rate base, which is used by the utilities commission to set rates.

A utility is strictly a cost plus set up, with captive customers.

Being off the grid, enables you to give them the finger.

Comment by Willem Post on March 2, 2021 at 4:53pm

Solar panels produce DC.

That is converted to AC, then through a utility meter, then to distribution grid.

This way the utility knows how much you produced.

If you are net-metered, you will be compensated accordingly by the utility.

Comment by Kenneth Capron on March 1, 2021 at 5:35pm

Can someone educate me on AC/DC - what is produced by solar - what is flowing through the distribution lines - is there a conversion - what's with all these big transformers on the poles? 

Comment by Penny Gray on March 1, 2021 at 8:21am

Why would any utility want to invest huge sums of money connecting to inefficient and unreliable power sources?

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."

https://pinetreewatch.org/wind-power-bandwagon-hits-bumps-in-the-road-3/

 

Maine as Third World Country:

CMP Transmission Rate Skyrockets 19.6% Due to Wind Power

 

Click here to read how the Maine ratepayer has been sold down the river by the Angus King cabal.

Maine Center For Public Interest Reporting – Three Part Series: A CRITICAL LOOK AT MAINE’S WIND ACT

******** IF LINKS BELOW DON'T WORK, GOOGLE THEM*********

(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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 -- Mahatma Gandhi

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Vince Lombardi 

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