Corina Rivera-Linares, Senior Analyst, TransmissionHub
June 09, 2014 | 1 Comments
On what effect the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan will have on transmission development in the country, including potentially a need for more transmission to transport added renewable energy, Frank Poirot, senior media specialist of transmission with Northeast Utilities (NYSE:NU) told TransmissionHub that increasing the grid's capacity to transmit power is one way to meet the growing need and enable renewable generation.
“Northeast Utilities’ transmission upgrades connect customers to modern, state-of-the-art generation plants, while reducing the need to run older, less-efficient power plants,” he said.
Poirot also noted that customers served by Northeast Utilities have been benefitting from transmission upgrades for more than 10 years. “Not only do these upgrades improve system reliability, they also provide the region’s electricity customers with the infrastructure that is critical to a healthy economy, as well as access to cleaner, competitively priced energy sources,” he said.
The EPA on June 2 released its long-anticipated and much-debated plan to control greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants.
The centerpiece of the Obama administration plan requires states to draft plans designed to cut carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.
The CO2 control program will bring about several co-benefits, including cutting nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide by more than 25 percent, EPA said.
EPA said the goals can be accomplished through a combination of power plant improvements, generating more electricity from renewable energy or low-carbon sources and greater use of energy efficiency measures.
On projects that the company is working on that may facilitate the transport of renewable energy, Poirot said that the Northern Pass transmission project is poised to help the New England states meet carbon reduction goals by contributing a significant source of low-carbon hydropower to the grid.
“This energy has the potential to cut carbon emissions in the area by up to 5 million tons annually by replacing fossil fuels,” he said. “What's more, Northern Pass is several years along in the permitting process. These are key points when you consider the current energy supply crisis and the guidelines the EPA has set going forward.”
On how the EPA’s plan affects the company in terms of Northeast Utilities and its Public Service of New Hampshire(PSNH) power generation facilities, Martin Murray, a spokesperson for the New Hampshire subsidiary, told TransmissionHub: “The Northeast region is ahead of the curve as far as efforts to reduce emissions of carbon, and we expect that, moving forward, New Hampshire will continue to take a shared approach with other states in the region. It is clear from the EPA’s announcement that it recognizes and appreciates that collaboration.”
New Hampshire has participated since 2009 in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a market-based solution that caps and reduces CO2 emissions, he said, noting that by the company’s calculations, the RGGI region has already reduced carbon emission by about 40% compared to 2005.
Carbon emissions from the PSNH power plant fleet in 2013 were 70 percent less than the company’s 2005 emissions, he said, noting there are two coal units at the Merrimack station; two at the Schiller Station; and one oil and/or gas at the Newington station.
“We recognize that new sources of clean, economic energy are needed if we are to reduce our reliance, over time, on existing fossil fuel power plants,” Murray said. “Meantime, our existing facilities will continue to play a vital role in meetingcustomer demand for reliable and economic power.”
On the effect the plan will have on transmission development in the country, including potentially a need for more transmission to transport additional renewable energy, Ed White, vice president of customer strategy and environmental with National Grid USA, in comments provided to TransmissionHub, said: “We will continue to need a modern, resilient transmission system to provide reliable access to new cleaner generation resources like renewables. Transmission project development will continue to be important to fulfill this need.”
White noted that the company is partnering with Clean Line Energy Partners to develop HVDC transmission that would connect “the best renewable energy resources in North America to communities and cities that lack access to renewable power.”
White added that National Grid is working on transmission enhancements in New York and New England to strengthen the ability to deliver cleaner energy to customers in those regions.
White said it is hard to say specifically what regions are more likely to benefit from the potential added transmission due to the EPA plan, adding, “[B]ut we would expect that regions that rely a lot on coal resources, or that would benefit from additional generation diversity, will be looking closer at the transmission requirements to deliver cleaner generation resources.”
In a June 2 statement, National Grid said it has long supported efforts to reduced greenhouse gas emissions from its footprint, and has established reduction goals of 45% by 2020 and 80% by 2050, from 1990 baseline levels. Due in large part to investments in its electricity generation operations, natural gas and electricity distribution networks, National Grid’s total emissions in the United States have decreased by 65% from 1990 to 2013.
“I am strongly encouraged by EPA’s efforts to reduce CO2 emissions through sensible and practical regulation,” National Grid US President Tom King said in the statement. “The Obama Administration, through the good work of EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and her staff, has worked in a transparent manner to craft regulation that promotes environmental and human health through a host of clean energy options. Rather than picking winners, this proposed rule supports market-based solutions.”