As a Maine resident, I’m concerned that our transmission system, much of which is more than 50 years old, is simply unable to accommodate the enormous quantities of renewable energy required to build a resilient and reliable grid and help us meet our climate goals in Maine and across New England.

Taking a quick look at a recent electric bill will show you the dire state of affairs we are facing. We not only have some of the longest sustained outages in the country, we also have some of the highest residential electricity rates. But we are also very well positioned for clean and reliable energy projects that hold the promise of more affordable electricity prices.

Anyone who has spent time off the coast of Maine knows our state boasts robust offshore winds, ideal for harnessing power from utility-scale, offshore wind turbines. Because of that, universities, companies and governments have long been working to take advantage of those natural resources for clean, renewable power and to fight the increasingly stark effects of climate change.

The recently signed Inflation Reduction Act, which serves as the largest climate change-related bill ever passed by Congress, will supercharge these efforts and incentivize considerably more wind power projects. The act also includes generous extensions of the investment tax credit, the production tax credit and support for dispatchable energy storage batteries.

While the new law is sure to move us closer toward achieving our nation’s climate goals, what it doesn’t do is address America’s insufficient transmission grid capacity. As a result, the promise of developing renewable energy projects – including those in Maine – may be cut significantly, because today’s existing sources of wind and solar power are already often curtailed by utilities, resulting in millions of dollars lost in congestion costs and economic opportunity. And because of a lack of transmission capacity on the grid, dozens of clean energy projects are already relegated to the “interconnection queue”: that is, the group of approved but yet-unbuilt projects waiting to connect to the grid. This is purgatory for renewable energy projects in most cases.

The cancellation of the proposed Central Maine Power corridor, which would have delivered clean and affordable hydro power to New England from Canada, was a blow to the gut for those of us in Maine who are deeply concerned about climate change. This proposed project would have brought clean, affordable and reliable power to our region. Last October, Maine state Judge Michael Duddy denied a request that would have allowed construction to resume on the stalled CMP-supported electricity transmission line, which now appears to be dead.


But there is still hope for the clean and affordable energy future in Maine, despite these obstacles.

Grid-enhancing technologies are already in service and proven in dozens of regional transmission systems in the U.S. and Europe, among other places. They include dynamic line rating-based systems, which can unlock significant additional, safe carrying capacity on transmission lines, versus inflexible static line ratings, which don’t account for real-time ambient weather, temperature and other conditions. Some of these technologies also provide real-time monitoring, providing valuable details on conductor health and performance, while others can identify ways to route power flow to avoid constraints, moving current from overloaded to underutilized high-voltage lines in real time.

National Grid has recently installed the technology on its lines in Massachusetts and New York, generating hundreds of extra megawatts of capacity on those power lines while creating even more capacity in the form of prevented curtailments of wind farms.

So, no, we don’t have to wait to realize the potential of a decarbonized grid, nor can we afford to. We can accelerate the interconnection process for these near-term offshore wind projects and other clean Maine energy projects in the interconnection queue by taking full advantage of grid-enhancing technologies. We must do this, and do it now.

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