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Consulting firm discusses task with N. C. Transmission Commission

June 23, 2010
LITTLETON — A four-person team from KEMA, Inc., an international consulting firm headquartered in the Netherlands with offices in Burlington, Mass., laid out the federally funded project for which it is under contract at the June 17 meeting of the North Country Transmission Commission, the first in the North Country.

The principal in charge, Richard "Dick" Wakefield, reminded the 30 or so members and stakeholders on hand that KEMA has been hired "to assist the state Office of Energy and Planning (OEP) and the North Country Transmission Commission (NCTC) to develop an action plan for expansion, upgrade, and/or replacement of the Cos County electric transmission line loop."

After meeting with a wide variety of stakeholders, including the general public at 7 p.m. on June 24 at WMRHS in Whitefield (see related article), Mr. Wakefield noted that KEMA would review various methodologies for parceling out the costs of installing a $150 million project designed to integrate an additional 400 megawatts of new renewable generation on the Cos loop and then propose one or more cost allocation solutions. This framework, Mr. Wakefield said, would include any changes in allocation if the project cost 10 or 20 percent more or less than the assumed $150 million.

He and project manager Jessica Harrison, senior consultant Susan Weber, and senior analyst Josh Horton will summarize how similar situations have been handled. With the assistance of legal/FERC advisor James Mitchell of Washington, DC, the team will look at any federal changes that could affect cost allocation.

KEMA has not been hired to design the physical upgrades, the team emphasized.

The first draft of KEMA's report is to be available around Aug. 15, giving the firm a tight schedule.

The Cos Loop is considered a local transmission system. Unlike larger high-voltage transmission lines, it is not a pool transmission facility whose costs can be "socialized" — with ratepayers across New England sharing in the cost of picking up the tab. Transmission of electricity in interstate commerce is regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

FERC is open to innovative transmission pricing, attorney Mitchell reported. The federal agency is working on finding ways to pay for the transmission of remote renewable energy generation projects that are far from the "load centers" in which construction is motivated by a desire to be both "green" and independent from foreign oil and not by reliability issues.

In Cos, the proposed biomass wood-burning facilities, wind farms, and, to a lesser extent, new hydro plants, would make up the "location-constrained" resources that would require 400 MW of new capacity.

One solution for coming up with the needed $150 million, would be to create a state Infrastructure Authority could be created that would float low-interest bonds to pay for transmission projects, with developers paying them down from their electricity sales.

The current thinking of Public Service of New Hampshire engineers is that only the northern leg of the Cos loop would be required to increase its capacity.

A single set of new poles could be installed with the local 115 KV line on one side and a 230 KV line above it on the opposite side, all in the existing right-of-way.

The preferred route for Hydro-Quebec's proposed high-voltage direct current line from Quebec through Cos County to central New Hampshire has not yet been determined.

Commission chairman Sen. Martha Fuller Clark was too ill to travel from Portsmouth for the meeting, which was chaired instead by New Hampshire Public Utilities Commissioner (NHPUC) Amy Ignatius.

Garnett Hill
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