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Avangrid touts $600M construction savings of New England transmission project

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Avangrid touts $600M construction savings of New England transmission project

Central Maine Power Co. is adamant that its proposed 1,200-MW New England Clean Energy Connect transmission project will save ratepayers more than $600 million compared with competing bids responding to Massachusetts' clean energy request for proposals.

As developers await the Jan. 25, 2018, announcement of winning bids for contracts for up to 20 years, Avangrid Inc. subsidiary CMP highlighted the project's "bottom line" and announced in a Dec. 6 media briefing the $950 million construction cost of their 320-kV high-voltage, direct-current line.

"We have offered a fixed-cost of $950 million because we know we can deliver it," said CMP President and CEO Sara Burns. "Our project is not only the largest capacity line but the least expensive link to clean Canadian hydro-energy."

If built, the New England Clean Energy Connect will run 145 miles from the Canadian border in western Somerset County, Maine, to a new converter station in Lewiston, Maine. The proposed transmission line seeks to act as "battery storage" for ISO New England's regional markets by delivering firm Canadian hydropower from Hydro-Québec, even during peak winter months when energy supply prices are most volatile and intermittent resources are not as reliable.

Bob Kump, CEO of affiliate Avangrid Networks Inc., said their transmission proposal has a "tremendous" advantage of delivering 1,200 MW of firm supply at a cheaper price than two of their "closest competitors," which have each reported construction costs of roughly $1.6 billion to deliver smaller capacities of generation.

The two competitors are TDI New England's fully permitted and "shovel-ready" New England Clean Power Link, which seeks to deliver 1,000 MW through Vermont, and Eversource Energy's 1,090-MW Northern Pass project in New Hampshire, which is awaiting approval of remaining permits.

Avangrid said the New England Clean Energy Connect has asked the U.S. Department of Energy to provide a presidential permit to build a line that crosses the U.S.-Canada border and is on track to receive necessary state and federal permitting reviews in 2018.

As with Central Maine Power's transmission project, Hydro-Quebec also submitted proposals to the Massachusetts RFP to deliver hydropower alone or hydropower to back up wind generation over TDI New England's and Eversource's competing transmission proposals. Kump maintained that the key difference distinguishing the three transmission projects is overall project costs within the U.S. as Hydro-Quebec's costs on the Canadian side of the border is most likely similar regardless which proposal is chosen.

"The price from HQ has been kept confidential, even from us," said Kump. "But we believe that their energy costs are similar with each proposal."

Expounding on the cost advantages of the New England Clean Energy Connect over its competition, Burns explained that Avangrid owns the needed rights of way for the project, which has the "shortest and the most direct" route of the transmission proposals. And unlike Northern Pass and the New England Clean Power Link, which will bury extensive stretches of their cables either underground or underwater, Burns said their project will be able to avoid such costs.

Burns added that Central Maine Power will also be able to leverage "global purchasing power" through Avangrid and its Spanish majority-stakeholder Iberdrola SA, as well as the region's $1.4 billion of recent investments in the bulk power grid to shore up reliability in Maine.

TDI New England is a Blackstone Group LP portfolio company and an affiliate of Transmission Developers Inc.