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ITC's Lake Erie Connector garners approval from Canadian regulator

Canada's National Energy Board, which regulates international power lines, approved the Lake Erie Connector Project, a largely underwater line proposed to transfer power between Ontario and Pennsylvania.

The board, also known as the NEB, approved the issuance of a certificate of public convenience after finding that the proposed high-voltage, direct-current line is unlikely to have "significant adverse" environmental impacts, according to a Jan. 19 news release. The board's decision, which includes 42 conditions on topics including environmental protection, safety and socioeconomic matters, is still subject to federal approvals specifically from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Cabinet, according to the release. That decision is expected by April 19.

ITC Lake Erie Connector LLC, a subsidiary of ITC Holdings Corp., in 2015 applied to build the transmission line, which includes a 1,000-MW, 320-kV bidirectional transmission line and converter stations in Haldimand County, Ontario, and Erie County, Pa. Alternating-current lines would run between the converter stations and grid connections at each end. The line would run 117 kilometers, or about 73 miles, with 49 kilometers in Canada. If built, the line will also be the first direct-current connection between Ontario's Independent Electricity System Operator and the PJM Interconnection.

"This new energy transmission interconnection between the IESO and PJM markets would provide Ontario with access to a new, large export market for excess electricity generation, and in turn this bi-directional line would allow less expensive, clean energy to flow into the province from the U.S. This project also would help improve the security, reliability and capacity of the respective electricity grids," Terry Harvill, president of ITC unit ITC Grid Development, said in a separate news release.

The NEB said the Canadian portion of the line is estimated to cost C$543.5 million.

The NEB's decision to grant a permit comes a week after the project received a presidential permit from the U.S. Department of Energy and after FERC conditionally confirmed that the project is still authorized to charge negotiated rates for transmission rights despite ITC's recent acquisition by Fortis Inc. Fortis in October 2016 acquired a majority stake in ITC Holdings, which prompted ITC Lake Erie to confirm that it retains authorization to sell transmission rights on the project at negotiated rates.

ITC is projecting for the line to be in service by the end of 2020.