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Three New England states move on 460 MW of renewables

After reviewing bids offered in a multi-state request for proposals, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island are entering contract negotiations to buy power from six projects totaling about 460 MW, with most of the generation coming from solar projects.

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The smaller-than-expected procurement is "consistent with our understanding that the initial RFP was to be used as a procurement vehicle to test for market pricing," UBS Securities said Wednesday. The equity firm expects a larger Massachusetts-led RFP to be issued next spring will be "the 'real' opportunity for project procurement."

The states received 24 offers in response to a mid-November clean energy RFP. By jointly seeking renewable supplies, the states expected to be able to reduce the price of the offers, which are confidential.

The winning bidders announced Tuesday include Ranger Solar, based in Yarmouth, Maine, with a proposal for five solar farms in Connecticut, Maine and New Hampshire totaling 220 MW.

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The states also selected 26-MW and 20-MW solar projects to be built in Connecticut by Deepwater Wind and Ameresco, respectively.

On the wind side, the states opted for the 26-MW Antrim wind farm to be built in New Hampshire by a group that includes RWE, a German utility. The states also decided to negotiate a contract for electricity from the 126-MW Cassadaga wind farm EverPower Wind is proposing in Chautauqua County, New York.

RES Americas also moved forward with two proposals that have all their details redacted, including technology, size and location. The combined size of the projects appears to be about 40 MW based on the sizes of the other projects that have moved to the contract negotiation phase.

The three states will negotiate with Antrim Wind, Ranger Solar, Cassadaga Wind and RES Americas while Massachusetts and Rhode Island will combine on the Deepwater and Ameresco deals.

The states expect utilities owned by Eversource Energy, National Grid and Unitil to enter into contracts with the winning bidders by mid-January and for them to seek regulatory approval for the contracts by March 1.

TRANSMISSION PROJECTS FAIL TO ADVANCE

The three states rejected proposals for hydroelectric generation from Canada to be delivered via the planned Northern Pass power line and wind power from northern Maine that would have required new transmission capacity.

The developers of the Northern Pass power line in New Hampshire said they were focused on a possible RFP from Massachusetts.

"We are pleased with the key approvals the project continues to receive, and look forward to participating in the April solicitation for large-scale hydroelectricity," said Bill Quinlan, president of Eversource NH Operations. Northern Pass could deliver 1,090 MW from Canada into ISO New England.

Also not making the cut was Eversource's 600-MW Clean Energy Connect transmission project between Massachusetts and New York.

In addition, the states declined to accept Anbaric's 400-MW Vermont Green Line proposal that would have delivered wind and hydropower from Invenergy and Hydro Quebec.

In announcing the decision, the states cautioned that the bidders had to successfully negotiate contracts and pass through regulatory reviews before the deals would be final.

"Not all projects selected to advance to contract negotiation at this stage will necessarily obtain approved contracts, which may affect the total contracted [megawatts] resulting from this RFP," the states said.

POSSIBLE LEGAL HURDLES

The RFP faces potential legal challenges, with some arguing that it may run afoul over federal jurisdiction of wholesale markets.

Allco Renewable Energy earlier this month pressed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to block the RFP, arguing that it violated the Public Utilities Regulatory Policy Act (EL17-6).

In the complaint against Massachusetts regulators, Allco said that requiring the state's utilities to enter into wholesale power contracts intruded on FERC's jurisdiction over wholesale sales. The company supported its case by pointing to a Supreme Court decision this year that found a Maryland program to support in-state power plants interfered with federal jurisdiction over wholesale markets (Hughes v. Talen Energy Marketing).

--Ethan Howland, newsdesk@platts.com

--Edited by Jason Lindquist, jason.lindquist@spglobal.com