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New England wants to develop “vast and untapped” renewable energy resources

Governors of six US states have approved a renewable energy blueprint for their region, and now want President Obama and Congress to support their development of these resources.

“New England has a vast quantity of commercial-scale and advanced untapped renewable resources in and around the New England region,” with one estimate placing the potential for onshore and offshore wind at 10 GW, as well as other low-carbon resources, explains the ‘Renewable Energy Blueprint’ discussed by governors John Baldacci of Maine, Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, M. Jodi Rell of Connecticut, John Lynch of New Hampshire, Donald Carcieri of Rhode Island and Jim Douglas of Vermont at their annual conference.

"Developing far less than the maximum potential would enable New England to meet its renewable energy goals and reduce reliance on carbon-emitting generation resources.

“More aggressive development of generation resources - with corresponding transmission infrastructure investment - would enable New England to export clean power to our neighbours,” it continues. “Developing these new renewable resources will help to diversify our power mix and has the potential to put downward pressure on the marginal prices for energy within the New England electricity market.”

New England has the essential elements to bring “cost-effective, secure, low-carbon resources to market,” including a long history of collaborative working relationships on energy and environmental matters among the six states and neighbouring Canadian provinces.

“Bringing together our collaborative experience with opportunities to coordinate transmission facility siting and power procurement will strengthen the region’s ability to help bring new renewable resources to market within the current market structure,” and a state-federal partnership will reinforce the region’s ability to advance its clean energy goals and to reduce carbon emissions, while diversifying energy supply and reducing reliance on foreign fossil fuel.

Whether some or all of the renewable energy potential is developed, “the challenges to bringing new resources to market are substantial,” the report cautions, and decisions about “whether and the extent to which renewable resource development makes sense for consumers should follow an assessment of economic and environmental data.”

The governors requested ISO-New England, the regional system operator, to conduct a Renewable Scenario Development Analysis of various renewable energy development scenarios and associated transmission infrastructure.

“The expansion of renewable resource development in our region could facilitate the retirement and/or repowering of existing coal- and oil-fired generation within New England without a meaningful impact on marginal energy prices.” And regional development of renewable energy “appears possible with significantly less capital investment for transmission infrastructure than would be required to import an equivalent quantity of power from more remote, out-of-region sources on new, high-voltage transmission lines,” it adds.

The federal government “should support New England’s plan to encourage development of renewable resources” and, to the extent that federal financial assistance is directed to renewable energy, “direct such assistance to resources that emerge in the market, or through competitive processes, and support those that would serve customers most cost-effectively.”

They also want federal departments to prioritise permitting applications for offshore wind projects located in federal waters.

“The foundation of the governors’ request for a partnership with federal officials is consumers’ economic and environmental interests: consumers will be best served by state and federal officials partnering to support development of resources that are, when evaluated on equal footing with other like resources, the most cost-effective way to meet our energy, environmental and energy security objectives,” they explain.

“A state-federal partnership will complement states’ initiatives to meet our carbon challenge, including robust requirements in connection with net metering, renewable portfolio standards, renewable power contracts, renewable siting reform, and energy efficiency programs, as well as the new collaborative siting and contracting efforts we discuss here.”

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