Shifting Maine’s electricity grid to clean energy will not be easy, says PUC chairman

The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is preparing to change Maine’s grid system to accommodate renewable energy sources. This transition comes when most states across the US have embraced green energy to reduce the global warming effect caused by carbon emissions.

PUC is mark timing the start of this transformation which is expected to be quite a complicated affair. “We understand that this is only the start of a challenging transition, and we’ll have to undertake if we’re supposed to electrify our heating as well as transportation industries, and if we’re hoping to put in the kind of renewable energy that we’ll need in the future,” stated Phil Bartlett, Chairman of the Public Utility Commission.

The state’s grid system hasn’t changed from the initial network built to supply the electricity in the early days. The grid provided mainly power sourced from hydroelectric plants, oil and gas plants, and nuclear stations. However, with the new grids, this is expected to change.

“That is all changing. We are expecting more distributed resources on our distribution system. There’ll be batteries for storage increasingly added to the system. We also know that there will be significant increases in load as we put in more heat pumps and as folks transition to electric vehicles. And we need to make sure that the grid is ready for that,” Bartlett explained.

PUC is partnering with industry consultants to study the current electric system and re-design it to project how modern trends will impact the design, infrastructure, and policies around the existing grid. Stakeholders are also debating the cost of the transformation as well as its reliability and flexibility.

“We need to look at how the grid ought to adjust and what the costs will be changed and how costs are going to be allocated for that to be sure that we are ready for the future that is coming at us very quickly, “added Bartlett.

After Governor Janet Mills convinced the Legislature to put into law incentives as well as power procurements to back the clean energy sector, Maine stakeholders and companies rolled out big solar power projects and other renewable energy projects.

The shift to renewable energy has not been a smooth ride. It has been barred by some challenges that threatened the public’s embrace of clean energy sources. For instance, ordinary electricity consumers slapped with significant bill hikes a while ago.

In another incident, Maine’s Central Maine Power (CMP) estimation of transition cost from the current grid to the new proposed grid was so high it left stakeholders at a crossroads.

“I do think that the wave of investment and interest in Maine was higher than they may have anticipated. But we’re certainly going to look at what steps were taken to prepare and how things went so wrong with respect to the costs for some of the distributed resources in CMP’s territory,” commented Bartlett.

Following the recent fracas seen in Texas, states need to invest in diverse energy supply types to secure reliability.

“I also think that there is going to be an important role for transmission. Had Texas had more robust transmission connections to other parts of the country, their crisis wouldn’t have been nearly as deep because they could have brought resources. And there are a lot of constraints around the country, between regions,” noted Bartlett.

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