Accelerating Massachusetts' Clean Energy Transition through Transmission

Posted by Jeremy McDiarmid on Mar 12, 2024 10:00:00 AM

Siting and GETs Key to Massachusetts’ Clean Energy Goals-1

As a candidate, Governor Maura Healey pledged to achieve 100% clean electricity in Massachusetts by 2030. Such an ambitious target will require not only lots of clean energy generation to be built quickly and a doubling down of energy efficiency measures but will also require that the state support the building of a stronger, more dynamic electric grid. Creating the modern electric grid that Massachusetts needs to achieve its energy goals will require transformative investments on two fronts: the state needs to build new lines to move clean power like offshore wind throughout the Commonwealth, and it also needs to upgrade existing power lines with modern technologies. Nowhere is the more critical than at the transmission level. Advanced Energy United is working with decision-makers in New England to address these challenges with policy solutions.

New England is hardly alone in having a strong need to improve the electric grid. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) notes that every region in the country would benefit from more transmission and that “today’s grid cannot adequately support 21st century challenges —including the integration of new clean energy sources, and growing transportation and building electrification — while remaining resilient in the face of extreme weather exacerbated by climate change.” 

Recent findings from the study underscore the necessity of expanding existing transmission capacity in New England, particularly between New England and New York. The DOE study found that grid congestion between New England and New York has been so severe that during one extreme weather event – the 'Bomb Cyclone' storm of 2018 – each additional gigawatt (GW) of transmission capacity could have saved between $30 and $40 million dollars in lost economic productivity. Moreover, a 2023 study from Americans for a Clean Energy Grid gave New England a failing grade for its ability to add new energy to its system. 

The federal government has recognized the importance of enabling this transmission revolution by allocating resources within key legislation such as the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Additionally, the establishment of the Grid Deployment Office at the Department of Energy and forthcoming rules from FERC signal a commitment to accelerating the build-out of crucial transmission infrastructure. These federal initiatives provide a solid foundation for states like Massachusetts to leverage in their own grid improvement efforts. 

Currently, United’s team is working with Massachusetts and other New England states to advance rule changes at ISO-New England (ISO-NE), the regional grid operator, to improve how the region builds—and pays for—new transmission lines. Building on ISO-NE’s 2050 Transmission Study, these rule changes will allow the New England states to procure transmission resources together in ways that will improve the reliability and affordability of the electric system while increasing its ability to connect new clean energy projects. However, it’s critical that Massachusetts and its neighbors see this process through – first, the states (and stakeholders like United) must make sure that the changes to the transmission tariff are made and approved by FERC. At the same time, the states must work with ISO-NE and stakeholders to prepare for competitive processes to build the necessary transmission to connect new clean energy resources. 

While the region plans and builds new transmission lines, there is a pressing need to use advanced energy technologies to make the most of existing lines. So-called ‘grid-enhancing technologies’ (GETs), as well as advanced conductors, can play a critical role in supporting the region’s grid improvement needs. These are technologies that can perform a range of services that improve efficiency and reliability, all within the existing power line footprint. For instance, dynamic line rating and advanced power flow controls provide real-time monitoring and optimization of the grid, reducing congestion and enabling greater renewable energy integration. Along with energy storage options, advanced conductors can also further bolster grid resilience and flexibility by increasing the capacity of existing lines. Each of these technologies should be deployed where it’s cost-effective to supplement transmission build-out of new lines. 

Massachusetts and other states may need public policy to guide the increased adoption of these kinds of advanced energy options. In line with the state’s clean energy goals, House and Senate Energy Committee chairs Rep. Jeffrey Roy and Sen. Michael Barrett recently unveiled H 4222 and S 2531, which will require that electric utilities before the state’s Department of Public Utilities (DPU) show that they have evaluated GETs, advanced reconductoring, and storage as a transmission asset when making decisions about capital allocation in upgrading the grid. United is supporting these bills as commonsense solutions that will play an important role in getting Massachusetts and the region further toward their clean energy goals. 

United is also engaged in ongoing decision-maker education initiatives aimed at bringing a greater level of understanding around the role of transmission and grid-enhancing technologies. As part of this effort, United, along with several partner organizations, recently launched a major new educational initiative called Transmission Possible, aimed at bringing increased attention to the need for building a better electric grid with a focus on public policy principles that states can champion. As Massachusetts navigates its clean energy transition and faces increasing electricity load demands, quickly deploying these grid-enhancing technologies becomes increasingly important. By leveraging GETs, advanced conductors, and energy storage, the Commonwealth can overcome existing grid limitations and seamlessly integrate renewable energy sources like solar and offshore wind. Moreover, these technologies play a crucial role in enhancing grid stability and reliability, mitigating risks associated with extreme weather events, and ensuring uninterrupted power supply to residents and businesses. 

To delve deeper into the pivotal role of transmission in ensuring grid reliability and accelerating the transition to clean energy, visit today. 

Topics: Transmission, Massachusetts



Advanced Energy Perspectives is Advanced Energy United's blog presenting news, analysis, and commentary on creating an advanced energy economy. Join the conversation!

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