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Maine electricity regulators OK 'non-wire' alternatives for CMP's big transmission upgrades

Maine electricity regulators have approved a new way to ensure Central Maine Power's transmission and distribution system can meet future demand in the Topsham and Brunswick areas. Instead of a buildout that's completely dependent on more robust and expensive new lines, it will also use lower-cost, grid-scale battery storage and energy efficiency measures to reduce "peak loads" on the system.

Andrew Landry of the state public advocate's office helped negotiate the first-time effort under a 2019 state law that requires consideration of what are called "non-wire alternatives" when big transmission upgrades are proposed.

"There's a risk that you're going to build a system that's capable of serving a peak load 24 hours a day 365 days a year when really it may only be a few hours a year that we need that extra capacity," Landry said.

Landry said the project will save consumers $8.5 million over its 40-year lifespan. And, he said, it's an indicator of how the electricity grid could meet the twin challenges posed by an onslaught of new renewable power sources and government goals for "beneficial electrification" of the economy.

The administrator of New England's transmission system issued a new report Tuesday projecting that the new England grid needs to double in size over the next 20 years in order to serve the decarbonization goals.

A Columbia University graduate, Fred began his journalism career as a print reporter in Vermont, then came to Maine Public in 2001 as its political reporter, as well as serving as a host for a variety of Maine Public Radio and Maine Public Television programs. Fred later went on to become news director for New England Public Radio in Western Massachusetts and worked as a freelancer for National Public Radio and a number of regional public radio stations, including WBUR in Boston and NHPR in New Hampshire.