New England, Canadian leaders talk power

BAR HARBOR, MAINE - With fuel prices soaring, energy was the hot topic at a meeting of governors from energy-hungry New England states and leaders in eastern Canada, where there's a surplus of energy.

The leaders of six states and four of the five provinces were told there's plenty of electrical energy on line or on the drawing board, but getting it to market is another story.

New England and eastern Canada have significant renewable energy portfolios that can cut into greenhouse gas emissions, said Ed Martin, chief operating officer of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro.

"What we do not yet have is the transmission infrastructure to move it," Martin told the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers at their 32nd gathering. Martin added that he would not want to see the region "squandering" its energy reserves for lack of infrastructure.

New England states, and Maine in particular, have been looking across the international border as they consider ways to collaborate on power generation and transmission. And Canadian premiers are eager to sell excess energy from hydro, wind and nuclear projects.

Quebec Premier Jean Charest spoke to the reliability of Canadian renewable power, saying, "Here we are, neighbors and friends... you can't get more reliable."

NB Power built a 58-mile line from Point Lepreau, New Brunswick, to the Maine border in 2006. The electricity can flow in both directions but there's not enough capacity in Maine to ship large amounts of that Canadian electricity to southern New England.

A new proposal by Maine Public Service Co. and Central Maine Power calls for construction of a 345,000-volt line from central to northern Maine that would improve the flow of electricity by fully connecting northern Maine and New Brunswick to the New England power grid for the first time.

The proposed power grid improvements would accommodate 800 megawatts of power from proposed wind turbine projects in northern Maine, while opening the door to more electricity flowing into New England from Canadian hydroelectric and nuclear power projects down the road.

The region's top elected leaders also discussed other issues of mutual interest including transportation and population trends.

On transportation issues, they called for further studies into harmonizing truck weight limits among their jurisdictions and further evaluation of improved highway and railroad links. In particular, the leaders singled out development of an efficient east-west highway across Maine, a costly concept that has been discussed for years but has never come to fruition.

The leaders also called for better coordination among environmental and transportation agencies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase fuel efficiency.

And they acknowledged the importance of population growth to maintain an adequate labor force. "Employers are saying this is the most critical problem they're facing," said Vermont Gov. James Douglas.


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