Green Line says it’s ‘business as usual’ despite losing bid for contract
NEW HAVEN — Developers of a proposed high-voltage electricity cable through part of Addison County say it will be “business as usual” for the Vermont Green Line project.
But news that the project lost a bid to sell wind and hydro power to southern New England has caused uncertainty in New Haven, which would gain financial rewards as a result of hosting key VGL infrastructure.
Over the past 14 months, project representatives have explained that they planned to send 400 megawatts from Beekmantown, N.Y., to New Haven in response to an RFP (request for proposal) seeking renewable power for Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The New England Clean Energy RFP offered contracts in the range of 15 to 20 years, said VGL spokesperson Joe Rossignoli.
Tuesday the New England Clean Energy RFP announced that it had awarded bids to six projects — noticeably, Vermont Green Line was not among them.
At a Tuesday night selectboard forum on the New Haven Town Plan, Selectman Steve Dupoise (who’s been part of New Haven’s negotiating team that recently closed the deal with VGL) said he got grim news from Richard Saudek, New Haven’s attorney in its negotiations over the VGL converter station.
Dupoise said that Saudek informed him that “VGL did not get the award for the bid … The early information is that this project isn’t dead. They are still hoping to move forward with it.
In response to further questions, Dupoise went on to say, “Right now they’ve had a significant setback, I would say. So the project has significantly stalled, not maybe in free fall yet. But they’re just barely putting along. It may be entirely dead.”
Dupoise clarified: “I’m telling you everything I know, which is incredibly limited at this point. Right now I want you to know it’s not happening at this point. This is new information, and I wanted to share it with you tonight.
“The last conversation I had with Joe (Rossignoli) a week-ish ago, they thought they were in the top two runners for this.”
In a conversation Wednesday with the Independent, Rossignoli said the companies involved in the Vermont Green Line intend to keep the project on schedule and continue to submit new bids to deliver renewable energy elsewhere in New England.
“It’s business as usual,” he said. “We remain committed to the Vermont Green Line. Nothing really has changed in terms of our level of commitment. We feel that the project is the right solution for the region around the delivery of renewable power. So we’re moving forward with the project with the same level of intensity as we would have otherwise. Not much has changed on that issue.”
Rossignoli also spelled out that VGL’s agreement with New Haven remains the same.
“There’s nothing in the agreement that makes it conditional on being accepted in the Clean Energy RFP,” he said. “So it’s fully in effect as far as I’m concerned.”
Rossignoli noted that VGL has just taken an important step forward with the project. Last Friday it filed an application with the Vermont Public Service Board for a Certificate of Public Good.
“We’re going to pursue (that) with the same vigor,” Rossignoli said.
Asked how the VGL partnership would pursue “shovel in the ground” actions, as opposed to filing papers with the utilities regulator, Rossignoli said the project would continue on schedule, construction included.
“The project schedule hasn’t changed at all because of this,” said Rossignoli. “The so-called ‘shovel in the ground’ I think we’re still anticipating that that will occur around the same time that we had always anticipated it. Again, we’re not going to change the intensity of our development activities or move our scheduling at all because of this. We’ll just pursue other avenues of the commercialization of the project because it’s a good project, and we’re sure it will be attractive to a lot of parties.”
Rossignoli noted, for example, that the VGL partnership anticipated bidding next April when Massachusetts is expected to open an RFP for 1,200 megawatts of renewable power. He said that that RFP by an energy bill signed into law this past July.
“So that’s yet another commercial opportunity for VGL,” he said. “But we wouldn’t be waiting on that. We’d be seeking other commercial opportunities in advance of that. But that’s certainly an avenue for us.”
Rossignoli explained that the VGL consortium would, however, be selling within New England because that’s what it’s permitted for. For example, he said that VGL would not be bidding in New York state.
“We’d have to seek special permits in New York … in order to export power into New York. So, no, we wouldn’t be in a position to do that under the current plan.”
SELL TO VERMONT?
The grid that serves Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island is regulated by ISO-New England, an independent nonprofit authorized by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to regulate the sale and delivery of power, analyze the grid, and conduct day-to-day grid operations within New England.
Rossignoli emphasized that VGL would be interested in selling power within Vermont.
“The potential of selling to Vermont utilities — we’ve always left that open. We’ve always left open that possibility and we certainly would be very open to exploring those kinds of discussion with the utilities in Vermont.”
The response to the idea floated at Tuesday’s meeting — that the VGL converter station might be stalled or even cancelled — also demonstrated how difficult the process has been for this rural community.
“It affected some people negatively and some positively, and that’s why it was a hard decision when we were negotiating,” said Selectboard Chair Kathy Barrett at Tuesday’s meeting.
The next day, Barrett said it was too soon to know exactly what this will mean for New Haven.
“We will wait to see if VGL abandons the project altogether or pursues another opportunity to sell electricity,” she said.
Reporter Gaen Murphree is reached at [email protected].
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