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Vermont Green Line developers looking ‘upstream’

ADDISON COUNTY — The developers of the proposed Vermont Green Line that could bring millions of dollars to Addison County towns that host the electric power transmission line say the project is still moving forward despite loosing its principal customer.
National Grid and Anbaric Transmission, the VGL development partners, last fall failed to win their bid to sell renewable power to Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.
But they are now looking “upstream,” National Grid’s Joe Rossignoli told the Independent recently.
United as the Green Line Infrastructure Alliance, the two companies seeks to lay 60 miles of HVDC (high voltage direct current) cable under Lake Champlain and then underground to bring 400 megawatts of renewable power from Beekmantown, N.Y., into the New England grid at the VELCO substation in New Haven.
Last October, Addison County learned that the Vermont Green Line was not among the six projects selected in the New England Clean Energy RFP to sell renewable power to the three states.
Last December, the VGL partnership announced what’s known in the renewable energy industry as an “open solicitation for transmission service.” In essence, this means that VGL developers are now reaching out to renewable energy suppliers (rather than purchasers, as through the Clean Energy RFP) to see what folks will bid to purchase access to the VGL once constructed.
Like a toll highway that can only grant access to a certain number of vehicles, the Vermont Green Line can only sell access to companies whose combined energy load would total 400 megawatts at any given moment, Rossignoli explained.
“This is another regulator-approved, FERC-approved (FERC is the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) way of selling transmission capacity,” said Rossignoli. “Since we weren’t commercialized through the first venue (the Clean Energy RFP), we’re using this venue to commercialize.”
In October, Rossignoli had suggested that VGL would put the project’s hat in the ring for an anticipated spring 2017 renewable energy purchasing proposal (known as a Request for Proposal or RFP) coming from Massachusetts, among other bids for commercialization.
In an interview with the Independent, Rossignoli said that VGL developers “don’t have plans ourselves to put the Vermont Green Line into the Massachusetts RFP the next round. But the suppliers that we sell the transmission to may take our transmission that they purchase and their supply and use that to bid into the RFP. That’s certainly possible.”
Asked if this was a change in strategy, Rossignoli replied, “Yeah, we have changed the model that we’re using. That’s fair enough.
“This is a different model where let’s say that we’re facing upstream to suppliers and now they’re going to buy it and they take it along with their power and they find a customer in New England. It’s a little bit of like the opposite way.”
VGL developers had “strong response” to the open solicitation, said Rossignoli, and have selected six different suppliers that they’re now considering. Rossignoli said the renewable energy suppliers were mostly in upstate New York and eastern Canada and were mostly generating wind and hydropower.
Criteria for choosing which renewable energy suppliers to sell transmission capacity to, said Rossignoli, are “credit worthiness, because it is a 20-year, multimillion-dollar contract; length of service that they’re seeking; and price — those are the big three.”
Rossignoli said that VGL developers expect to announce which company or companies they’ll sell transmission capacity to by sometime this summer.
“We’ve begun negotiations with those suppliers and we’re hoping those negotiations will conclude in the middle of this year, at which time we’d be able to make an announcement and finalize the commercialization of the project,” he said.
Along with commercialization, the project’s other main focus right now, said Rossignoli, is making its way through Vermont’s Public Service Board process to receive a Certificate of Public Good.
New Haven would be the biggest winner, financially, if the Vermont Green Line is built. Last year the town negotiated a deal that could bring it payments of $1.4 million per year for 40 years, $4 million to build a new fire station and town garage and $1 million in compensation to abutters. It won those concessions mostly because it would host a massive and noisy converter station that would put the power onto the New England electric grid.
Ferrisburgh and Waltham would also earn compensation for allowing the high-power cable to laid through those towns.
Rossignoli said that VGL developers expect the project to have made its way through the PSB by late 2017 or early 2018. In the meantime, Rossignoli said project developers were concurrently taking care of other kinds of state-required permitting and were finalizing outstanding negotiations with private landowners.
“We’re highly confident that the project will be commercialized in 2017,” said Rossignoli. “And we’re going to work hard to get our permits successfully secured in both states (Vermont and New York). We think at the end of the day the project will come to fruition as we always thought it would. That’s really what I would say.
“I think there’s very strong prospects of getting to the finish line.”
Reporter Gaen Murphree is reached at [email protected].

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