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Energy corridor may be in Maine's future

5:48 PM, Oct 10, 2012   |    comments
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AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Maine's interstate highways could become a superhighway for electricity.

The state is working on a plan that would allow electric companies to install underground, high voltage transmission lines along the interstate right of way. At least one company is interested in doing it, and state officials believe Maine could both make money and save money if it happens.

The so-called energy corridor idea has been in the works for about four years, but now the state is seeking proposals from companies that want to buy electricity from New Brunswick or Quebec and ship it to Boston. Those companies would have to pay the state annual lease fees to use the interstate rights-of-way.

State energy director Ken Fletcher says there's also the potential for Maine to get access to cheap Canadian electricity, and lower the cost of power for ratepayers here. Fletcher says the Canadians know there's a big market for renewable electricity in southern New England, and they need a means to get it there. There is a controversial proposal in New Hampshire for a new transmission line to connect Quebec to Massachusetts, but Fletcher says that project is currently stalled. There is already a 1,000 MW line from New Brunswick to Bangor Hydro's facility in Orrington, but the company still needs a way to get the power from there to Boston.

Bruce Van Note of the Maine DOT says Bangor Hydro initiated discussions about energy corridors four years ago, and those talks led to a 2010 state law that sets up a framework to consider applications for corridors. The current proposal is the first since that law was passed, and the special interagency review panel was created. Fletcher says it could take two years at least to go through all the details.

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