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A new report says more investment in New England's grid is needed for a clean energy future

In this Tuesday, May 28, 2019, photo, power lines are seen in Pownal, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty
AP file
In this Tuesday, May 28, 2019, photo, power lines are seen in Pownal, Maine.

A new report says that the region will need to make substantial investment in its electrical grid, as Maine and New England embrace wind, solar and technologies such as EV's and heat pumps.

The study, from grid operator ISO New England, concludes that New England may need to invest close to $1 billion in in its electric transmission infrastructure each year, through 2050, in order to handle the increased electrical demands.

Under one scenario outlined in the report, the electrical demand on the grid could peak at 57 gigawatts in the winter of 2050, which is more than double the highest peak load ever recorded. In order to create a grid that can reliably handle such a large demand, the report says it would cost up to $26 billion through 2050.

Bob Ethier, ISO's vice president of system planning, said wind power from northern Maine could be needed to help meet that energy demand — and that will require more infrastructure to connect to southern New England.

"If there's going to be more of that, then we clearly need more transmission capability from northern Maine, down to the load centers in the rest of New England," Ethier said.

The study also finds that if the region can reduce its peak energy needs, it could potentially lower the cost of needed grid investments by billions of dollars.

State and regional officials say that could potentially be achieved through energy efficiency measures, battery storage and electric rates and technology that encourage consumers to use less energy during times of peak demand.

Dan Burgess, who heads the governor's energy office, said the report is an important step in regional planning efforts, and said Maine is already working on its own grid plans, including efforts to make it more resilient to extreme weather.

"And I think looking at the opportunities to increase Maine's resilience and preparedness for climate and climate change are important," Burgess said.

Maine has set a goal to move to 100% renewable energy by 2050.