Maine’s partnership Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham could result in the region becoming an alternative energy hub. Graham celebrates with Governor Baldacci (right) at the Governor’s Residence in Augusta, the Blaine House. Photo By Ramona du HouxBy Ramona du Houx

April 9th, 2009

A continued partnership with Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham could result in the region becoming an alternative energy hub.

“Great potential exists for Maine and New Brunswick to grow and share clean, renewable energy,” said Governor Baldacci at a press conference with Premier Graham. “For the full potential to be realized, regional transmission capacity must expand.”

Even though wind farms are beginning to take root in Maine, there is concern surrounding the lack of transmission infrastructure to get the electricity to market. That could change as Graham and Baldacci agreed to jointly explore the development of a Northeast Energy Corridor.

Graham said, “The proposed energy corridor will help increase the development and deployment of clean, renewable, and greenhouse-gas-free electricity generation resources in both New Brunswick and Maine, as well as provide leadership in helping address and support the overall North American energy security agenda.”

“The corridor would accelerate the production of renewable energy,” said the governor. “It would co-locate multiple energy lines, cables, and other infrastructure to safely and reliable move energy through the region. It holds the promise of connecting the grid in northern Maine to the rest of the state and New Brunswick.”

The corridor would solve northern Maine’s wind-farm transmission accessibility problem and encourage more wind-farm developments, as well as other environmentally friendly energy developments, by providing an access plug-in to transmission lines. Pipelines could also transport petroleum and natural gas along the corridor.

“Historic times call for historic measures, growing an energy hub requires reaching out to our neighbors in Maine. We share a unique geographic area, and a regional energy vision. Today makes an important milestone in our cross-border planning efforts to implement our energy vision. I feel Irving Oil’s investment will encourage other investors to come forward,” said Graham. “Working together we will grow stronger.”

The next phase in the partnership is investigating private investment for the corridor.

“Exploring the potential for private investment in the Northeast Energy Corridor is a vital next step to realizing our shared goals of achieving energy independence, accessing reliable and affordable energy, and reducing carbon emissions on both sides of the border,” said the governor.

Baldacci mentioned signing a Memorandum of Understanding with Bangor Hydro-Electro Company during his recent State of the State address. With it the company has begun exploring options for delivering electricity along the corridor. This energy highway could run along transportation routes in the state, such as I-95, eliminating the need for transmission lines to run through various communities and for developers to work through multiple permitting processes.

According to officials, the project could bring $2 billion in private investment into the state and New Brunswick to create the energy corridor. Thousands of jobs would need to be filled for work on the corridor.

Transmission lines from St. John, New Brunswick, through Maine would be developed. Power generated in New Brunswick and Maine would pass through the state on this new energy superhighway and go to the power-hungry market of southern New England. Natural gas lines would be a part of the corridor.

Graham and Baldacci first signed a Memorandum of Understanding two years ago, which started the investigative and legal work on the issue of energy transmission. Last February, Baldacci and Graham sent a letter to President Obama, informing him about the Northeast Energy Corridor’s and inviting him to consider the cooperative, cross-border initiative.

In the letter, they said, “The Northeast Energy Corridor would provide secure and reliable access and transmission capacity for projects on both sides of the border, involving electricity with and emphasis on renewable power, including wind, tidal and natural gas-fired co-generation, as well as important bridge fuels such as petroleum products and natural gas.”

Kenneth Irving of Irving Oil said in a statement, “The Northeast Energy Corridor would involve a complex series of projects that would require a high level of collaboration and effort to attract companies to come invest in our region. There is still a long road ahead of us, but we wanted to respond to our governments’ and our communities’ desire to pursue energy projects that would meet shared social, economic, and environmental goals.”

Irving Oil has been conducting commercial and technical feasibility studies for more than a year on the first phase of development of the Northeast Energy Corridor, which could include 1,200 to 1,500 MW of electrical transmission capability.

“Irving Oil’s commitment to invest in the corridor brings it closer a reality,” said Baldacci. “I am directing my director of the Office of Energy Independence and Security, John Kerry, and the public advocate, Richard Davies, to lead this exploratory phase, in concert with New Brunswick’s efforts and in cooperation with Irving Oil.”

Baldacci said that development of the corridor should lead to lower electric prices for homes and businesses in Maine and New Brunswick. “It would be the backbone of new a commerce corridor of economic development,” he said.

“This is a celebration of an important milestone in the process of implementing the governor’s vision on becoming energy independent. The governor has always said energy, economic development, and environmental issues need to enhance development of renewable resources. Working with the premier, connecting these two potential energy hubs will move us in that direction,” said John Kerry.