Green Connections: Electric Transmission and the Transition to a Clean Energy Future

Green Connections: Electric Transmission and the Transition to a Clean Energy Future

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.@DeanSeaversNG of @nationalgridus discusses developing new clean #energy resources #Connect21

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National Grid customers will soon receive energy from Deepwater Wind’s Block Island Wind Farm, the first offshore wind installation in the U.S.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016 - 3:20pm

By now it’s clear that I’m an ardent supporter of developing significant new clean energy resources, and doing it in a way that’s affordable for all customers. At National Grid, we are very fortunate to operate in states that share the desire to green our energy portfolio in a major way, and our policymakers have enacted ambitious and commendable energy policies to do so. These policies require utilities to purchase ever-increasing amounts of clean energy to deliver to customers.

But here’s the challenge – there isn’t anywhere near enough supply to meet these requirements today, never mind down the road, when they will increase exponentially. And it’s next to impossible to build large-scale solar facilities or wind farms – let alone hydroelectric dams – near the highlypopulated areas where the renewable power is needed.

To fill the gap, utilities may purchase renewable energy credits or certificates, commonly called RECs. A REC represents the property rights to the environmental, social, and other non-power qualities of renewable electricity generation. And they can be purchased separately from the physical electricity produced by a renewable generator. While the REC option works on paper, at least for now, it does nothing to encourage the development of new clean generation resources. What we need is a paradigm shift in our thinking about the transmission grid. Our power grid is widely considered to be a marvel of the 20th century. It was initially built to deliver electricity from power plants to local communities.

Later, as the industry evolved, it was modified and expanded to accommodate interstate and interregional electricity transmission. Now, it needs to evolve again to meet the needs of our growing 21st century digital economy, in particular to deliver remote large-scale clean energy resources to population centers where demand is high – and to do so in a way that is affordable for customers.

National Grid has fully embraced this undertaking.

In 1990, we flipped the switch on a nearly 1,000-mile high-voltage direct-current, or HVDC, transmission system that runs from northern Quebec to central Massachusetts. This project has delivered many thousands of megawatts of carbon-free Canadian hydropower to New England over the past 25 years. When it came online, it was the first project of its kind, and to this day remains one of only a handful worldwide. National Grid is also a key investor in Clean Line Energy Partners, a developer of longhaul transmission lines to connect wind energy resources in the Midwest to cities and communities that lack access to new, low-cost renewable power.

Closer to home, we have joined forces with Anbaric Transmission to form the Green Line Infrastructure Alliance (GLIA), which also aims to develop long-haul HVDC transmission projects to deliver a combination of abundant, cost-effective onshore wind and hydropower from northern New York, Maine, and Canada to population centers in New England. This clean energy “two-fer” solves the intermittency issues often associated with renewable energy by combining the cost effectiveness of onshore wind with the reliability of hydropower, which can serve as a backstop when the wind isn’t blowing. We have initially proposed two projects: the Maine Green Line and the Vermont Green Line, both of which are hybrid land and submarine HVDC cable systems. National Grid, through another green transmission project called “sea2shore,” is also facilitating the development of Deepwater Wind’s Block Island Wind Farm. This is a monumental breakthrough.

Our Rhode Island customers will receive energy generated by the first offshore wind farm in the entire United States.

It will take time for these and other clean transmission projects to complete the various siting processes and required regulatory reviews that precede their construction, so it’s imperative that we keep forging ahead so they can be completed as quickly as possible. Clean transmission is a critical component of the balanced portfolio of solutions that are needed to secure our long-term, decarbonized energy future.


About the Author

Dean Seavers joined National Grid in December 2014 as President of National Grid in the U.S.

Dean’s long career has included leadership roles at GE, United Technologies, and Tyco. He led GE Security, a $2 billion product and technology group, and he also led a $4 billion global services portfolio for United Technologies.

At Red Hawk Fire & Security, Dean’s most recent venture, he was a founder and served as President and CEO. Red Hawk quickly became the second largest independent fire and security platform in the U.S., providing integrated security solutions to large and mid-sized commercial customers.

Dean has a strong background in financial strategy, performance improvement, and operational leadership. At National Grid, his focus is on continuing the performance progress that underpins the company’s U.S. business while driving its Connect21 agenda of building the advanced natural gas and electricity networks that are the foundation of our 21st century digital economy.

A native of Sandusky, Ohio, Dean graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in business from Kent State University and earned an MBA from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.

Dean and his family have a home in Boston.

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