State law sparks energy savings in Brunswick and Topsham


Brunswick and Topsham residents will be some of the first Mainers to benefit from a 2019 law that requires power companies to work with the state to explore alternatives to large wire projects, according to a press release from the Office of the Public Advocate.

Instead of constructing taller polls and higher voltage lines in Brunswick and Topsham to upgrade the existing energy grid, Central Maine Power will work with Efficiency Maine Trust and local organizations and businesses to install one or more batteries and make other energy efficiency improvements and reliability upgrades, according to Andrew Landry, deputy public advocate.

“There will be benefits over and above the avoidance of having to construct the line in the form of energy savings to customers,” said Landry, who noted the project will save the area’s 7,800 CMP customers an estimated $8.5 million over 40 years. “We’re very excited about it.”

Around 2019, Central Maine Power developed a plan to upgrade five miles of transmission lines that run from one substation in Topsham to another near Brunswick Junior High School, according to Brunswick Town Manager John Eldridge. Some residents pushed back against the plan.

“There were people who thought that CMP putting a power line in there was going to be disruptive to their neighborhoods or to their own properties,” Edridge said. “A number of people who have property that abuts the power line reached out to the (Town) Council to see whether or not there was something that could be done in lieu of the project.”

The estimated cost of the proposed upgrade ballooned from $9 million to $14 million, according to reporting from the Press Herald.

The 2019 law required CMP to work with Efficiency Maine Trust and an independent engineering firm contracted by the state to find possible alternatives to the plan.

The analysis and development processes, still in their infancy, were sometimes slow, Landry said.

“I’ve sat around and thought, ‘Wow, we’re spending a lot of time on this we could have been spending on something else,'” he said. “But we saved $8 million because we went through this process, just on this one relatively small project. That pays for all the time we’ve spent on it easily and more. When it comes to larger projects, the potential for savings could be in the tens of millions or even hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Efficiency Maine Trust and CMP will hold a competitive bid process to determine specific plans for battery sizes and locations, according to Michael Stoddard, executive director of Efficiency Maine Trust.

Installing batteries and efficiency improvements into the power grid is a key step as Maine looks to reduce energy costs and transition to greener power, Stoddard said.

Shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources will strain the grid in coming years, particularly when cloudy skies limit solar power or calm weather stifles wind turbines, he said. But batteries can help store renewable energy until it’s needed, while “demand response” measures reduce electricity consumption during peak usage hours.

“It’s saving us money, and it’s helping us build the grid of the future,” Stoddard said of the project, Maine’s first “Nonwires Alternative Agreement” under the 2019 law. “I’m optimism that we’re really going to be able to expand this across the state.”


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