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PSB asks for VELCO transmission upgrades

The Vermont Public Service Board has approved a series of transmission upgrades designed to improve electricity reliability in Vermont and across the region.

The 122-page order, issued last month, approves construction of a 345-kilovolt transmission line between Vernon and Vermont Electric Power Company's (VELCO) Coolidge Substation in Cavendish.

The board also approved a new substation in Vernon and an expansion of the Coolidge Substation.

VELCO and CVPS filed a petition with the PSB in 2007, outlining multiple strategies to support electric system reliability. The strategies, consistent with recommendations that resulted from an unprecedented public outreach process, included the work approved by the PSB; deferring a second 49-mile transmission line; and the use of non-transmission alternatives to enhance local reliability.

CVPS is completing more than $11 million in work to install voltage support equipment approved earlier as part of the plan. In addition, targeted demand response measures and energy efficiency are being used to reduce customer demand. CVPS is also looking for new generation sites in the region as part of the broader reliability plan.

The board rejected recent criticism of the project, much of it claiming the project was unneeded.

"We recognize that load growth in Vermont has been held in check in recent years in large part due to energy efficiency efforts," the board said. "We also recognize that electric loads will likely be lower over the near term, due to the current economic downturn... However, close inspection has revealed that there are no alternative solutions that would be sufficient to avoid or defer the need for the project for the fundamental reason that the load threshold for the needed upgrades was exceeded years ago."

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