AG Campbell Sees Red Where Others See Green


Above, an ISO chart showing the sharp changes being implemented. More on the complexities and cost is available at this ISO website.

Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell’s Office has joined the Maine Public Advocate, the Connecticut Office of the Consumer Counsel, the New Hampshire Office of the Consumer Advocate and the Rhode Island Division of Public Utilities and Carriers, collectively known as the Consumer Advocates of New England (CANE), in sending a letter to ISO New England (ISO-NE) expressing concerns about the projected dramatic increase in money spent on asset condition projects by New England Transmission Owners (NETOs) - costs that will ultimately be shouldered by ratepayers. NETOs are the individual utility companies who own and operate the region’s transmission lines.

Asset condition projects involve the replacement or refurbishment of existing components of electricity transmission system facilities, like poles or wires. Since February 2023, the projected amount of money NETOs will spend on asset condition projects has increased by nearly 50 percent. Now, approximately $5 billion customer-funded investments in asset condition projects are proposed, planned or under construction throughout New England placing a significant and unjustified burden on ratepayers who are already paying some of the highest electricity prices in the country.

“It is simply unfair to ask ratepayers to foot the bill for transmission investments that will cost upwards of $5 billion, without providing an adequate understanding of why these projects are needed or offering a meaningful opportunity for stakeholder review and feedback,” said AG Campbell. “Together, my consumer advocate counterparts and I are asking the utilities to pause investments in new, non-emergent asset condition projects until substantial reforms and a transparent process are considered and implemented.”

While ISO-NE, an independent system operator that oversees bulk electricity transmission lines within the region, has a regional system planning process for transmission system projects in place this process does not include asset condition projects. The current process for consideration of asset condition projects provides stakeholders, including consumers, with minimal notice and opportunity to review and weigh-in on these expenditures before projects start. As a result, asset condition projects are subject to little regional review compared to transmission projects developed under the regional system planning process.

The AG’s Office and other CANE members are challenging the lack of scrutiny given to all asset condition projects under the current ISO-NE process and working with stakeholders at ISO-NE’s Planning Advisory Committee to develop and implement reforms that would substantially increase the visibility into, and opportunities for input on, the scope, scale, and pace of asset condition projects. These reforms include objective criteria to evaluate the need for and solutions to asset condition issues on the transmission system, a comprehensive and publicly available database of asset condition information, and meaningful opportunity for stakeholder review of asset condition investments.

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