MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott and four other New England governors on Wednesday announced their support for reforming the region’s electricity market, and its governance, to better address the region’s future energy needs and efforts to address climate change.
The letter was signed by the governors of every New England state except New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu. An email to Sununu’s press office seeking comment was not returned by press time Wednesday.
“I’ve long said our work to address climate change can and must also work to make energy more affordable for Vermonters, so I’m pleased to be a part of this regional approach to achieving both of these priorities,” Scott said in a prepared statement. “With a strategic, multi-state approach we can have a greater impact on both climate change mitigation and energy affordability.”
According to the statement signed by the governors, there’s a significant gap between the electricity system needed to support “deep economy-wide decarbonization” and the current stage of the grid, and its management.
“Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont are deeply committed to addressing climate change and cost-effectively reducing economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, recognizing some states have higher goals,” the statement says. “To achieve these goals, we need a decarbonized grid capable of supporting the accelerated adoption of more sustainable electric, heating, and transportation solutions for families and businesses.”
The governors’ statement calls for reform of the regional electricity market, including transmission, the planning process, and the governance of the ISO-New England, the independent system operator for the New England power system.
The current system, the governors said, is “based on a market design that is misaligned with our States’ clean energy mandates and thereby fails to recognize the full value of our States’ ratepayer-funded investments in clean energy resources.”
That system lacks the design and tools to accommodate a future system with “more clean, dynamic and distributed resources,” they said, and is based on a governance structure “that is not transparent to the states and customers it serves, with a mission that is not responsive to States’ legal mandates and policy priorities.”
“Recognizing these shortfalls, it is time to make the necessary changes to meet the challenges of our 21st century energy transition,” the governors said.
Maine Gov Janet Mills, in a prepared statement, said it is “far past time” to reform management of New England’s power grid.
“The wholesale electricity markets must advance and support clean energy laws and policies, as the states demand decarbonization and markets and consumers support more renewables,” Mills said. “ISO-New England must keep pace with state priorities and it must be more transparent and accountable in its decision making, broadening its focus to include consumer and environment concerns as well as reliability and cost.”
“To meet to our Administration’s goal of net zero emissions in Massachusetts by 2050, the Commonwealth needs a regional electricity system that can support the delivery of clean, affordable, and reliable energy to residents and businesses,” Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said. “My administration looks forward to working with our partner states, ISO-New England and stakeholders to build a more transparent, modern and cost-effective power system that will allow New England states to meet our ambitious climate change and clean energy goals while creating a better future for our residents.”
A spokesperson for Holyoke, Mass.-based ISO-New England said late Wednesday that the organization looks forward to working with the governors.
"ISO New England, the New England states, and market participants have a long history of working together to tackle the challenges facing the power system, and we expect that to continue," spokesperson Matt Kakley said. "Maintaining reliable, competitively-priced electricity through the clean energy transition will require broad collaboration, and the common vision of the New England governors will play an important role in the discussions currently underway on the future of the grid."
A “vision document” outlining specific reform goals is expected to be released through the New England States Committee on Electricity (NESCOE), a non-profit entity that represents the collective perspective of the New England states in regional electricity matters.