The Northern Pass hydroelectric project cleared a regulatory hurdle on the last day of the year, as the independent system operator of the New England power grid determined that the project would not cause any adverse effect on grid reliability or operations.
Any new, large power project has to apply to ISO-NE to ensure that it can connect to the grid once it goes live, without disrupting or otherwise impeding the network that manages power supply in the six-state region.
"Northern Pass had to prove to ISO that it could interconnect without causing any problems for ISO or other participants," said Mike Skelton, a spokesman for Northern Pass Transmission and its parent company, Northeast Utilities.
"We are pleased with ISO New England's findings on this issue, as it's the culmination of years of hard work by our project team," he said. "We look forward to continuing this progress as the federal and state permitting processes continue in 2014."
The ISO notification was received by Northeast Utilities on Dec. 31, in a letter from Stephen J. Rourke, vice president for system planning at ISO. Rourke noted that the New England Power Pool Reliability Committee, set up to advise ISO on such matters, did not vote in support of the determination.
"The NEPOOL Reliability Committee is separate from ISO. It's made up of market participants, and it gives an advisory opinion," said Skelton. "They reviewed this issue and the vote to approve was 55 percent in favor, but in order to have a final approval of that committee you need two-thirds. There were some participants on the committee, some power generators and others, who did not vote in favor for a variety of reasons, but ultimately that's an advisory opinion, and this letter represents ISO's final determination."
Ultimate authority to approve the plan rested with the ISO System Planning Department, led by Rourke.
The approval comes with certain conditions, including a limit of no more than 1,200 megawatts of imports into the United States from Quebec, which is what Northern Pass has planned all along. The project is also prohibited from exporting power from New England to Quebec.
The ISO ruling anticipates an in-service date for Northern Pass of June 2017.