We are told that east coast states have a need for imported renewable energy, so therefore Illinois must make the sacrifice for the good of society.
However, RICL now has some direct competition from another merchant project that has been developed that doesn’t require any sacrifice from Illinois landowners.
The Lake Erie CleanPower Connector, owned by merchant developer Lake Erie Power Corp., would deliver Canadian-generated electricity to the PJM grid that supplies power to 60 million Americans. The project would involve laying two six-inch high-voltage direct current cables from Nanticoke, Ont., to Erie County, Pennsylvania, about 100 kilometres across Lake Erie. The project is not expected to need hundreds of miles of new rights-of-way across non-renewable farmland, and therefore will not cause the kind of expensive, time-consuming public opposition that RICL has.
The transmission line is proposed to import power into PJM’s 13-state and the District of Columbia regional grid, where state renewable portfolio standards require load serving entities to meet renewable purchase mandates by supplying power from “clean” sources. It is expected to cost $1B, much less than RICL’s proposal.
The project would be entirely financed by the private sector, and the company would make money by charging a fee to have the power transmitted across the Lake. This is the same business model that RICL originally proposed to adopt, however doubts about RICL’s access to capital, and its sly insinuations in filings with PJM and FERC that it is worthy of having its costs regionally allocated, indicates that RICL may have plans to dump the cost of its project onto PJM ratepayers, including millions in Illinois.
Lake Erie Power has already applied to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the right to transmit power. The company says a lot of environmental and engineering work has been done, and it has discussed the project with Ontario’s energy and environment ministries, and Canada’s National Energy Board.
The project’s main financial backer is Toronto-based JCM Capital, a private company that until now has invested mainly in solar power projects.
It looks like RICL now has some direct competition to supply “clean” energy to east coast states. If the ICC approves RICL, there is no guarantee that the project will not be obsolete or have no customers before it is in service. If other companies, such as Lake Erie Power Corp., are able to offer renewables to load serving entities in PJM at a lower cost, RICL will fail.
The ICC should carefully consider RICL’s proposal against other options and make the decision that we, as a society, will be comfortable living with for many years to come. Illinois does not have to make the ultimate sacrifice for east coast states. Lake Erie CleanPower Connector is a win-win solution. RICL’s application should be denied.