Regulations in the six New England states (Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont) require utilities to source a percentage of the energy they supply to their customers from renewable sources. This percentage, known as the Renewables Obligation, increases progressively over time in order to meet the decarbonisation requirements and targets set by the states. It is a mechanism designed to support large-scale renewable electricity generation, diversify energy resources, promote local energy production and foster economic development.
Meanwhile, in early 2021, the state of Massachusetts passed a landmark law, a legislative mandate to cut its greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. As a result, the state has accelerated offshore wind auctions, the third round of which awarded Iberdrola's Commonwealth Wind project a long-term contract to supply clean energy to its utilities, aware of the need to increase the installation of renewables in order to displace highly polluting fossil fuel-fired thermal generation.
Interestingly, New England is surrounded by areas with great potential for renewable energy production. The region is bordered by New York State to the west and the Canadian provinces of Quebec to the northwest and New Brunswick to the northeast. The rest is ocean.
The province of Quebec is Canada's largest producer of hydroelectric power and has huge energy surpluses that unfortunately cannot be exported to New England due to a lack of transmission lines. In this sense, New England is almost an energy island, similar to the Iberian Peninsula, whose interconnections with France are scarce and of limited capacity.
In this context, companies such as Iberdrola, through its subsidiary Avangrid, are investing in renewable projects, with almost 3,000 megawatts, including the Groton and Lempster onshore wind farms in New Hampshire, Deerfield in Vermont, Hoosac in Massachusetts and the Vineyard Wind One, Commonwealth Wind and Park City Wind projects in Massachusetts waters.
In addition, to get states to meet their emissions reduction targets, the Spanish company has proposed several interconnection projects with Canada, such as the 1,200 megawatt New England Clean Energy Connect, which proposes to transport hydroelectric power to Massachusetts through western Maine.
Will New England meet its emissions reduction targets? This case demonstrates the difficulties facing the energy transition. Politics is about finding solutions and trade-offs between all stakeholders.