Regional leaders discuss energy

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NEWPORT, R.I. (AP) – New England and Canada must collaborate on a shared energy strategy that promotes diversified sources and a more efficient use of oil, government officials and businesses said Friday at a conference that brought together leaders from both regions.

“There’s probably nothing that’s more, right now, front and center than energy costs, energy supplies,” Rhode Island Gov. Don Carcieri said at the 30th Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers.

New England residents pay some of the highest electricity prices in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, and the region imports most of the fuel it burns to produce energy.

Government officials, business representatives and others pointed out the interconnected relationship between New England, which is forced to import the majority of the fuel it burns to produce energy, and Canada, which has a stronger exporting power.

“We need to take down the border,” said Danny Williams, a Canadian premier from Labrador and Newfoundland.

David Owens, executive vice president of Edison Electric Institute, an association of national electric companies, said it was challenging in an area like New England to find locations to build new energy transmission. That makes it difficult to import electricity to the region.

“There is the urgent need to build transmission throughout the New England region,” Owens said. “There is tremendous congestion, there are barriers to moving electricity – not only from one region to another region but also within a region.”

He said New England and Canada needed a “shared vision” that would prioritize fuel diversity, energy efficiency and make it easier to site new transmission lines.

Henry Lee, an energy expert at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, said one of the key questions is whether the region will site additional receiving stations for liquefied natural gas or import LNG from Canada.

Rhode Island and Massachusetts officials have strenuously opposed building new LNG terminals in densely populated areas, saying it’s unsafe. Carcieri has advocated for an increase in pipeline capacity from Canada, where terminals are in less populated areas and there is less local opposition.

Lee also warned that renewable energy sources, though desirable, were not a “silver bullet” solution.

“It does leave an environmental footprint,” Lee said, noting that wind energy and solar energy take up large areas of land, making it difficult to find a place to put them, especially in densely populated parts of the world.

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