HOLYOKE, Mass. (AP) – The operator of New England’s power grid has approved a plan that identifies areas where transmission line upgrades are needed to prevent a blackout similar to the one that cut off power to about 50 million people in the U.S. and Canada in August.

ISO New England Inc.’s board of directors on Thursday approved the plan, expected to cost between $1.5 billion to $3 billion over the next five to 10 years.

“New England’s electric generating capacity has grown by almost a third since the wholesale markets opened in 1999,” ISO New England president and chief executive Gordon van Welie said. “However, our transmission system hasn’t made the same progress and is inadequate in many areas.”

The plan identifies problem areas, including southwestern Connecticut and northwestern Vermont. Southwestern Connecticut was the area in New England most affected by the August blackout, with about 300,000 people losing power.

The 2003 Regional Transmission Expansion Plan highlights about 250 planned or proposed transmission projects in the six-state region, including 40 new projects identified in the last year.

“The range in the overall cost estimate is necessary because of the siting uncertainty of many of these projects, the fact that many of these estimates are preliminary, and the possibility that some of these projects may be replaced,” van Welie said.

Last month, ISO New England filed a proposal with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to create a regional transmission organization that would create a single control point.

ISO New England will become the transmission provider for the region, according to the proposal.

The proposal would put an independent board in charge of making all operational and market decisions, even requiring transmission owners to make necessary repairs, expand transmission lines or build new ones for added reliability. FERC has yet to rule on the proposal.

AP-ES-11-20-03 2004EST

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