The power grid is the backbone of the energy system. It is how electricity gets to our homes, communities and businesses. Grid operators run systems that collect billions of dollars from consumers to support the transmission, substations, and other infrastructure needed to transmit power from electric generators through the grid to the consumer. Decisions made around the power grid impact whether a transmission line is needed, how infrastructure is paid for, and whether clean energy, efficiency and other important energy resources are fairly considered.

Currently, grids in the greater northeast largely operate and plan independently of each other. However, as the need to displace fossil fuel usage with electricity grows, and resources like extensive offshore wind are added to the system, there is an increased need for grids to coordinate more directly. Coordination can produce clear benefits such as improving reliability, balancing wind and other resources, expanding ways energy efficiency can reduce demand on the system, reducing costs, and creating a more inclusive and responsive approach for community engagement in infrastructure siting.

Acadia Center is taking on the barriers to better grid coordination with our colleague clean energy group Nergica in Quebec, and the engagement of other professionals in both the U.S. and Canada. This effort, called the Northeast Grid Planning Forum (NGPF) is meant to encourage discussion around the potential benefits of increased grid coordination. Focusing on coordination between eastern U.S. and Canadian grid, the Northeast Grid Planning Forum envisions a future where collaborative energy system planning empowers stakeholders in the northeast United States and eastern Canada. This blog will delve into the key aspects of the Forum’s approach, its goals, and the imperative need for cross-border collaboration.

An Opportunity for Collaboration and Mutual Benefit:

Currently, the lack of coordination between states and provinces hinders the potential for mutual benefits. The result is higher costs and fewer tools to meet our collective goals. The current approach to grid planning, development, and operations occurs in silos, limiting the potential to capture these substantial mutual consumer, economic and system benefits. The Northeast Grid Planning Forum seeks to overcome this barrier through a deliberative stakeholder process that formalizes collaboration among states and provinces. Roundtable processes—environmental justice and community mobilization, interregional planning, First Nation and tribal, and clean energy procurement—aim to create a shared policy, legal, regulatory, and market/tariff toolset. With the growing role power grids play in climate and consumer issues, the Northeast Grid Planning Forum aspires to set a new paradigm in how stakeholders engage and influence power grid decisions.

Why Act Now?:

Communities have expressed frustration with rising power rates, reliability concerns, and a lack of meaningful participation in planning processes. The legacy approach to energy system development creates conflicts, making a coordinated and inclusive strategy essential. With the need to address reliability, affordability, climate, and responsive siting, the Forum aims to capture economic and consumer benefits while achieving decarbonization goals.

Challenge and Opportunity:

Modernizing energy systems to meet climate goals is a critical task. Independent studies indicate that the region must increase power grid output significantly. The current dysfunction, characterized by a lack of coordination and a focus on short- and medium-term reliability, hinders the systematic effort to coordinate resources. Collaboration emerges as a better way to power the region, offering enormous mutual benefits through a cooperative approach to energy system planning.

Launching a Dialogue for Interregional Action:

To build political legitimacy for clean energy, barriers slowing progress must be addressed. This includes reforming how system balancing authorities and system operators prioritize reliable clean energy, ensuring clean energy investments benefit communities with poor health and housing, and addressing concerns with clean energy projects and infrastructure siting.

Snapshot of Interregional Issues and Opportunities:

The Northeast Power Coordinating Council reliability zone serves as the target region for the Forum’s efforts. Various projects and developments, such as offshore wind targets, tidal power, and hydroelectric exploration, present both challenges and opportunities for interregional collaboration.

Shared Benefits Abound:

Multilateral grid and energy system coordination offer numerous benefits, including dynamic two-way power flows between provinces and states. The Forum seeks to catalyze discussions among energy planners, government leaders, and community stakeholders to address policy and social concerns in energy system planning. Priorities include energy planning processes, infrastructure development, and market mechanisms that support clean energy.

The Northeast Grid Planning Forum presents a groundbreaking effort to unite North Americans for a net-zero future. By fostering collaboration, addressing key challenges, and prioritizing shared benefits, the Forum aims to create a resilient and competitive energy future for the region. Interested stakeholders are encouraged to join this transformative interregional initiative. Acadia Center is proud to be pioneering these efforts with Nergica for the clean energy future the region deserves.