Central Maine Power Co. has received approval from the Maine Public Utilities Commission for its proposed Maine Power Reliability Program. The Commission’s favorable decision represents the most significant milestone to date for the utility’s multi-year project to invest $1.4 billion in its bulk power transmission system.

“This investment will ensure continued reliable service for utility customers in Maine and throughout New England. The Commission’s endorsement of our plan is a clear signal that we’re moving in the right direction,” said Sara Burns, president of Central Maine Power. “We’re building a more robust, state-of-the-art system that will serve the region’s growing renewable energy sector and provide tremendous economic benefits to the state.”

The project has already received a final approval from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, the state’s primary environmental regulatory agency. Local approvals have also been received from more than half of the 81 cities and towns along the route. The Independent System Operator for New England has determined the project will qualify for cost sharing among utility customers across the region. CMP expects to receive its final federal environmental permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers soon, and the company is prepared to begin construction in June. The project is expected to be complete by 2015.

The MPRP includes the construction of approximately 500 miles of new or upgraded transmission lines, largely in the company’s existing transmission corridors, plus four new 345-kV substations and related facilities.

“The MPRP is one of the first steps to creating a smarter grid for Maine,” said Burns. “Together with a $200 million investment in an Advanced Meter Infrastructure we expect to complete in 2012, we’re making transformational investments for integrating new energy resources, improving energy efficiency, and managing our system for greater reliability.”

In a report submitted to the MPUC, Charles Colgan of the University of Southern Maine stated the MPRP project will sustain an average of 2,100 new jobs and provide $61 million in wages and salaries for each year of construction, adding $289 million to Maine’s Gross Domestic Product and $18 million in state sales and income tax revenues.