New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s New York Energy Highway Task Force on April 11 issued a request for information (RFI), seeking information on various aspects of potential electric generation and transmission projects.
“If we want to truly make New York State open for the businesses of tomorrow, we cannot rely on the power supply of yesterday” Cuomo said in the statement. “We have transformed state government to make it a partner for private sector job growth and the energy highway is a prime example of how state government is now partnering with the private sector to create jobs and generate economic growth.”
In his 2012 State of the State Address delivered Jan. 4, the governor announced a plan to build a private sector funded $2bn “Energy Highway” system that will tap into the generation capacity and renewable energy potential in upstate and western New York to bring low-cost power to downstate New York.
The governor created the task force, which is co-chaired by New York Power Authority President and CEO Gil Quiniones and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joseph Martens, to oversee implementation of the energy highway initiative and enlist the private sector in an effort to upgrade and modernize New York’s electric system, according to the statement. According to the RFI, the energy highway initiative envisions a broad range of projects throughout New York: building new transmission lines or rebuilding and upgrading existing ones; repowering aging power plants to increase their efficiency and make them more environmentally friendly; and building new plants, including those powered by natural gas and by such renewable sources as wind.
“New York State’s infrastructure system for producing and delivering electricity stands among the most reliable and complex in the world,” the RFI said. “But the status quo is not acceptable. We must modernize the transmission system and eliminate the bottlenecks. We must build and repower generating plants, and we must plan now to take advantage of opportunities.”
More than half of the electricity demand in New York comes from the southeastern region of the state, which includes New York City, Long Island and Westchester County, the RFI said. However, much of the state’s excess lower-cost electricity is produced by power plants, including those using renewable energy sources, located in New York’s northern and western regions.
Most of the state’s transmission lines were built more than 50 years ago, the RFI added, noting that about 25% of the state’s transmission system will have to be replaced within the next 10 years and almost 50% will require replacement in the next 30 years.
While the utilities that own the transmission lines continue to invest in them and the system can still be operated reliably, physical limitations and congestion on the grid at times prevent excess power supplies from upstate and Canada from reaching the downstate region, where demand is greatest, according to the RFI.
These transmission bottlenecks have numerous current and potential consequences, including that many higher-cost downstate power plants must run even when cheaper plants are available because power from the cheaper plants cannot be delivered; the downstate area lacks diversity in its power supply and relies mostly on natural gas-fired generation to meet its needs; older plants in urban areas must run at peak hours, increasing air pollution and health risks in the summer months when these effects are most pronounced; and at times, bottlenecks limit downstate access to renewable power.
The RFI also noted that investments in new and upgraded transmission lines will provide economic benefits. For instance, a recent national report found that every $1bn of transmission investments “supports approximately 13,000 full-time-equivalent years of employment and $2.4bn in total economic activity.”
The RFI said the task force is looking for information on proposed projects that would address such objectives as reducing constraints on the electricity flow to and within the downstate area and expanding the diversity of power generation sources supplying downstate; assuring that long-term reliability of the electric system is maintained in the face of major system uncertainties; encouraging development of utility-scale renewable generation resources throughout New York; and increasing efficiency of power generation, especially in densely populated urban areas.
Furthermore, RFI responders should address how proposed projects would create jobs and opportunities for New Yorkers; contribute to an environmentally sustainable future for the state; apply advanced technologies that benefit system performance and operations; maximize electric ratepayer value in the operation of the electric grid; and adhere to market rules and procedures and make recommendations for improvement as appropriate.
Among other things, the RFI said respondents should provide a project description, including the type, size and location of the proposed project, as well as financial and permit/approval process information.
Responses to the RFI are due on May 30, and a conference for respondents and other interested parties will be held on April 19, according to the statement from Cuomo’s office. Following its review of the RFI responses, the task force will issue an energy highway action plan this summer.