Study: Billions needed to upgrade NY’s transmission

A significant portion of New York state’s bulk power system will reach the end of its useful life and will need to be replaced over the next 30 years. That is one of several observations and recommendations contained in the New York State Transmission Assessment and Reliability Study (STARS) group’s Phase II study report released April 30.

Noting that 85% of the state’s major transmission lines were built before 1980, the report says, “Electric transmission plays a significant role in New York’s energy highway. However, the aging transmission system is making for a bumpy ride.”

The report added that 4,700 miles of the state’s 12,000 miles of transmission lines should be replaced during the next 30 years and that, “If all of the transmission lines identified through the age-based condition assessment were to be replaced,” it could cost as much as $25bn.

“The study identifies needs and specific projects to upgrade, refurbish and/or build new transmission, primarily along existing rights of way,” James P. Laurito, STARS chair and President of Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corporation (CHGE) said in a statement accompanying the report.

STARS’ report identifies approximately $2.5bn in incremental upgrades and new projects that could be constructed either on, or with minor expansion of, existing rights of way (ROW).

Of that $2.5bn, an initial group of $400m in new projects would “provide economic benefits and continued reliable service as existing sources of energy phase out due to physical condition, economics or public policy, including a contingency plan for the potential retirement of the Indian Point nuclear plant.”

The report also notes that bottlenecks in the state’s transmission system resulted in congestion costs passed on to consumers estimated at $1.1bn in 2010 alone.

Begun in 2008, STARS is an initiative by New York’s electric transmission owners to develop a thorough assessment of the state’s transmission system and create a long-range plan for coordinated infrastructure investment in the state’s power grid. 

Six transmission companies own the state’s interconnected bulk power transmission system; all six companies are participants in the STARS initiative.

“We’re looking collectively at where it makes sense to coordinate upgrading or expanding [transmission] assets to create long-term benefits for customers throughout the state,” Laurito said. Those benefits include reliability, capacity for growth, public policy initiatives such as renewables and cost efficiency.

The STARS study complements the New York ISO’s planning process by incorporating both a physical condition and system capacity assessment of the state’s power grid, and extends the evaluation horizon to 20 years and more, but is advisory in nature.

“Each transmission owner would work through their regulatory methods to see which projects might be able to go forward,” a spokesperson for CHGE told TransmissionHub on April 30.

Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corporation is a subsidiary of CH Energy Group (NYSE:CHG).