New York blueprint calls for $1bn investment in 1,000 MW of new transmission capacity

The recently released New York Energy Highway Task Force’s blueprint calls to add up to 3,200 MW in new transmission and generation, and includes plans to invest $1bn for 1,000 MW of new electric transmission capacity.

The blueprint also calls to accelerate $1.3bn of investment in existing transmission and distribution projects to enhance reliability, improve safety, reduce costs to customers and reduce emissions, according to an Oct. 22 statement from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Plans further include to invest $250m to develop smart grid technologies and create the “most advanced” energy management control center in the nation; initiate field studies of Atlantic Ocean offshore wind development potential; initiate $250m in new renewable energy projects, leveraging $425m in private investment and creating 270 MW of new power; modernize and repower existing inefficient, high emission plants to create 750 MW of power, enabled by about $1.5bn investment; and generate 1,200 MW of additional capacity through an approximate $1bn investment to help meet reliability needs to address retiring power plants across the state.

“The energy highway will ensure that businesses and residential consumers across New York State have access to the affordable power they need to plan for not just today, but also for the future,” Cuomo said in the statement. “An economy built to last requires a power infrastructure that gives businesses the confidence and security they need to hire new workers and plan for years to come, and this blueprint continues to position New York State as a national leader in clean energy production and investment.”

The blueprint recommended steps to reduce the time required for energy infrastructure development, including executing a first-of-its kind solicitation of new transmission projects by the state Department of Public Service (DPS) to initiate private sector development to achieve public policy goals.

The task force recommended that the DPS invite developers and transmission owners to file notices of intent to build projects that would increase the capacity for transfer of electric power between upstate and central New York and the lower Hudson Valley and New York City, thus relieving existing bottlenecks. The DPS should call for each developer of a proposed project that meets certain objectives to submit a letter of intent to state regulators, providing a detailed project description.

Following these submissions, the DPS will begin a pre-filing, multi-agency review and evaluation process leading to establishing deadlines for applications. After complete applications for certificates have been received, a coordinated hearing and decision phase of the certification process will begin and will include an evaluation of the economic benefits and environmental impacts of each project. Subject to a determination granting a certificate, projects meeting the objectives may begin construction in 2014, the blueprint added.

The blueprint noted that the state’s electric transmission system faces a longstanding problem of congestion at critical points on the pathways linking upstate and downstate New York. The reduction of in-state transmission constraints and development of additional transmission capacity are expected to reduce air emissions in the New York City area, support the development of upstate renewable energy projects and lower wholesale energy prices for downstate energy consumers, according to the blueprint.

The blueprint called to initiate transmission upgrades to help facilitate renewable energy development in northern New York and to initiate alternating current transmission upgrades to increase the capacity to move excess power from upstate to downstate.

Blueprint’s origins

In his 2012 State of the State Address delivered Jan. 4, Cuomo 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.

The task force on April 11 issued a request for information (RFI), seeking information on various aspects of potential electric generation and transmission projects.

According to Cuomo’s Oct. 22 statement, the task force created the blueprint after reviewing 130 responses provided by 85 entities including investor-owned utilities, private developers and investors in response to the RFI.

Among those entities was NRG Energy (NYSE:NRG), which, as Jon Baylor, director of development for New York with NRG, told TransmissionHub in June, is looking to repower its existing electric generation units in Astoria, Queens in New York City – an effort a company official said “obviates the need for additional, more expensive transmission coming in the city.”

The company submitted the project in response to the RFI issued by the task force. NRG also submitted a response to the RFI involving the company’s proposal to convert one of its coal plants, located just south of Buffalo, N.Y., in the town of Dunkirk, into a natural gas combined-cycle plant.

David Gaier, communications manager with NRG, told TransmissionHub on Oct. 22 that the company is reviewing the broad blueprint and looks forward to seeing the details.

Atlantic Wind Connection CEO Robert Mitchell told TransmissionHub on Oct. 22 that such plans as the blueprint benefit the country’s nascent offshore wind energy industry.

He noted that if such states as New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland “are going to reach their renewable goals, the only renewable energy source that has the potential to generate enough electricity to meet those goals is offshore wind. That’s why you have governors from both parties [who] have been promoting offshore wind.”

The AWC project configuration will allow up to 7,000 MW of offshore wind turbine capacity to be integrated into the regional power grid operated by PJM Interconnection, increasing system reliability and reducing congestion costs for ratepayers in the corridor between Washington, D.C., and the metropolitan New Jersey/New York City area, according to the company.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3058 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares, chief editor for TransmissionHub, has covered the U.S. power industry for the past 15 years. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines. She can be reached at clinares@endeavorb2b.com.