NYISO supportive of energy highway blueprint, additional transmission

Officials with the New York ISO (NYISO) are supportive of the New York Energy Highway Blueprint, which they say is among several measures that will benefit the state’s transmission needs.

The plan outlines several recommended actions that will use public-private partnerships to help transform the state’s aging energy infrastructure. One of the plan’s four focus areas is expanding and strengthening the state’s energy highway, which NYISO officials say is needed.

“New York had the first grid in the country, and now it’s the oldest grid in the country,” Tom Rumsey, NYISO vice-president for external affairs told TransmissionHub during the NARUC Winter Committee Meetings in Washington, D.C. “A lot of the transmission lines are 80 years old, so over the next 10 years, there are a lot of transmission lines to be replaced.”

The Blueprint will facilitate many of those needed upgrades, officials said.

“It will benefit the state tremendously,” Rick Gonzales, NYISO vice-president and COO, told TransmissionHub. “New York is very congested and [the Blueprint] will improve competition [and] it will lower overall costs in New York, so it’s going to be significant,” he said.

The part of the plan known as the A.C. upgrade will add significant, and much-needed, transfer capacity between the state and two Canadian provinces.

“The Blueprint is calling for 1,000 MW of new transmission capability across two of the most congested interfaces, from the central part of the state where we have the interties with Québec and Ontario as well as some nuclear units and upstate hydro,” Gonzales said, adding, “So, it’s really looking to increase that transfer capability.”

A second transmission improvement initiative before the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) is known as the Indian Point contingency, a plan to ensure that the state can maintain reliability in case the Indian Point nuclear power plant, which has two 1,000-MW units, becomes unavailable for any reasons.

“We’ve done reliability analyses, and our latest numbers say that, in 2016 if that plant was to shut down, we’re on the order of 1,000 MW of [transmission] resources that are deficient from a transmission security perspective in southeast New York,” which includes Long Island, New York City, and the lower Hudson Valley area, Gonzales said. Approximately two-thirds of the state’s load is in the southeast New York region.

Though the power plant is approximately 30 miles north of New York City, it is downstream of the transmission constraints that the AC transmission upgrade intends to solve, and needs its own solution.

Both initiatives will add capacity and upgrade aging facilities, but because of the way the state’s transmission and load are juxtapositioned, will bring maximum benefit with minimal disruption.

“When you overlay those [transmission lines] that have to be replaced with those areas that are congested, they match,” Rumsey said. “So, instead of replacing what we have in kind, the idea is [to assess] the incremental cost, the incremental impact of adding 1,000 MW of throughput.”

In addition, he said, the lines would primarily be built on existing rights-of-way (ROW).

“It’s not 1,000 MW of new transmission line going through the Adirondacks. It’s literally improving the existing rights-of-way that we have,” he said, noting that some small adjustments may be necessary. “In some cases, it might mean slightly higher towers and maybe a foot or two more right of way clearing.”

Rumsey applauded the state for its vision in looking toward optimizing the system for the future.

“We had to have a plan, we can’t do it piecemeal,” he said. “Once you lay that plan out, the incremental cost to improve and mitigate some of these significant congestion [points] is just [minimal] compared to the value you’ll get out of it.”

The additional capacity of the transmission upgrades, NYISO officials said, will work synergistically with market mechanisms to reduce congestion, including market operators and using phase angle regulators to control power flows in a number of places, particularly on a 1,000-MW interconnection between NYISO and PJM Interconnection.

Phase angle regulators were installed on the interconnection in the 1970s as a way to mitigate loop flow effects on the PJM system when NYISO purchased power from Ontario Hydro. Now, Gonzales said, “You can direct power flows to move using the phase angle regulators … associated with classic generation redispatch,” to help relieve congestion on the transmission pathways.

Going forward, NYISO officials see the transmission upgrades of the Blueprint and the increasing sophistication of the NYISO market as working hand-in-hand to optimize the state’s transmission system.

“We want to do [the upgrades] consistent with competitive markets,” Rumsey said. “That’s incredibly important to us and to New York State. We want to continue the value of competitive markets, and you don’t want to do something now to short-circuit all of that.”