New York commission advances transmission, Indian Point planning

The New York State Public Service Commission on April 18 took action on several major items highlighted in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Energy Highway Blueprint issued by the Energy Highway Task Force in October.

These actions are designed to: ease transmission congestion, which will help lower electricity prices in downstate New York and support the development of clean energy projects throughout the state; plan for possible major power plant retirements to maintain a reliable power grid; and expand natural gas utility service to homeowners and businesses in New York State to lower energy costs.

The Energy Highway initiative, introduced in Cuomo’s 2012 State of the State address, is a centerpiece of his Power NY agenda, designed to ensure that New York’s energy grid is the most advanced in the nation and promotes increased business investment in the state.

“A dynamic, strong economy demands a modern, responsive energy production and delivery system, and the Energy Highway initiative will create an energy grid that will help build our economy and enable New York to grow and prosper,” said Commission Chairman Garry Brown in an April 18 statement. “In addition, given the significant disruption that can be caused by storms such as Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy, these Energy Highway projects will also be designed to help create a stronger, more resilient energy infrastructure.”

New transmission capacity in the works

Following recommendations in the Energy Highway Blueprint, the commission said it would establish a first-of-its-kind combined proceeding under Article VII of the Public Service Law for consideration of alternating current (AC) transmission projects that meet the commission’s objectives for congestion relief in the Mohawk/Hudson Valley corridor.

The commission’s actions respond to the Blueprint’s call for investing $1bn to develop 1,000 MW of new AC transmission capacity, with preference for projects built along existing rights-of-way or involving the upgrade of existing lines, to mitigate environmental impacts. Easing the current transmission constraints will enhance system reliability and supply diversity, and will provide economic and environmental benefits by permitting excess power from upstate sources, including renewable energy facilities, to reach the downstate areas of greatest need and reduce downstate emissions. New transmission capacity will also provide regional benefits in terms of the increased reliability and system flexibility.

The commission had solicited statements of intent from prospective project developers. The result was the identification of 16 possible projects suggested by six developers. The commission is expected to grant certificates and cost recovery to the projects that best meet its congestion reduction and other public policy goals at the least cost to ratepayers. An Oct. 1 deadline has been set for the initial Article VII applications.

Commission advances Indian Point contingency planning

Regarding major power plant retirements, the commission addressed portions of the plan filed by Consolidated Edison Co. of New York and the New York Power Authority (NYPA) to mitigate the impact that would occur if the 2,040-MW Indian Point nuclear power plant has to be retired if the plant’s two units fail to get Nuclear Regulatory Commission license extensions. As part of that proceeding, the commission:

  • Approved contingency program goals designed to achieve demand reductions from energy efficiency, demand response and on-site generation projects, and directed Con Edison to work with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, and in consultation with NYPA, to file a detailed implementation plan.
  • Directed Con Edison and New York State Electric and Gas, working with NYPA, to begin development of transmission owner transmission solutions to resolve reliability issues that would develop if Indian Point were to be retired.
  • Proposed that costs that would be incurred if Indian Point were retired should be recovered from the beneficiaries of the contingency plan who would otherwise suffer from reliability problems if Indian Point closes without the benefit of the plan’s remedial measures.
  • Directed staff to issue a straw proposal to best identify these beneficiaries. Parties will be able to comment on the straw proposal before the commission makes a final decision.

Commission works on gas pipeline issues

Finally, staff reported to the commission that it is seeking additional comment on how utilities calculate construction costs for pipelines to serve new natural gas customers. Staff is also developing a proposal to issue for public comment regarding additional utility-reporting requirements intended to help the utilities and the commission to better manage, track and ultimately fulfill customer requests for natural gas service.

In addition, staff reported to the commission that it will be collaborating with the utilities and other stakeholders and interested parties to improve utility websites and other outreach and education tools regarding the benefits and risks of converting to natural gas, as well as the process for conversion.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.