Building New York State’s Energy Highway DEALING WITH AGING LINES

NEW YORK STATE, the Empire State, possesses vast resources – natural, manmade and economic – that support its approximately 19.5 million residents. Among these assets is the state’s electric power system. However, while forecasts indicate that New York should have sufficient power supplies for the foreseeable future, the state is confronting a serious challenge: an aging electric infrastructure.

Most of the electric transmission lines in New York were built more than 50 years ago, and many need to be replaced in the next 10 to 20 years. Moreover, 67 percent of New York’s generating facilities are at least 30 years old. Excess generating capacity, including renewable energy, is available in upstate New York, with demand concentrated downstate in New York City and on Long Island. But congestion at key points on the transmission system prevents available energy from reaching the high-demand areas.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo recognized the need for a coordinated response to these challenges. In his 2012 State of the State address, Cuomo set forth his plan for an energy highway, a sweeping collaboration between the public and private sectors to upgrade and modernize New York State’s electric power system.

The energy highway is intended to build New York’s next-generation energy infrastructure through billions of dollars in private investment. This initiative will drive economic growth and the creation of jobs while providing reliable, affordable clean power. We will focus on strengthening the highways and byways of the electric system, and also address issues surrounding generators entering and exiting the energy highway power system. These measures will complement the state’s aggressive and expanding energy efficiency programs. And they’ll ensure that New York is ready to accommodate greater-than-anticipated growth in demand, possible plant retirements and other factors.

To implement the energy highway initiative, the governor established a task force comprising the leaders of the principal state agencies and authorities dealing with energy, the environment and economic development. The Energy Highway Task Force’s objectives are to reduce constraints on the flow of electricity and promote economic development, job creation and investment. It intends to expand the diversity of downstate power generation, enhance reliability of the electric system, reduce emissions and protect the environment, encourage development of renewable resources and increase the efficiency of power generation.

The task force officially launched the initiative in April by holding an Energy Highway Summit in New York City, attended by more than 400 people. Federal, state and power industry officials, including Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Jon Wellinghoff, the keynote speaker, discussed the state’s energy challenges and means of meeting future demand. One week after the summit, the task force issued a request for information, seeking ideas for potential projects along with details on financing and development.

The task force received submissions from 85 entities, which provided 130 suggested actions and ideas for improving New York’s energy infrastructure. The responses received from private developers, investor-owned utilities, financial firms, environmental groups and others included proposals for generation, electric transmission and gas pipelines, as well as various ideas and policy suggestions. The proposals represented more than 25,000 megawatts of capacity from new and existing transmission and generation. The task force solicited public comment on the request for information responses. Based on its review of the responses and public comments, the task force is expected to release an energy highway action plan, with its recommendations, this fall.

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