The operator of the state's high-voltage electric grid has thrown cold water on Gov. Andrew Cuomo's ambitious clean energy plan that seeks to get half of the state's electricity from renewable energy by 2030.
The New York Independent System Operator, which also runs the state's wholesale electric markets, told state regulators in a filing last Friday that adding the amount of solar panels and wind turbines to the grid needed to achieve the goal, known as the Clean Energy Standard, would overload the transmission system. It also would require the state to dramatically increase the amount of reserve capacity it sets aside.
But in a sharply worded rebuttal, Richard L. Kauffman, who chairs the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, called the NYISO filing "misleading, incomplete and grossly inaccurate," saying that technology and "simply smarter markets and operations allow the system to easily accommodate renewable resources."
While NYISO was careful to point out that it supports Cuomo's vision, the North Greenbush-based operation said New York would have to add a large amount of new transmission lines and would have to study more how to manage the added renewable electricity generation, which is naturally intermittent, that would be added to the grid.
Transmission upgrades and new transmission lines are expensive to build and even more unpopular with residents who don't like to see the large structures near their neighborhoods.
"Based on the volume of new renewable generation resources and the locations for build out projected in the (state), the NYISO estimates that one likely transmission development scenario could require nearly 1,000 miles of new bulk power transmission," the NYISO said in its filing with the state Public Service Commission in Albany.
That additional transmission capacity needed already accounts for the two current large-scale transmission projects in the works known as the AC Transmission and Western New York projects.
"Given the potential gravity and magnitude of the (Clean Energy Standard) related transmission additions, the NYISO believes it would be prudent for the commission to study this question in depth before taking any final action to implement the 50 (percent) by (2030) initiative," the NYISO wrote.
The NYISO filing was submitted to the PSC, which must approve Cuomo's clean energy plan, two days after the official public comment period ended, although the NYISO asked that the document be included in the public record for the case.
Gavin Donohue, president of the Independent Power Producers of New York, which represents power plant owners, says the state should listen to the NYISO's concerns because the NYISO knows better than anyone what potential impact Cuomo's plan could have on the grid.
The NYISO places about 17 percent of the state's electricity resources, including imports from Canada, in reserve. With so much additional wind and solar, the NYISO said the reserve margin would have to be increased to as high to 45 percent.
"The state needs to acknowledge that as more variable resources come online, more flexible resources will be needed to accommodate the higher number of peaks and valleys," Donohue said. "We can achieve the 50 by 30 goal, but not without also investing in flexible resources needed to maintain reliability. That's what the NYISO is pointing out."
Kauffman said the NYISO was "held captive" by such stakeholders as the Independent Power Producers of New York that advocates for "the interests of fossil fuel producers."
Kauffman said the PSC would work with all stakeholders to identify and address such challenges "in a manner that is independent of the economic interest of incumbent fossil generators that you seem to be protecting."
On Wednesday, Cuomo did receive some good news for his Clean Energy Standard when Entergy Corp. said it lined up a solution that will prevent it from closing its FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant in Oswego.
Entergy said it's in talks with Exelon Corp. to buy the power plant, which is essential to reaching Cuomo's clean energy goals in the state.
Entergy was planning to close the plant by January.