The future of New York state’s electricity transmission grid is taking shape as outlined in a New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) decision issued on December 17, 2015. Large population centers in the southern part of the state, namely, New York City, present significant challenges to the delivery of electricity through the state’s grid. Electricity supply for southern New York can come from two main sources. Either generating facilities can be built and operated near the load center, or transmission facilities can be constructed to move electricity generated in other parts of the state southward. The PSC, facing a choice between the two, chose the latter, identifying four separate transmission projects that it believes will ease congestion within the grid.
The PSC plays a leading role in planning and developing the state’s electricity transmission grid. Under the applicable transmission planning process, the PSC is responsible for identifying and evaluating transmission needs and then submitting those needs to the state’s transmission grid operator, the New York Independent System Operator, Inc. (NYISO), for further development of solutions to them. Following the identification of the state’s goal of reducing grid congestion—and thus energy costs—the PSC received comments, proposals and analyses provided by interested parties, transmission and generation developers, and the PSC’s staff in furtherance of that goal. In its order, the PSC described its choice as one between the build-out of generating facilities near load centers, which would include the natural gas pipeline infrastructure to support that generation, or the construction of new transmission facilities to move power from existing sources to load centers in urban areas. By finding that a robust transmission system is more consistent with the public policy goals established by the state; that a stronger transmission system will increase the grid’s capability to utilize existing generation sources, as well as new renewable generation; and that the construction of new generation has greater cost impacts, the PSC determined that there is a discernable transmission need within the state. The process now moves to NYISO, where, based on the need identified by the PSC, specific transmission solutions will be received, evaluated, selected and become eligible for cost recovery.