The Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition (HVSEC) in 2015, after a lengthy legal and public relations campaign, gained significant concessions from the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) and developers regarding their proposed $1 billion transmission project, securing promises that the work would be done without the use of eminent domain and that potential towers would conform to the existing right-of-way in both width and height. While these concessions are important, they are merely promises which have not been codified into any law or statute, and thus should receive our continued vigilance.
HVSEC also presented evidence during the proceeding that demonstrated these transmission upgrades failed a basic cost-benefit analysis and were not needed, but the PSC sidestepped the debate by qualifying the projects as necessary based on public policy needs, a rarely-used procedural tactic that is subjective in nature. Now, the project continues and HVSEC remains committed to keeping a close eye on the next phase and informing the public of all new developments.
The “wins” for Hudson Valley residents
The HVSEC and citizens who joined its campaign produced compelling scientific and technical findings that led the PSC to transform its regulatory framework for the project. One early success was persuading the agency to incorporate Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s preference for lines within existing, rather than new, rights-of-way. Expert reports commissioned by the HVSEC on the project’s negative visual and environmental impacts led the PSC to eliminate design options that posed more serious threats.
Despite these victories, there are no guarantees transmission lines will be built to this standard. The process is far from over and warrants continued monitoring to ensure these hard-fought wins are not eroded.
HVSEC and the PSC have agreed to disagree
Since its inception, HVSEC has advocated that need should be established prior to moving forward with the project – a different order of operations than the PSC’s preferred approach.
To help contribute to the general record available to all stakeholders in the proceeding, HVSEC was awarded intervenor funding for specific quantitative research completed by energy experts and scientists.
Research delivered by these independent scientists and professionals that there is no need for additional overhead transmission lines, particularly given the established decline in electricity usage over the past five years, and projected declines for the future. HVSEC made the case that $1+ billions of ratepayer money would be better spent on projects with tangible benefits.
The PSC disagreed, and is proceeding with the project based on “public policy justifications.” The public policy process and justification is another new process for NYS. HVSEC looks forward to participating actively in this new phase.
“We are very pleased,” said Greg Quinn, spokesman for HVSEC, “that in 2016 the New York Public Service Commission publicly recognized that this project could feasibly be constructed inside existing energy corridors. We feel that without the Coalition’s intervention this recognition would not have happened. This policy, if followed, eliminates the threat of eminent domain. But final decisions about routes are not likely to be made for at least three years. HVSEC is absolutely committed to watch-dog the process, making every effort to assure that eminent domain and the prospect of ruined landscapes do not reappear.”
The decision to proceed with the project based on public policy justifications “…is disappointing,” said Quinn, “but it does not change our mission and our commitment to provide the opportunity for residents and stakeholders to participate in the process. This participation is essential to ensure appropriate oversight of government agencies and private developers as they create new processes and decide how much money New York State residents will pay.”
The Coalition will continue to facilitate efforts to build and maintain a superior, efficient, modern grid. “We want to bring people together around one table to share, educate, and create common ground,” said Quinn.
About the Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition
The Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition includes municipal officials; environmental, cultural, historic and land preservation organizations; businesses; and residents who support creation of a modern, comprehensive energy plan for the Hudson Valley and New York State. The HVSEC was formed in 2014 to advocate for constituents and stakeholders impacted by the new high voltage overhead transmission lines proposed by the NYS PSC. The Coalition has worked for over three years to address five primary issues:
(originally published Summer 2016)
After several years of active engagement (summarized here), we have now spent the first half of 2016 waiting for an update on the AC Transmission proceeding that has been a focus for many Hudson Valley residents since 2013.
This past December, the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) ruled that there is a need, driven by “Public Policy Requirements,” for new 345 kV major electric transmission lines to move power from upstate New York to downstate. The PSC determined that lines should be built in two segments: Segment A running from Western New York to the Albany area; and Segment B extending from the Albany area to Pleasant Valley within existing corridors. In response to public pressure surrounding the project, the PSC mandated that there be no creation of new rights-of-way and no new crossings of the Hudson River.
A few days ago, the first bits of news on the next phase of the operation became available. In response to the PSC’s ruling, the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO), the operator of New York’s power grid, solicited a brand new round of submissions for transmission and non-transmission proposals within the segments defined by the PSC. While detailed information on each proposal is not yet available, we do have a summary of the proposals below.
The quick takeaway: three of the original applicants have submitted proposals, and there are submissions from three new developers, including one that has proposed a non-transmission alternative. Here is what we know so far about them:
- National Grid/Transco submitted two AC transmission projects, one for Segment A (the Western New York segment) and one for Segment B (the Hudson Valley segment).
- NextEra submitted three AC transmission projects, one for Segment A and two alternatives for Segment B.
- North America Transmission submitted six AC transmission projects: four alternatives for Segment A and two alternatives for Segment B.
- A new developer, ITC New York Development, submitted two AC transmission projects, one for Segment A and one for Segment B.
- Another new developer, AvanGrid (a subsidiary of Iberdrola) submitted two alternative HVDC transmission projects. Since these are designated as DC projects, they are likely proposed to run underground.
- Finally, Glidepath, a company that appears to do mostly battery-storage projects, submitted a non-transmission project consisting of a Distributed Generation Portfolio. The size indicated for this project is only 112 MW, which raises a question as to whether it’s intended to be a standalone project or to complement other projects.
As we have mentioned in the past, the NYISO process is focused exclusively on the viability and sufficiency of projects, their cost-effectiveness and whether they meet the criteria set out by the PSC, and it does not allow for any formal public input. State agencies and officials also do not have any jurisdiction over the NYISO process. However, the NYISO does not make any final decision as to what (if anything) will actually be built—it will make a recommendation to the PSC, which will accept or reject it, and if a transmission alternative is chosen, it will then begin a full Article VII review (“Part B”), which will determine whether a certificate for the selected transmission proposal is granted.
Our legal team plans to monitor the NYISO’s June 7th meeting regarding this project. Once we have a better idea of what the proposals look like, we will share whatever updated information we have, and advise whether there is any action we plan to take before the NYISO makes its recommendation back to the PSC.
Regarding the final in-service date for a potential project, the PSC said in its December ruling, “Ideally, the new facilities would be in service prior to the summer capability period of 2019.”
Potential timeline moving forward (speculative and subject to change):