As a native New Yorker, I’m always happy for an opportunity to tout my home state’s clean energy leadership. And while New York’s offshore wind commitments have dominated the headlines, this month the state announced a pair of critically important, under-the-radar initiatives: grid modernization and transmission expansion.
The American Society of Civil Engineers rates the country’s electric grid an unacceptable D+. It notes that many U.S. transmission lines were built in 1950’s and 60’s and have far outlived their 50-year life expectancy. Some lines are over a century old. That’s hardly adequate to support a competitive global economy and today’s modern technology.
New York is looking to change that.
Largest transmission expansion in three decades
Earlier this month the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO, New York’s grid operator) approved a pair of new transmission projects that would be the state’s largest transmission expansion in thirty years. Projects like these are necessary to meet the state’s ambitious clean energy standard, and they’ll help make the overall system more reliable and more affordable.
“[These] transmission projects… will benefit New York State’s electric consumers by enabling the delivery of environmentally desirable power required to meet state energy goals, relieving uneconomic congestion, and replacing aging infrastructure while enhancing New York State’s already high standard of system reliability,” NYISIO explained.
NYISO further noted just how significant the announcement was, saying “Our action constitutes one of the most significant decisions by the Board of Directors (“Board”) in the nearly twenty-year history of the New York Independent System Operator, Inc.”
This should start rectifying an issue NYISO first began assessing a decade ago.
“There have been no large-scale, high-voltage, alternating current (“AC”) transmission facilities constructed in New York State in over 30 years. This has resulted in an aging and congested transmission infrastructure that cannot adequately accommodate the state’s future energy goals…” NYISO said.
Projects like these create a more reliable system while helping families and businesses gain access to low-cost power. Studies show that transmission upgrades usually more than pay for themselves as well.
Modernizing the electric grid
Also this month, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced $30 million in new funds to modernize the state’s electric grid. Just like developing the interstate highway system in the 1950’s paved for the way decades of economic growth, expanding and updating the grid will create a 21st century clean energy economy.
“Modernizing New York’s grid will create long-lasting benefits for all New Yorkers through a more reliable and affordable system, while increasing resilience for extreme weather events and adding more renewable energy sources into our system,” Gov. Cuomo said.
The new funds are aimed at improving grid resiliency and flexibility while making it possible to bring more renewable energy onto the system.
Transmission expansion and grid updates may not generate some of the same splashy headlines as other energy news, but they’re just as important when it comes to creating a future powered clean, affordable, reliable electricity. The strength of our economy and national security will depend on exactly these sorts of projects moving forward.