September 27, 2001
Experts consider a range of issues affecting New York's energy future
The Sept. 11 terrorism in New York City strengthens the arguments for increasing and diversifying New York's energy supplies, participants in a Sept. 20 panel discussion on energy said.
The wide-ranging hour-long discussion took place Sept. 20 at The Council's Annual Meeting. Participants in the discussion were:
- Erin Crotty, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
- Maureen Helmer, chairwoman of the state Public Service Commission.
- Dan Larchamp, director of markets, tariffs, and rates for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
- Bill Museler, president and CEO of New York's Independent System Operator.
- David Owens, senior vice president of the Edison Electric Institute, a nationwide association of shareholder-owned electric companies.
Much of the conversation focused on how the Sept. 11 terrorism will prompt energy companies and regulators to factor possible future terrorism into their strategic planning. Specific topics discussed include:
- Power plants, transmission lines, nuclear facilities, and others make visible and vulnerable potential targets for terrorists, Museler said. But New York's energy system includes "reasonable backup" capability in case some facilities are damaged by terrorists, he added.
- The possibility of terrorism makes it more important than ever that New York complete the transition to competitive markets, Larchamp of FERC said. In particular, he said, New York needs additional redundancy in its natural gas system to make the state secure from possible terrorist attacks on that system.
- For a variety of reasons, including the possibility of future terrorism, New York must have a more diverse range of fuels powering its electricity-generating facilities, the panelists said.
Owens, from the Edison Electric Institute, noted that coal still represents 52 percent of the nation's overall energy supply; he said the nation needs to find more ways to use it. He noted that there is outstanding research on progress on different clean-coal technologies, including the de-sulfurization of goal.
Crotty, the DEC commissioner, said any coal-fired plants in New York would need to meet existing air- and water-emission regulations, and that research on better coal technologies should be encouraged.
- Fuel cells are a potentially viable technology, Owens said, but their cost remains an issue. Their market performance over the next three years will help show if they can be competitive in the energy market, he added.
- Panelists said that New York can encourage fuel diversity and conservation by continuing to investigate such alternatives as solar and wind energy.
- Regional transmission organizations and electricity grids that span the entire northeastern United States are inevitable and must be carefully planned. FERC has required the entities that manage all states; electricity grids to submit plans for such regional systems.