September 24, 2003
PSC, ISO officials review energy issues highlighted by blackout
The August 14 blackout reinforces the need for improvements to New York’s electricity generating capacity and transmission systems, a top official from New York’s Independent System Operator (ISO) has told The Business Council.
In particular, New York State needs to find a way to encourage
investments in transmission upgrades, add more generating
capacity, and replace its expired plant-siting law to facilitate
the siting of generating facilities, Garry Brown, vice president
for strategic development at the Independent System Operator
said Sept. 18 at The Business Council’s Annual Meeting.
William Flynn, chairman of the state Public Service Commission (PSC), also addressed energy issues at the Annual Meeting in remarks Sept. 19. Both speakers highlighted issues in light of the August 14-15 blackout.
Flynn and Brown both reviewed the state of New York’s energy systems in the moments before the late-afternoon blackout August 14. An unprecedented surge of power into the state from west of New York prompted the outage.
Both credited the work of utilities, generators, and their workers for heroic efforts to restore power.
“Thirty hours is an awfully long time for the electricity to be out, but 30 hours is a remarkably short time to bring the system back,” Brown said.
Flynn rejected the notion that deregulation is to blame for
the event, noting that the blackout was apparently rooted
in transmission ills out of state, and that transmission in
New York State remains regulated. He also noted that a decline
in transmission investments in New York State began long before
deregulation began, and reflects other factors. In 1988, New
York invested $304 million in transmission projects. In 1994,
it was less than half that, $116 million.
Even though there is no evidence that transmission failures in New York played a role in the August 14 blackout, the event has put a spotlight on transmission issues here, Brown said.
He said New York's last major major transmission upgrade was in 1988, and that the ISO hopes to work with market participants on common obstacles to transmission projects — typically, the same “thorny issues” involving how things are built and who pays.
Other recommendations that emerged in these presentations include:
- Reliability standards that are mandatory in New York State
and voluntary elsewhere should be mandatory nationwide,
both Flynn and Brown said. Flynn said New York should retain
the right to impose standards even tougher than national
standards if it chooses.
- The state should stay on its current course in energy
policy, Flynn said. “I don’t see the state turning
away from energy industry restructuring,” he said.
In particular, the state should continue preferring market-based
solutions and adjustments to problems that arise
Staying the course also means the state should keep its current emphasis on renewable energy, energy efficiency, demand reduction, and distributed generation, all of which he said complement restructuring.
- New York’s must act promptly to replace its expired
plant-siting law, Article X of the state Public Service
Law, Brown said. The previous law, which was intended to
expedite the siting of power plants, expired last December.
“It’s a sin that nine months have gone by without
it,” Brown said.
- New York must increase its generating capacity, Brown
said. A mere 2 percent load growth a year – which
an economic spurt could produce – means New York would
need the equivalent of a 750-megawatt plant every year,
Brown said. The desire to replace aging plants would further
increase the need for new generating capacity, he added.
“In the near term, we’re going to be okay.” Brown said. “In the longer term, we could be in trouble.”