June 15, 2015. A policy paper, The
project: An idea whose time
passed?, was published today by the National
Institute for Science, Law
& Public Policy (NISLAPP) in Washington, D.C.
by Senior Research Fellow, Timothy Schoechle, PhD,
the analysis of risks says the proposed billion-dollar transmission
conceived within an
out-of-date “cost-of-service” and fossil fuel-based energy paradigm and
should not be built.
York State would be making an enormous and costly, wasteful, and
mistake to allow the Hudson Valley transmission project to proceed any
says Dr. Schoechle. “The ongoing capital spending trajectory of the
industry places it on a collision course with the technology and
distributed renewable energy—the path to an abundant, clean energy
NY State and the nation”.
Points in the
- A need for additional power lines
to serve New York City is not supported by measurable evidence or by
any independent determination of need. This was well
documented in a report by Gidon Eshel (2014), “Hudson Valley Transmission Line
Plan: Assessing Need and Alternatives”. (https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Gidon_Eshel)
- The proposed power line project only serves the
financial interests of utilities and suppliers increasing their bottom
line, since all costs can be charged back to ratepayers. Billion-dollar electricity industry investments
should advance the economic interests of residents of New York City and
NY State, as with renewable energy and distributed (local) generation,
not try to save an obsolete electricity system.
- New York utility customers paid 40% more for
electricity over the past decade while the price of natural gas, the
principal fuel used to generate it, has dropped 39%. One
reason for this irony is capital spending by utilities, primarily on
generation and transmission—$17 billion in that same period. Rates in
New York are estimated to go up another 63% in the next decade. This
rate trajectory is unsustainable and unjustified, both in New York and
in the nation.
- The proposed transmission line project would renew
a commitment to centralized electricity generation (largely fossil
fuel-based) for yet another half-century, exacerbating the risks of
climate change and global warming.
- Alternative investment encouraging local,
distributed generation can move New York State toward sustainable
long-term clean energy independence and abundance at a reasonable cost. Such
investment can also improve economic competitiveness, preserve natural
resources, enhance national and community security, reduce potential
health risks, improve resiliency from severe weather events, and help
forestall the threat from man-made global warming.”
- Renewable generation, especially solar PV, and
‘distributed’ (locally-based) grid technologies are just as efficient
at either small or large scale. By
adding information technology, distributed (local) systems can actually
be more efficient than conventional
centralized systems and should be what we are investing in now.
- The nearer electricity can be produced to where it
is used, the lower the transmission losses can be. With distributed solar within the distribution
grid, long-distance transmission losses are completely avoided. With
on-site generation and storage, even the local distribution losses are
the entire system could enjoy an efficiency improvement of 8–15 % with
localized generation and storage.”
- A structural transformation of the energy economy
is underway—a shift in how and by whom energy in all forms is produced
and consumed—and NY State would be wise to not resist it. “When considered within the context of the urgency
brought by climate change and global warming, it is clearly possible
that solar and other renewable energy could soon bring about an abrupt
end to the age of fossil fuels,” according to Dr. Schoechle.
- The concept of a future grid based on centralized control of renewable energy,
called an “Integrated Grid” by the Electric Power Research Institute,
is not advised. Dr.
Schoechle says, “It makes no sense to maintain centralized control of
an inherently decentralized and simpler technology—to try to control a
technological transformation where “distributed” should imply a more
independent, democratic, community-based, smaller, simpler, and
scalable electricity system. The
solar age has arrived. The
transformation underway should not be impeded by the excess baggage of
a progressively obsolete and superfluous centralized grid”
- The New York Public Service Commission’s REV
initiative—Reforming the Energy Vision—should
be the principle focus of NY State for now. The program offers the opportunity to take a fresh
and comprehensive view of New York’s energy future, establishing a
platform to review technical and policy approaches for providing
electricity in an economical, safe, secure, resilient and democratic
manner to all people in NY.
- By New York State focusing on developing a clean
and sustainable electricity system, a range of other risks from the
proposed “Energy Highway” can be successfully avoided, responding to
the increasingly vocal concerns of constituents. These include preventing wildlife habitat
fragmentation; tourism decline; property devaluations; grid reliability
issues with large, complex systems; financial waste from technological
obsolescence; and the eyesore of large transmission lines, termed a
“gratuitous industrialization of the natural landscape”.
- There are many promising technical and policy
alternatives for developing local distributed renewable electricity
generation and storage resources in New York. These include pumped hydro, river flow hydro,
water main flow hydro, rooftop water tank-flow hydro, small scale wind,
solar gardens, solar parking lots/structures, solar trees with electric
vehicle charging, and community grid and commercial/industrial site
storage with “flow batteries”.
- A potentially important emerging technology known
as Transactive Energy (TE) can help solve problems such as the
variability of solar and wind generation in local electricity
under development in Department of Energy labs, TE is a technique that
uses advanced Internet communications to automatically and equitably
balance supply and demand by trading electricity among homes,
businesses and industrial users generating some of their own power.
- Now is an opportune time to build a new electricity
distribution system based on the “Five Pillars of Energy Democracy”
proposed by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (Farrell, 2015),
bringing an end to the rationale of utilities as “natural monopolies”. The five pillars are flexible, efficient,
low-carbon, local and equitable. Today’s system, in contrast, could be
wasteful, polluting, remote and unaccountable.
- In sum, the proposed “Energy Highway” attempts to
prop up investor-owned utilities by awarding generous cost-of-service
rates and profitable guaranteed capital cost recovery without regard to
societal priorities and with high potential for significant negative
impacts. To secure
it’s energy future, New York State must rise to its potential for clean
energy abundance, lowered energy costs and sustainable economic
competitiveness through investment in distributed (or locally
generated) electricity using renewable energy technologies.
R. G. Rees, Senior Policy Advisor at NISLAPP, says, “Those concerned
financial or environmental health of New York State should not support
lead to clean energy, or to sustainability, which are now within
rather to higher costs for ratepayers and enormous, unacceptable
risks for New York State.”
president, Washington DC attorney James S. Turner, said, “Dr.
Schoechle points to respected industry strategists (the
Edison Institute) that have sounded the alarm, innovative companies
utilities) that are showing the way, and established generation and
technologies that provide the means for utilities to prosper by serving
consumers as innovation partners. It would be best to look forward at
possibilities are instead of backward to the past.”
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