Power grid is solid — for now
New York’s power grid — particularly downstate — could be walking a tightrope to provide enough power to meet demand.
The New York Independent System Operator recently released its 2022 Reliability Needs Assessment, a report that finds thinning reliability margins over the next decade driven by the retirement of gas-fired generation and electrification. The report further concluded that future reliability is dependent on the coordinated scheduling of new generation and transmission projects, as well as close monitoring of changes in energy demand, public policy and extreme weather.
The 2022 Reliability Needs Assessment (RNA) is conducted every two years and evaluates grid reliability 10 years into the future. ISO officials wrote that the 2022 assessment shows there isn’t an immediate reliability problem, changes in the economy, new generation technology, extreme weather and policy drivers are creating challenges for the future electric grid that may require actions to avoid interruptions in electric service. New York will likely experience even smaller margins if additional existing power plants become unavailable or if demand is higher than forecasted.
“We see reliability margins narrowing to concerning levels as early as 2023,” said Zach G. Smith, New York ISO vice president of system and resource planning. “To meet policy goals and maintain reliability we need to use the power of markets to mitigate these risks as we bring new resources on the grid.”
New York City’s reliability margins will tighten to 50 megawatts by 2025 as simple cycle combustion turbines become unavailable in compliance with the state DEC’s Peaker Rule. The 2020 rule reduces allowable emissions from peaking plants that operate when needed for electric system reliability. DEC regulations allow a 2023 to 2025 phase-in to allow more clean energy sources to come on line. But the ISO report says generation affected by the Peaker Rule may need to remain in place if the Champlain Hudson Power Express transmission project encounters any delays.
New York’s current reliance on neighboring power systems — a continuing point of contention raised by Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, and Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, during floor debates in the state Legislature — is expected to continue for the next 10 years.
“Without emergency assistance from neighboring regions, New York would not have adequate resources throughout the next 10 years,” the report states.
With increased renewable intermittent generation for achievement of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act goal of 70% renewable energy by 2030, at least 17,000 megawatts of existing fossil fuel sources must be retained to continue to reliably serve forecasted demand. Beyond 2030, dispatchable emissions-free resources will be needed to balance intermittent supply with demand.
In September, the state ISO released its “2021-2040 System and Resource Outlook.” That document showed the state will need to increase its electric generating capabilities by 20 gigawatts to meet state’s 2030 requirement that 70% of the state’s power come from renewable sources. By 2040, the state will have to add between 111 gigawatts and 124 gigawatts of generating capacity to meet the state Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act’s mandate to have a fully renewable electric grid. For reference, New York has 37 gigawatts of generating capacity, with 12.9 gigawatts of new generation developed since wholesale electricity markets began more than 20 years ago in 1999. While calling for unprecedented levels of investment, the report does not put a price tag on the upgrades needed.
“Without investment in transmission, these areas of the New York grid will experience persistent and significant limitations to deliver the renewable power from these pockets to consumers in the upcoming years,” the ISO report states.
Meeting the CLCPA’s emission-free requirements timelines will mean electrification of buildings and transportation, but the ISO points out those actions will also increase peak and annual demand over time. Looking ahead to 2040, the policy for a zero-emissions electric system will require the development of new technologies to maintain the supply demand balance. The ISO report said dispatchable emission-free resources will be required to fully replace fossil fueled generation, which currently serves as the primary balancing resource. Given the investment needed, ISO officials are asking state agencies to consider releasing a more detailed procurement schedule for renewable resources to guide long-term electric grid planning and provide clarity to the market.