PSC’s own consultant predicts increased pollution and electricity prices if proposed power lines are built
HUDSON VALLEY—Members of the Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition (HVSEC) filed comments with the PSC on Nov. 6 reinforcing the finding that there is no need—or public policy justification—for any of the proposed high-voltage power lines projects currently being reviewed by the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC). The comments disputed a position recently taken by PSC staff that public policy benefits could justify the ratepayer financed $1.2-billion transmission lines initiative, which calls for towers up to 120-feet tall running through 25 communities in seven Hudson Valley counties. The HVSEC member comments also pointed out that according to studies commissioned by the PSC itself, New York’s recently created Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative held the possibility of providing cost-effective benefits to the state—and with dramatically reduced pollution levels compared to the proposed transmission lines.
The HVSEC supports the cost-effective aspects of the REV plan because it would make New York a national leader in embracing 21st-century technology and energy-saving strategies, reducing costs for electric energy users in New York. REV would increase consumer choices and make the state’s electric supply chain more resistant to future weather disasters and terrorism. This approach to reforming energy delivery in the state, championed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, would encourage development of smaller-sized energy resources closer to customers. In the Hudson Valley this would mean enhancing electricity service without adversely impacting the natural resources, prime farmland and other community assets that define the region’s quality of life and fuel economic opportunity.
The trial staff of the PSC issued a report on Sept. 22 recommending that the PSC rule that there is a need for new transmission projects based on a laundry list of supposed “public policy benefits,” and that a project route consisting of new, potentially taller towers through prime agricultural land in Rensselaer, Columbia and Dutchess counties should be selected from among 22 transmission alternatives. The Brattle Group, a consulting firm, was hired by the PSC to perform a cost-benefit analysis of all of the proposed transmission projects. The Brattle analysis clearly demonstrates that the proposed transmission projects will add costs, while the benefits are questionable.
The Brattle Report found that a REV alternative presents benefits that would simply accrue from energy efficiency and conservation measures, providing benefit-to-cost ratios far superior to those produced by new transmission. Brattle also showed that the REV alternative held the potential to significantly reduce customer costs.
The PSC has repeatedly stated that one of the primary goals of the proposed transmission projects is to reduce emissions. However, the Brattle Report shows clearly that REV has significantly more environmental benefits and far fewer environmental impacts than any of the proposed transmission projects. Incredibly, the project recommended by PSC staff would result in increases in statewide emissions of sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides and a miniscule decrease in carbon dioxide emissions. The Brattle Report states that the emissions impacts would be primarily due to an expected increase in generation from coal-fired plants that would be enabled by the new transmission infrastructure. REV, on the other hand, would reduce the same emissions. The transmission solution is therefore in complete conflict with New York’s energy goals and policies. Brattle also acknowledges that the transmission projects are not expected to help in connecting existing wind energy in upstate New York, nor will the lines increase penetration of renewable energy resources upstate.
The PSC has stated that the proposed transmission projects would act as a complement to REV, because REV initiatives will require a long-distance AC transmission system. The HVSEC agrees that the existing AC transmission system will still be required as REV is implemented over the next several years. However, the HVSEC is not opposed to maintaining the existing transmission in good condition. It is the unnecessary building of significant additional transmission capacity that is at issue in the PSC proceeding, and there has been no demonstration that REV will require greater transmission capacity than already exists. In fact, one of the things REV is designed to do is lower the demand for new transmission capacity.
Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan said, “Why are these flawed transmission proposals still being considered? With his Reforming the Energy Vision initiative, Governor Cuomo has a path to putting New York in a leadership position on energy and the environment. REV would cut carbon emissions by creating a resilient power grid that rewards consumers—and utilities—for conserving electricity and switching to renewable sources, including solar and wind. Ironically, the PSC appears poised to move forward with new high-voltage transmission lines despite the overwhelming evidence they aren’t needed, would damage our environment and communities, and cost consumers more. Why is the PSC committed to business as usual by green-lighting construction of this outdated technology?”
Ian Solomon of Farmers and Families for Claverack stated, “Here we have clear data, presented by the PSC’s consultants themselves, that demonstrate the transmission proposal is inferior in literally every way to the REV solution. Additionally, the REV solution is in keeping with the direction the state has planned for the future of the grid, which is forward-looking and better for consumers. It is therefore staggering that, while releasing this report, the PSC staff simultaneously recommended we move forward with the transmission solution. The era of huge transmission buildout at the consumer’s expense is over, and the ratepayers can’t afford another high-priced giveaway to transmission developers.”
The Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition includes municipal officials; environmental, cultural, historic and land preservation organizations; businesses; and residents who support creation of a modern, comprehensive energy plan for the Hudson Valley and New York State. More information available at www.hvsec.org.