By: Robert Walton |

  • he New York ISO has approved two projects that will add significant new transmission capacity to the state’s system, helping move renewable energy from upstate generators into load centers like New York City.
  • The projects must still receive approval from the New York Public Service Commission. Clean energy advocates celebrated the ISO’s decision but are also calling on the grid operator and PSC to work together on improving the process for identifying transmission needs.
  • The projects will increase Central East transfer capability by at least 350 MW and UPNY/SENY transfer capability by at least 900 MW, according to the ISO. These would be the first large-scale, high-voltage, alternating current transmission facilities constructed in the Empire State in three decades.

New York’s aggressive clean energy goals — ultimately aiming for 100% carbon free energy by 2040 — call for greater capacity to move energy between generators and consumers in different regions. The two projects approved by the ISO are a significant step forward, but advocates say they wont be the last.

The Natural Resources Defense Council celebrated the projects, saying they will “provide a historic boost the state, putting the most new electricity transmission in 30 years on track for construction and helping it achieve landmark clean energy goals.”

The two projects are just the second and third “public policy” transmission upgrades to receive approval, NRDC noted. The first, which called for new transmission capacity in western New York for 2,700 MW of hydroelectric power and imports of renewable energy from Ontario, is currently going through the state permitting process.

Developers of the new projects must now obtain approvals and permits to site, construct and operate the facilities. The lengthy process means the new capacity is not expected online until 2023.

The ISO process for approving clean energy-related transmission aligns with orders from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, requiring grid operators to consider transmission needs driven by public policy requirements, such as New York’s Clean Energy Standard. According to NRDC, however, while the ISO has taken an “important step” with the new projects, “there are still several steps to go” and improvements can be made to the process.

The current process considers needs at specific points, but “risks ignoring other potential ways to facilitate achieving the state’s broader clean energy goals,” NRDC said in a statement. “The PSC should consider identifying these longer-term goals in addition to specific amounts and locations of needed transmission in the short-term, because doing so could unleash market competition for a much broader range of projects.”