NYISO: Despite efficiency, DER gains, new transmission needed for low-carbon grid
- The New York Independent System Operator (NYISO), the grid operator for the state, forecasts stagnant or declining electricity use, steady increases in renewables and gas generation, and modest growth in peak power demand in its new Power Trends report released on Tuesday.
- Significant investments in the transmission system will be needed, however, to meet Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed Clean Energy Standard, which would mandate 50% clean power (renewable and nuclear) by 2050, the report warns.
- Historically-low natural gas prices pushed power prices to their lowest-ever level in the NYISO territory last year, and the grid operator expects significant growth in distributed energy resoruces (DERs) as the state's Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) docket moves into its implementation phase.
Energy efficiency upgrades and the proliferation of DERs are helping to push down electricity usage in New York, the state's grid operator reported this week.
"Energy efficiency is improving with new building codes and applicance standards, as well as government, utility and community programs," NYISO's Power Trends report noted. "These efficiency gains are expected to reduce peak demand on New York's bulk power system by 225 MW in 2016 and by more than 1,800 MW in 2026. They are also expected to lower annual energy usage served by the pulk power system by 1,752 GWh by 2016 and nearly 13,000 gigawatt-hours in 2026."
Coupled with significant increases in both gas and renewable energy generation, the grid operator expects to have ample capacity to serve energy demand through the next decade. NYISO has added over 11.6 GW of generation since 2000, most of it natural gas-fired.
Gas and gas/oil duel-fuel generators accounted for 44% of NYISO electricity output in 2015, while nuclear generated 31%, and hydropower (mostly imported from Canada) accounted for 18%. Low gas prices helped push NYISO prices down to their lowest-ever levels — about $44/MWh — but will also help push 2.3 GW of generation into retirement by 2018.
Adding in wind and solar contributions, NYISO is already generating more than 50% of its power from renewables and nuclear power. But looking out to 2030, when Cuomo wants half of all consumed electricity in the state to come from such sources, NYISO projects it will need to add 25 GW of solar PV, 15 GW of wind, 4 GW of hydropower or some mix of the three to comply with the goal.
Bringing that new capacity online will require serious investments in trasmission infrastructure, the grid operator warns.
"New York’s major hydropower resources and all existing and proposed wind power projects are located in northern and western regions of the state – hundreds of miles from the high-demand metropolitan regions of southeastern New York," the report reads. "Transmission enhancements would make more effective use of current and future renewable resources."
Some of those investments might be avoided, however, if grid needs can be met by distributed energy resources. As the REV initiative opens up utility business models to more DER deployment, NYISO expects the current 250 MW of distributed solar in its territory to triple by 2026. And new market rules for behind-the-meter generation are "expected to introduce more than 100 megawatts of existing capacity that was previously unable to participate in New York’s wholesale electricity markets."
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