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NYISO pitches improvements to transmission planning for public policy needs


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NYISO pitches improvements to transmission planning for public policy needs

Relying on lessons learned since 2014, the New York ISO proposed tariff revisions aimed at enhancing the grid operator's process for soliciting and selecting transmission projects driven by the state's public policy needs.

The ISO implemented its public policy transmission planning process in 2014 to find a transmission solution for western New York that would increase the use of renewable energy from the Niagara hydroelectric facility and electricity imports from Ontario.

The process yielded 12 proposals, of which NextEra Energy Inc.'s Empire State Line project was selected. The $180 million project consists of a 20-mile, 345-kV line connecting two new switchyards near Dysinger and Elma, New York, with a phase-angle regulator to control power flows across the line. The project is expected to be in service by June 2022 and transmit about 3,700 MW of renewable energy.

As the NYISO continues to evaluate public policy transmission needs associated with the state's Central East and Upstate New York/Southeast New York interfaces, it told the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Dec. 11 that its experience to date and discussions with stakeholders and project developers has shown how its public policy transmission planning process can be improved.

The proposed changes center on providing more information and clarity to project developers, enhancing transparency, and eliminating steps that slow down the NYISO's evaluation and selection of proposed transmission solutions.

For instance, the NYISO proposed to convene a technical conference before soliciting solutions to public policy needs to detail to developers the metrics it will use to evaluate proposals.

The grid operator also committed to posting brief descriptions of project proposals on its website within five business days of the solicitation window closing. It would make available upon request redacted project proposals at least 30 days before the NYISO conducts its viability and sufficiency assessment of proposals. The NYISO would provide other nonconfidential project information submitted by developers upon request within 30 days of the NYISO's receipt of such information.

'Pause point' to be eliminated

The NYISO's filing would also nix what it called a "pause point" during which the process is suspended while the New York Public Service Commission reviews the grid operator's assessment of viable and sufficient solutions and confirms whether the public policy transmission need still exists and warrants a solution.

"This built-in 'pause point' can result in months of inactivity in the process without the NYISO being able to move forward to the evaluation of competing proposals," the grid operator said.

The tariff revisions eliminate this procedural step by allowing the NYISO to continue its evaluation of competing projects while the PSC considers whether to issue an order eliminating or modifying the public policy transmission need.

"This change will not diminish the authority of the NYPSC, as the transmission siting entity for the State of New York, since the NYPSC still has the authority to cancel or modify the public policy transmission need at any time prior to the NYISO's selection of the more efficient or cost-effective transmission solution," the grid operator said.

The change would give developers less time to obtain a system impact study or system reliability impact study agreements needed for the ISO to continue evaluating their projects. But the NYISO said the deadline shift "still affords more than adequate time for both incumbent and non-incumbent developers to complete the necessary steps" as they would have "nearly the entire duration of the NYISO's viability and sufficiency analyses to execute a study agreement."

Matthew Schwall, director of market policy and regulatory affairs for Independent Power Producers of New York, said in a Dec. 12 statement, "These are smart changes by the NYISO to make the process more efficient." In particular, he noted the removal of the pause point as a wise move by the ISO.

The NYISO asked FERC to allow the tariff revisions to take effect Feb. 10, 2019, so they can be implemented ahead of the solicitation window for any identified needs for the 2018-19 cycle of the public policy transmission planning process.

The NYISO board of directors recently met to make determinations on the proposed AC transmission projects submitted during a solicitation window looking for ways to increase the state's central east power transfer capability by at least 350 MW and the upstate and southeast portion of the state's transfer capability by at least 900 MW.

An update posted to the grid operator's website Dec. 7 said "the board reached a unanimous decision and is now developing the appropriate documentation of this decision," with the expectation to make that decision public on or before Dec. 27. (FERC docket ER19-528)

Jasmin Melvin is a reporter for S&P Global Platts, which, like S&P Global Market Intelligence, is owned by S&P Global Inc.