Zeltmann, NYPA President, Calls for Strengthened Power System

Stephen Shoenholz

June 26, 2003 


NEW YORK—New York Power Authority (NYPA) President and Chief Executive Officer Eugene W. Zeltmann called Thursday for bolstering the power transmission system as part of a varied effort to assure reliable, low-cost electricity for the state’s homes and businesses.  
 “Without a strong interregional transmission system, we cannot have a truly reliable power supply,” Zeltmann said in remarks at a forum on New York power issues.  “We cannot have a truly diverse power supply.  And we cannot have a truly competitive power supply.”

Zeltmann said potential options for overcoming bottlenecks on the state’s transmission network include upgrades to existing lines, construction of new lines and use of new technologies.  In certain circumstances, he said, building clean new power plants near areas of heavy electricity use could ease transmission congestion and eliminate the need for new lines.

He said transmission improvements, along with clean new plants and aggressive initiatives to promote energy efficiency, should be part of a three-part strategy for meeting power needs. 

“Clearly, we must focus on providing the regulatory certainty, the investment incentives and the cost-recovery mechanisms that will be needed if we are to upgrade and expand our transmission network,” Zeltmann told the audience at the Marriott Eastside Hotel. 

Zeltmann said the coming of competition to the power industry in New York and other parts of the country has put new demands on a transmission system that was largely designed in the last century to meet relatively limited, localized needs.

“Today, we’re asking the network to serve as an open-access interstate highway for wholesale power transactions,” he said.  “Yet most new transmission currently is being built to serve local load and to connect new generation to the grid, instead of bolstering the transfer capacity of regional electricity markets.”

In New York, Zeltmann said, 10 applications to build major new transmission lines have been filed under the state Public Service Commission’s Article VII siting process since early in 2000.  While four of the applications have been approved, only one project, an underwater cable from New Haven, Conn., to Shoreham on Long Island, has been completed, and it has been prevented from operating by Connecticut regulators.

Several of the lines would be local facilities, linked to individual power plants.

Zeltmann noted that the New York Independent System Operator, which runs the state’s transmission system, is evaluating several potential upgrades to existing lines on the most congested power-supply corridor—between Marcy, near Utica, and Pleasant Valley, near Poughkeepsie.  He also cited potential merchant projects that would carry power underwater from New Jersey to New York City and Long Island and along railroad rights-of-way from near Albany to the city.

Meanwhile, Zeltmann said, the Power Authority is completing work on the world’s most advanced device for controlling voltage and power flows on existing lines.  The convertible static compensator at NYPA’s Marcy Substation has boosted capacity on the statewide system by nearly 200 megawatts by strengthening voltage support.  When completed later this year, it will permit operators for the first time to transfer power from a heavily used line to one with spare capacity. 

Zeltmann said six small, clean power plants that NYPA installed in New York City two years ago have shown that “new strategically placed generation on even a modest scale can strengthen system reliability and save money for consumers.”

He noted that all of the plants are located on the 138-kilovolt transmission system, which is often heavily congested.  But, because they are beyond the bottlenecks, they can send power directly on to the system for use in a local area, averting power shortages and reducing costs to consumers that result from transmission congestion.

“These plants also provide important environmental benefits,” Zeltmann said.  “They’re the cleanest power plants in New York City and generally displace generation from older, less efficient plants in their areas.