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PSEG: Going green would have cost too much to meet state goal

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, speaks during a press conference at Farmingdale State College on Sept. 4, 2012, whil Renewable Energy Long Island Executive Director Gordian Raacke looks on. Credit: Newsday / Amanda Voisard

Modernizing two sections of the LIPA electric grid with green-energy technologies would have cost up to six times more than a traditional underground cable, according to a PSEG analysis of the options.

PSEG Long Island last year reviewed proposals to deal with power gaps in Glenwood Landing and Far Rockaway, to meet new reliability requirements. Normally, a utility would turn to a high-voltage power cable to address the gap.

But the state’s new Reforming the Energy Vision initiative called for utilities to solve grid challenges with new technologies, including smart grids, remote-controlled thermostats that help reduce peak power use, and solar and wind power.

After months of analysis, however, PSEG found the costs were just too high.

According to PSEG, a new high-voltage transmission line in the Glenwood Landing area would cost ratepayers around $30 million a year. Green-energy plans proposed as part of the bidding request would have cost $22 million to $42 million more each year.

In Far Rockaway, the cost differences are even greater. A cable from East Garden City to Valley Stream for the Far Rockaway area is estimated to cost $22 million a year. But green energy plans offered as part of the bidding request would have cost $45 million to $117 million more, PSEG found.

“After a review of all of the proposals and a thorough analysis of the options to ensure the future reliability of the system for our customers in the Far Rockaway and Glenwood areas, the most reliable and economical path forward is for two underground transmission lines to serve the area,” said PSEG spokesman Jeff Weir.

PSEG presented its findings to LIPA, which decided that the “most economical option was to proceed with the transmission solution in each area and not to accept any of the proposals.”

But among those not pleased with the move are environmental groups, which have been pushing the utility to green-energy alternatives, citing the state’s recent commitment to garner 50 percent of energy needs from green sources by 2030. A significant portion of that energy would be nuclear, after the state Public Service Commission recently passed a Clean Energy Standard that subsidizes three nuclear plants, including Nine Mile Point near Oswego on Lake Ontario, in which LIPA owns an 18 percent stake.

One environmentalist said green energy should have gotten greater consideration in western Nassau.

“Continuing to build more transmission lines is not the wave of the future,” said Gordian Raacke, executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island, an environmental group. “It makes me concerned that PSEG Long Island just wants to do business as usual and not move to a 21st century energy system.”

It’s not the first time environmentalists have been disappointed by the utilities’ progress in green energy.

PSEG in 2014 offered two aggressive plans for what had previously been called Utility 2.0, an initiative that would have led the state in offering green technologies as an alternative to traditional grid solutions. PSEG had proposed investing some $345 million in green-energy enhancements to avoid, for instance, having to construct a new power plant.

But the Utility 2.0 plan was dropped in the 2015 rate-case plan that would have paid for it, and LIPA and PSEG instead pledged to make two new requests for proposals for their contribution to the state’s REV initiative.

The two bid requests, one for the South Fork and the other for Western Nassau, including Glenwood Landing and Far Rockaway, entertained dozens of proposals over the past year.

For the South Fork, LIPA last month said it selected a 75-megawatt wind farm, energy-storage batteries, temporary generators and thermostat-based peak-power reduction technologies to deal with a looming energy gap on the South Fork.

But that proposal has been in limbo since New York State last month canceled a LIPA board meeting scheduled for a vote on the proposal.


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