New York ISO: Distributed solar largely to blame for declining load
The New York ISO released a wide ranging report Thursday on its electric grid, predicting a declining load for the next decade with distributed solar largely to blame.
The state’s grid is undergoing a transformation right now, driven by a mix of public policy and emerging technologies. Its Reforming the Energy Vision strategy aims to rethink how the utility sector operates at the same time an array of grid edge innovations have become practical.
Difficult choices ahead
Declining load combined with low gas prices is good news for consumers’ bottom line, but when combined with a need for new infrastructure, it means the grid operator is faced with some difficult choices moving forward.
The state finds itself divided, said ISO Executive Vice President Richard Dewey. While the upstate region is largely supplied by a mix of nuclear and wind, the downstate wires are still dominated by fossil fuels. A major challenge is finding a way to bring more emissions-free energy into load centers in and around New York City.
“Demand, which for many decades experienced pretty steady growth within New York state, has flattened out a bit and in many respects has started to decline, both in terms of energy consumption and how it impacts the electric peaks,” Dewey said in a conference call with journalists on Thursday.
The ISO’s Power Trends 2018 report found demand on the bulk power system is expected to decline over the next decade at a rate of 0.14% per year. Peak demand will decline as well, though slightly less, at a pace of 0.13% per year through 2028.
“We see this continuing into the future,” said Dewey, who cited behind-the-meter solar, and to a lesser extent efficiency, as the causes.
Building codes and appliance standards, along with programs and policies aimed at encouraging efficiency, are expected to reduce New York’s peak demand by 245 MW in 2018 and by 2,262 MW in 2028.
Wholesale energy prices are “at historic lows,” he said, which is “great for consumers, but it creates some concerns when you start thinking about the viability of the generation fleet and the willingness of investors to make investments in some of those assets.”
The state also needs investment in its transmission system, particularly if it is going to move more renewable energy to downstate markets. More than 2,700 MW of transmission capability has been added since 2000 and “further upgrades and enhancements … are being planned in response to New York State public policy-related transmission expansion needs,” the report notes.
This year, NYISO is evaluating proposals to expand transmission capability within existing rights of way in the Central New York-Hudson Valley transmission corridor. “Once constructed, the project will increase the flow of renewable energy from upstate to downstate,” the report says.
The ISO has 96 MW of offshore wind proposed for interconnection on Long Island, the first of its kind for the grid operator. While the offshore wind industry is just beginning to build steam, it may be a long-term solution to some of the downstate energy needs, as offshore resources would likely be closer to load centers than upstate hydro.
And offshore wind has some advantages over onshore, said Dewey. Offshore resources have been shown to operate at a capacity factor of about 40% compared with 26% for onshore wind. But not everyone is convinced about the viability of offshore wind: NextEra CEO Jim Robo said the economics for offshore wind projects are bad for customers during an earnings call in April.