Press-Republican

July 7, 2013

Electricity supply expected to exceed summer demand

DAN HEATH
Press-Republican

PLATTSBURGH — New York is expected to have plenty of electricity to meet peak demands this summer season.

That is partially thanks to the growth of natural gas in this state.

David Flanagan, media and community-relations manager for the New York Independent System Operator, provided that outlook to the Press-Republican Editorial Board recently, based on a new report.

“Summer is a critical time for us,” Flanagan said.

Air-conditioning and cooling systems are the main reason that electricity consumption peaks during the summer.

MANAGES POWER FLOW

New York Independent System Operator is a private, nonprofit created in 1999 to fulfill the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission mandate for fair and open access to the electrical grid in New York state.

The agency manages the flow of electricity through 11,000 circuit miles of high-voltage lines from more than 350 electricity-generating facilities.

POWER USE FORECAST

Independent System Operator produces a daily energy forecast.

It uses a day-ahead electricity auction, where suppliers submit price and quantity proposals, as well as real-time auctions, held every five minutes throughout the day.

These auctions are how the system purchases energy from different suppliers.

The Independent System Operator starts with the lowest-price generator and then moves up the list, buying power until the daily energy forecast is met.

SUMMER DEMAND

The state’s summer peak consumption can increase 70 to 80 percent above average daily use.

For that reason, System Operators must have enough electricity available to meet peak levels plus 17 percent padding, Flanagan said.

The average daily consumption level in 2012 was 18,538 megawatts, while the peak demand was 32,439 megawatts.

For 2013, the peak consumption during normal summer weather of 95 degrees is projected to be 33,279 megawatts. That number increases to 35,767 megawatts if the temperature reaches 100 degrees.

That means a total of 38,936 megawatts of power is needed to meet the required reserve level.

ENOUGH ON HAND

New York Independent System Operator reports that the total available capacity is expected to be 41,452 megawatts. That breaks down to 37,925 from in-state generation, 1,969 from import capability and 1,558 through the Special Case Resource Program, which pays large industrial customers and groups of smaller customers to reduce usage at critical times.

On July 22, 2011, the Special Case Program helped reduce a peak load that was expected to set a new record of more than 35,000 megawatts.

“It’s been a very effective program,” Flanagan said.

NATURAL-GAS GROWTH

Natural gas currently fuels 55 percent of electricity generation in New York, although 47 percent of that comes from dual-fuel facilities that can use gas or oil.

The low cost of natural gas makes it difficult for some of the older, coal-fired to compete. Flanagan said. As more of those older plants are decommissioned, it is hoped they will be replaced with modern, more efficient plants.

The use of wind power is also increasing, Flanagan said, but is still only 4 percent of the total. When the turbines aren’t spinning, that supply can be met with reserves from suppliers such as HydroQuebec.

One of the reasons behind Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Energy Highway Initiative is the state’s aging generation and transmission infrastructure. When production can’t meet peak demand, it forces older generation plants to be fired up, which increases the cost of electricity.

UPSTATE GENERATION

Flanagan said 60 percent of demand comes from the lower Hudson Valley, New York City and Long Island, while the majority of electricity generation happens in northern and western New York.

Supply is sometimes affected by bottlenecks in the transmission system, mainly from Utica through the Capital Region and upper Hudson Valley.

The federal government and utilities recently completed a new network that feeds data back to the transmission system 60 times a second, which greatly reduces the chances for blackouts.

The outlook remains positive, Flanagan said, largely due to increased reliance on natural gas. Whereas most of that gas used to be shipped from the south, more is now available from Pennsylvania, which reduces the cost of supply for the Northeast.

“I think generally the outlook for supply is pretty positive,” he said.

Email Dan Heath:dheath@pressrepublican.com