PLATTSBURGH -- New York needs a new artery, says Richard Kessel, president and CEO of New York Power Authority.
Canadian juice will run through it and boost the state's power supply, fueling economic development with cheaper, renewable energy, Kessel predicted during a recent talk with the Press-Republican's Editorial Board.
"We are not ready to say we are gonna do it, but we have put a lot of money and effort into it," the power industry executive said.
"This could be one of the most significant energy projects in the state."
Kessel is waiting on economic, environmental and feasibility studies, and NYPA could decide by the end of the year whether to install new lines from Massena through the North Country to New York City and connecting with existing systems in New York City, bringing cheap power from Canada and delivering it throughout the state.
If the project receives a green light, it could begin as early as next year and be completed by 2018.
"It's going to be maybe $4 billion to $6 billion," Kessel said. "We will recover our investment in power."
The NYPA plan is separate from a proposal by Transmission Developers Inc. to bury underwater cables in Lake Champlain, the Hudson River and Long Island Sound and bring power to New York City and Connecticut.
Many of the transmission lines currently in place in New York state are 50 to 60 years old and need to be replaced. Such an undertaking would cost the largest state-owned public-utility company in the United States as much as $2 billion.
New York Power Authority would rather install new "smarter" lines, largely in the existing rights-of-way, and send more power up and down the state.
With a new system of lines, it would be easier to track problems in the system.
NYPA would import 2,000 megawatts of clean, Canadian hydropower, as well as some wind power.
Transmission lines would be built in existing rights-of-way, and the goal is to avoid taller towers and possibly improve the aesthetics in some places.
New York Power Authority is in the final stages of a feasibility study that is examining licensing, engineering, economics and environmental impact.
"We are very optimistic about the project," Kessel said. "It is doable."
Kessel said it would be difficult to lower rates in places such as the City of Plattsburgh, which already enjoys cheap power, but the goal in importing more cheap hydropower from Canada would be to stabilize electric bills throughout the state.
Kessel said Plattsburgh would not lose out on the deal.
"We need to dedicate more power to upstate for economic development. I have no interest in taking power away and sending it somewhere else. The answer for cheaper electric downstate is not to hurt upstate."
The Power Authority has been in talks with Hydro Quebec about the project and is considering a competitive process.
"We have to build a transmission line and purchase energy to go through it," Kessel said.
He said the economics are even better for the project now than a year ago.
"You are starting to see the price of electricity and use go up."
He disagrees with experts who predict New York won't need additional energy for another eight years. As the economy recovers and development increases, energy numbers will rise, Kessel said.
"July was a record month for the state, and the notion we don't need new power until 2018 is preposterous. We need to be a lot more aggressive in terms of adding resources to the state."
Once Kessel's staff briefs him about the study results this fall, he'll connect with the governor.
"You have to look at this as a long-term vision," Kessel said. "In 10 years, you want to see an electric throughway that allows you to bring power down and up on a modern grid that has smart technology."
Kessel said wind power is part of the portfolio, as well, but within 10 years it will likely account for only 10 percent of the state's power.
"I think wind's time is coming, and the challenge for New York is whether we want to be among the first or not.
"But I think we have to focus on what is doable right now. Our focus is on the line we want to build."
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