The Mission is Transmission: Ground Broken for New York City’s Clean Energy Line

December 10, 2022

This is the heavy lifting that has to be done to get clean energy to markets. We are not doing enough, but here’s a small success.

Water Power:

Construction work has started on a major transmission line project that will carry 10.4TWH of clean hydroelectricity generated in Québec, Canada, to New York City in the US.

During an official groundbreaking ceremony, New York Governor Kathy Hochul launched work on the Champlain Hudson Power Express (CHPE) transmission line project.  The CHPE project involves the construction of an underground and underwater transmission line spanning approximately 339 miles between the Canada-US border and New York City.  It will allow an influx of 1250MW of hydropower and comes with a long list of economic benefits, including the $40 million Green Economy Fund, designed to support residents living in disadvantaged and frontline communities by providing them with new job training opportunities that will help them take advantage of New York’s transition to a green economy and the $117 million Environmental Trust Fund, which is focused on improving the health of Lake Champlain and the Hudson and Harlem Rivers.

Back in October 2021, Hydro-Québec and Transmission Developers were selected to partner with New York state to help achieve the clean energy transition through the CHPE. The Mohawk community of Kahnawà:ke will co-own the line in Québec.

“We take great pride in our efforts and accomplishments of the past 15 years,” said Sophie Brochu, President and CEO of Hydro-Québec. “This large-scale project will draw on our ingenuity to connect North America’s largest producer of clean energy to the Empire State and New York City. With the support of our allies in Kahnawà:ke, we will help develop our economies, powered by green energy. And we’ll do it together, in a great demonstration of regional cooperation.” 

When the line is commissioned in 2026, Québec’s clean energy will meet 20% of the electricity needs of New York City, 90% of which is currently supplied by fossil fuels.

NRDC:

There are about 1,300 gigawatts (GW) of new resources—primarily renewables and storage—waiting to connect to power grids across the country. That’s more than the combined output of all power plants operating in the United States today. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) blames the backlog on rules, put in place more than a decade ago, that made it easy for small numbers of large power plants to connect to the grid but made it difficult for large numbers of smaller wind and solar projects to do the same. The result is gridlock: Projects now face an average delay of nearly four years just to get connected.

Beyond slowing the clean energy transition, interconnection gridlock is threatening reliability. This summer, the Midwest faced a heightened risk of blackouts due to a supply shortfall that could’ve been filled if only a fraction of the projects stuck in limbo had been online. Luckily, we made it through the summer without major incident, but no one should be complacent—new supply is urgently needed. Fossil fuel dead-enders complain that we’re shutting down dirty power plants too quickly. In reality, the clean energy to replace them is ready and waiting, stuck in utility bureaucracy.

Utility Dive:

The recent passage of the Inflation Reduction Act was a historic moment for the future of American clean energy. Long-term tax policy certainty for the wind, solar and battery storage industries will drive further cost declines and accelerate the transition to clean power. However, delivering the lowest-cost power to businesses and homeowners will still require a massive expansion of the nation’s electricity transmission capacity.

This fact was recently reinforced by a new study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, ’Examining Supply-Side Options to Achieve 100% Clean Electricity by 2035.’ Although the study did not model the implications of the IRA or the bipartisan infrastructure legislation passed last year, each of its four main scenarios required adding significant transmission in many locations to reach the 100% clean energy goal. Given that the best remaining low-cost wind and solar resource areas still need transmission capacity to connect to the grid no matter how the IRA impacts future pricing, it’s fair to assume that expanded transmission remains essential. It will also pay for itself.

The “Infrastructure Renaissance scenario” in the NREL modeling saved more than $300 billion in power system costs compared to the transmission-constrained scenario. But to realize those savings, the modeling shows we will need to double, if not triple, the level of transmission capacity currently available in America by 2035. This will require thousands of miles of new high-capacity lines being built per year, with a total projected increase of 91,000 miles of new transmission lines in the U.S. within the next 13 years.

Transmission, as the report notes, is the key enabling technology for a clean electricity system because it allows higher-quality energy resources and better utilization of those resources, including reduced curtailment of wind and solar power. It helps smooth the variability of both electricity supply and demand across large regions and various timescales. In particular, large-scale regional and interregional transmission can increase reliability by expanding electricity imports and exports and enhancing coordination across wider geographies. 

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5 Responses to “The Mission is Transmission: Ground Broken for New York City’s Clean Energy Line”

  1. Gingerbaker Says:

    Does four years to get connected pass your smell test? It doesn’t pass mine. And this is important stuff.

  2. Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

    Doubt that level, of available hydro power, just suddenly appeared. So the apparent delay smells of obstruction aka corruption. Likewise the other supplies of non polluting power being obstructed.
    Aside. Crowing that this can replace GHG free nuclear, rather than fossil fuels, displays a lack of understanding of the serious nature of our predicament.

  3. neilrieck Says:

    During the 1970s, I recall a lot of armchair quarterbacks complaining about the enormous amount of money that Quebec was pouring into three big hydro electric projects. Today, Quebec enjoys the lowest residential electricity rates in North America.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydroelectricity_in_Canada

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydro-Quebec

    p.s. Last month the conservative government of Ontario announced that they would not renew a 7-year agreement to import green energy from Quebec (was negotiated by the previous Liberal government) so I am assuming that Quebec seized this opportunity to make a deal with New York


  4. It’s interesting that the Orwellian newspeak titled Inflation Reduction Act is going to be shoveling out more money to buy copper for transmission lines that will compete for more copper that is needed for EVs and their charging infrastructure. It would’ve been better to limit subsides to getting more nuclear plants which require less copper than RE.


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