On Wednesday evening, Jan. 29, alarmed consumers packed the Marbletown Community Center in Stone Ridge hoping to learn more about two major impending changes to the transport and delivery of electric power in the Hudson Valley and what, if anything, might be done to influence them. Organized by a grassroots organization called Citizens for Local Power (CLP), the public forum was titled “New Power Grid Issues in the Hudson Valley: How the New Capacity Zone and Proposed Transmission Upgrades Impact Our Communities.”
The forum brought together representatives of the Public Service Commission (PSC), New York Independent Systems Operator (ISO), Central Hudson/Fortis and Boundless Energy, as well as an attorney representing several towns potentially impacted by the proposed changes, to try to illuminate some of the complexities of what’s about to happen. But many in the audience seemed frustrated by what appeared to be a fait accomplí, with little opportunity being offered for the public to influence the decisions of state and federal agencies and courts that will ultimately decide on how the changes will play out.
Rosendale Town Board member Jen Metzger, a founding member of CLP, began with a brief summary of the forces currently converging on the mid-Hudson’s power grid. The first component is the creation of a “New Capacity Zone,” ordered by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in August 2013 at the request of ISO and set to take effect May 1, 2014. The second consists of plans to upgrade high-voltage power transmission lines passing through the mid-Hudson: a key component of governor Andrew Cuomo’s New York Energy Highway Blueprint released in 2013. “It’s important that we understand the costs and benefits of both programs to us here in Ulster County,” said Metzger.
The main problem, all the panelists seemed to agree, is that the section of existing transmission lines between Leeds in Greene County and Pleasant Valley in Dutchess County constitutes a “bottleneck” in the transport of power from major generation points further upstate, such as Canadian hydropower plants and wind farms on the Tug Hill Plateau, to New York City and Long Island, where demand is highest. Four applications are currently under consideration by the PSC for projects that would upgrade the infrastructure and alleviate the problem. Three of the proposals would route the power through Dutchess County’s existing transmission corridor, possibly requiring the construction of additional towers.