WATT Responses to New York Department of Public Service Proceeding on Motion of the Commission to Implement Transmission Planning Pursuant to the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act

Except from the WATT Coalitions’s response to the NY Public Service Commission on their work to improve transmission planning to accelerate an equitable energy transition:

Honorable Michelle L. Phillips
Secretary to the Commission
New York State Public Service Commission Empire State Plaza, Agency Building 3 Albany, NY 12223-1350

RE: Proceeding on Motion of the Commission to Implement Transmission Planning Pursuant to the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act,
Case Number 20-E-0197

Dear Madam Secretary:

The WATT Coalition is a group of companies interested in facilitating the adoption of advanced technologies on the US electric transmission system that improve reliability, lower cost, and accelerate decarbonization, benefiting American citizens and businesses. The WATT coalition has seven members, these companies offer technologies including Advanced Power Flow Control, Dynamic Line Ratings (DLR), and Topology Optimization, combined under the umbrella term used by the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) of Grid Enhancing Technologies (GETs). Rather than respond to all the questions asked by the DPS staff in its February 3, 2021 issuance, WATT comments are limited to a specific area of expertise and where the coalition can best add value to the Commission’s decision making in this proceeding.

GETs can move GWs, save billions of dollars for consumers and abate tens of millions of metric tons of CO2 in the next 5 years, if adopted on a national scale. The evidence in this section, all substantiated by publicly available data, establishes that projects using commercially available GETs help utilities cost-effectively accelerate the energy transition. GETs help utilities get more from their existing infrastructure and unlock capacity on today’s network. Leveraging GETs to unlock network capacity yields outsized benefit by allowing greater deliverability of existing renewable generation and by simplifying the network upgrades associated with new generation interconnection. This simplification results from fewer expensive, long-lead new line builds and reconductors, which are often delayed by extensive permitting and land acquisition processes.

This response aims to provide assurance that each of the technologies named above are commercially available, operationally reliable, and an important part of any energy transition toolkit and recommendations for what the New York PSC can do to ensure that consumers receive the benefits offered by these technologies.

Advanced topology control is optimization software that identifies reconfigurations of the transmission grid to reroute power flow around congested or overloaded transmission elements. The reconfigurations are implemented through switching on/off existing high voltage circuit breakers using existing infrastructure for communications and control. System operators in different jurisdictions employ this software to optimize flows on the meshed transmission network. For example, National Grid Electricity System Operator (NGESO), the UK system operator, optimizes the configuration of the UK transmission grid working with Transmission Owners to redirect “flows to parts of the network with capacity.” By doing so, the additional transfer capability achieved by the UK grid can exceed 1000 MW over interface constraints that are similar in nature to New York constraints such as the Central East interface. In the U.S., ERCOT uses advanced topology control analyses to support operations planning functions, including to improve grid reliability and resilience by mitigating the impacts of transmission contingencies. SPP has reported increases in constraint capacity exceeding 20% by the use of optimal reconfigurations for a number of constraints, and has used them to relieve the top four transmission constraints in its footprint in 2019. A utility in MISO reported using advanced topology control to mitigate congestion and overloads during the Polar Vortex event of 2014 that had increased the cost of electricity in the affected areas by over $15 million during a 10-week period.

Power flow control technologies push or pull power away from overloaded lines and onto underutilized corridors in the transmission network. Advanced power flow control expands on this function with enhancements such as faster deployment, easy scaling to meet the size of the need, or being redeployable when needed elsewhere on the grid. The latest intelligent hardware leverages VSC (voltage source converter) technology that has been proven for more than 20 years at high-voltage applications including STATCOMs, HVDC and variable-speed wind power applications. Leaders from across the industry agree that power flow control is an established, reliable, advanced technology.

In reference to an installation in 2019 which unlocked 95 MW on the UK distribution network and saved customers £8 million, Ian Cameron, Head of Innovation at UK Power Networks said:

“At its heart, this is a story of optimization. It continues to forge the path towards renewable energy, while saving money for our customers. It’s the key to unlocking extra capacity in a safe, cost-effective, and fast way. This successful trial demonstrates our business ethos of innovation and disruption; implementing smart technologies to reach the UK’s target to reduce CO2 emissions by 80% by 2020 and Net Zero by 2050.”

Commenting on power flow control deployments in 2020 where advanced power flow control is unlocking 1.5 GW of transfer capacity on the UK transmission network and is saving customers more than £387 million, David Wright, Director of Electricity Transmission and Chief Electricity Engineer at National Grid Electric Transmission (UK), explained:

“This is an example of our commitment to deliver clean and affordable energy for our customers. We have already completed several innovation projects and have been impressed with [the] technology and professionalism. I can see a world very soon where power grids everywhere become more intelligent, digital and controllable. NGET will be a leader in this transition and it’s inevitable that technology like [this] will be a big part of this future.”

This technology has been proven on grids across Australia, Europe, Latin America and the US as well.

Dynamic Line Rating (DLR) is a combination of hardware and software that sets a transmission line’s loading limit based on monitored ambient conditions rather than a fixed, static limit. DLR generally results in increased capacity due to cooling conditions (wind) and also identifies instances when flows should be reduced to ensure safe and reliable operation (extreme heat or other conditions). Oncor Electric Delivery Company (Oncor) showed that a sizeable amount of congestion mitigation could be obtained with as little as 5 to 10% increase in capacity over the existing line ratings. Oncor estimated that DLR technologies deployed on 5% of ERCOT transmission lines, would yield approximately $20 million in savings from congestion reduction, equivalent to a 3% reduction in congestion costs. AEP and the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) identified opportunities for a DLR system on a 2.1-mile segment of a transmission line that could save approximately $18,000 during just 5 hours of real-time grid congestion, equating to several million dollars annually. In 2017, AEP tested a DLR system which showed increased capacity over ambient- adjusted ratings over 90% of the time. Elia, the Belgium transmission system operator, studied DLR systems on eight of ten critical transmission interconnectors with France and the Netherlands during the winter of 2014– 2015. After this initial study, Elia deployed a utility-wide DLR system on 30 transmission lines, helping them increase exchange capacities with their surrounding countries (France, Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Germany). In a single 4-hour period, Elia identified $0.26 million of congestion savings provided by the DLR system deployment, which enabled 33 MW of additional import.