And Then There Was One?
By William Opalka
NEW YORK — The future of one of New York’s last coal-fired generators is in jeopardy following state regulators’ rejection of a plan to repower it to natural gas and their approval of a transmission alternative (12-E-0577), (13-T-0235).
The 312-MW Cayuga generating plant will soon be one of two remaining coal generators in the state, plants that Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently vowed to close or have converted to natural gas by 2020.
But a ratepayer-funded repowering is off the table, the New York Public Service Commission ruled Tuesday. Chairwoman Audrey Zibelman said it would be “unfair” for ratepayers to be saddled with $102 million in additional costs to pay for the repowering. “It would not be in the public interest for New York State Electric and Gas ratepayers to be paying for that,” she said at the meeting. (See Cayuga Power Plant Repowering Opposed.)
She later told RTO Insider that plant owners “are free to repower the plant on their own nickel.”
In a separate order, the PSC signed off on Upstate New York Power Producers’ (UNYPP) sale of Cayuga and the Somerset coal plant outside Buffalo to Riesling Power, a unit of the Blackstone Group (15-E-0580). FERC approved the transaction in January. (See FERC Approves Sale of Doomed New York Coal Plants.)
Over UNYPP’s opposition, the commission also approved a request by distribution utilities NYSEG and Niagara Mohawk to build a two-phase, 14.5-mile project connecting two substations to address reliability concerns in western New York. The $23.3 million Auburn project would use existing rights of ways in Cayuga and Onondaga counties.
Phase 1 was filed as a proposal to build the 115-kV project, with Phase 2 proposed as a supplemental project by the companies to increase its capacity.
A recommended decision in November by an administrative law judge said, “it is uncontroverted that Phase 1 of the project should be constructed as soon as possible to remedy an immediate need to avoid reliability violations and service disruptions, if a major contingent event occurs.”
UNYPP objected to Phase 2, saying that part of the project is not needed if the plant continues to operate. According to the judge’s record decision, both phases are necessary even if the Cayuga units continue to sell into the NYISO market.
The plant is operating under a reliability support services agreement with NYSEG that runs through June 2017 (12-E-0400).