I have been an outspoken critic of the PSEG transmission project since it became known to our community. I have raised several questions with PSEG associated with this project:
• Is the line was necessary based on expected demand?
• Is the line necessary to meet summer 2014 demand?
• Would this line improve reliability in the event a Storm Sandy would to re-occur?
• Has the cost of undergrounding the line been greatly exaggerated?
• Why wasn’t the LIRR train route considered?
I was recently invited by PSEG to meet with several of their executives to address these questions. Based on that meeting, I wanted to share some of the things I learned with the community.
There is a misconception that with this new transmission line, outages will be a thing of the past. This is not be the case. Outages associated with weather events, e.g., Sandy, mostly involved impact on distribution lines, NOT transmission. While these poles most likely would survive a hurricane, the distribution lines are still vulnerable.
PSEG has also cited their projections for increased demand as rational. PSEG is forecasting approximately a 2 to 2.5 percent annual increase in demand over the next decade. This far exceeds the US Energy Information Administration’s projections of between 0.5 percent and 1 percent over this period. Further, no compelling case for this summer was made, which was cited for the urgency to complete this project ASAP. With stable population and demographics in the community, and expected efficiencies due to more efficient appliances and lighting,, and distributed generation (e.g., solar), PSEG’s demand increase forecasts do not make sense.
Excessive cost of undergrounding the line was also mentioned . PSEG indicated that the cost of undergrounding a line was six times the cost of overhead lines. This has not been borne out by the actual costs associated with this project. PSEG indicated that the one mile of buried line through Thomaston, was $4 million. The remaining 4 miles of above ground line was $10 million. That comes to an increased cost ration of less than two.
Assuming the line is necessary, the lowest cost approach would have been to run the line through the LIRR right of way to Port Washington. It could have been done above ground, have minimal impact on the community, could have leveraged existing poles and structures, and would have been the shortest route, e.g., 2 miles vs. 5 miles. PSEG indicated that while this would have been most viable option, the LIRR would not grant sufficient access to get the project done within their time frame.
In summary, PSEG had viable alternatives that would have been acceptable to the community, and could have solicited input prior to starting the project. As they say, haste makes waste.