Grid of the future

Grid of the future

Good morning and welcome to the Monday edition of the New York & New Jersey Energy newsletter. We’ll take a look at the week ahead and look back on what you may have missed last week.

GRID OF THE FUTURE: NYSERDA is continuing its support of new grid technologies through research and pilot project funding. The authority’s money for these goals comes from utility ratepayers through the Clean Energy Fund. Previously funded projects include studies related to offshore wind and software to manage distributed energy resources such as solar and batteries.

“A modernized grid is dynamically managed using live data on everything from the weather and the changing needs of electricity users to the capacity of the grid to accept and distribute energy from renewable sources like wind and solar,” said NYSERDA president and CEO Doreen Harris. The fourth “Future Grid Challenge” round offers a total of $11 million to support technology for a reliable, modern energy system that will reduce costs and enable more renewable integration. Up to $3 million per project is available with applications due Oct. 26.

The most recent $5 million round included two awards of $1 million or more. That included $1 million to Switched Source, a 76West winner with a presence in the Southern Tier, for a device that will improve the efficiency, reliability and renewable hosting capacity of the grid. Switched Source has received millions from NYSERDA and federal agencies over the past several years. The other big winner was the Electric Power Research Institute, a nonprofit funded by utilities, with $2.3 million for software to better control batteries, solar and other energy resources so they can provide more services to the electric grid. EPRI also got smaller awards to study the impact of offshore wind on the grid and the role of energy storage in stabilizing the transmission system.

Other winners included Quanta Technology for studying intelligent electronics located at renewable generators could improve visibility into the grid. Clarkson University also got nearly $400,000 to evaluate the risks of an offshore meshed transmission network, sure to be a topic of interest as New York examines that option in the future to integrate thousands of megawatts of offshore wind. — Marie J. French

IRA HITS STATES — POLITICO’s Josh Siegel, Kelsey Tamborrino and Jessie Blaeser: President Joe Biden’s year-old climate law triggered a deluge of clean energy spending in almost every state — and it’s splitting conservatives across rural America. Some communities are welcoming their slice of the $370 billion pot of federal tax incentives meant to accelerate the development of renewable energy and the deployment of electric vehicles as a way to bring back jobs. Others see the Inflation Reduction Act as a vehicle for boosting Chinese businesses and the reach of their government.

While Republicans on the campaign trail and in Congress regularly bash the law — which Biden signed a year ago Wednesday — as big-government overreach by Democrats bent on killing off fossil fuels, its benefits are disproportionately landing in their communities. And as the measure supercharges efforts to combat climate change, it’s also rekindling economies where people have felt forgotten, potentially softening how some voters view Biden as he seeks reelection.

… The Hudson Valley has been waiting for an industrial reboot for almost 30 years. And now that Biden’s climate law is offering some flicker of hope, some Republicans are lining up to claim some bit of credit. With the lucrative IRA incentives on offer, Canadian company Zinc8 Energy Solutions is planning to use a former IBM computer factory to make batteries for EVs and as well as ones that can bolster electric grids, although it hasn’t finalized the site yet. Having seen the economic engine of the region empty out 7,000 jobs a generation ago, both Democrats and Republicans support bringing the new project to Ulster County.

GOP Rep. Marc Molinaro, who represents the county, acknowledged the federal program is an “exceptionally important tool” in helping draw Zinc8 — despite his joining most Republicans in voting for legislation that would’ve repealed many of the climate law’s clean energy incentives.

HAPPY MONDAY MORNING: Let us know if you have tips, story ideas or life advice. We’re always here at [email protected] and [email protected]. And if you like this letter, please tell a friend and/or loved one to sign up.

Here’s what we’re watching:


— Another New York listening session on spending the $4.2 billion bond act, 1 p.m., Westchester County Center, Little Theater.


— The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities is expected to discuss a community solar program and getting help administering the nuclear subsidy program, 10 a.m.

— Sunrise Wind, being developed by Orsted and Eversource and among the projects asking for bigger subsidies, hosts a virtual open house about the onshore construction phase of the project, 6 p.m.


— The Public Service Commission meets, 10:30 a.m. A transmission item is on the discussion agenda.

— The Buffalo News examines the promises unfulfilled of a crypto-mining project on the site of a gas plant in North Tonawanda. A state air permit renewal is still pending.

— Contamination has been found in groundwater near the Brookhaven landfill.

— UAlbany got a piece of a federal grant focused on the nexus between weather and the electric grid.

— The Times Union looks back on the 2003 blackout in the Northeast and the impact on reliability standards.

— State parks fall short on accessibility, with some incorrect information and misleading signage, an audit found.

— Concerns raised about solar facility in Canton.

— A dead humpback whale washed up on the Jersey Shore.

— New Jersey joins pipeline challenge.

WIND WORRIES BEFORE VOTES CAST — POLITICO’s Ry Rivard: The heads of New Jersey’s Assembly and Senate have moved in recent days to distance themselves from Gov. Phil Murphy’s approach to gender-neutral language in education and the offshore wind industry — a sign that, three months before this fall’s elections, Democrats worry wind isn’t in their sails. Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and Senate President Nick Scutari’s sudden public concern on those issues may be an attempt to signal their sensitivity to voters’ concerns and give cover to caucus members as Republicans attempt to use Murphy’s energy and education policies in close races.

In particular, the comments on offshore wind set off a swirl of recrimination among operatives and wind supporters. The industry is already trying to weather Republicans attacks on the costs of the wind energy and often draw unfounded connections between the industry and a high-profile series of beached whales. There are no wind farms off the New Jersey coast at the moment, though the state has approved three projects.

Democrats said polling they’ve seen on offshore wind shows it to be politically polarized — not overwhelmingly popular or unpopular, with Democrats generally in favor, Republicans opposed and independents split. 

A Democratic strategist who has been involved in the offshore wind push said there is a tremendous amount of frustration toward Orsted and Atlantic Shores — the two developers with state approval to build three wind farms — over their lack of effort to fight disinformation. 

This view also exists within Murphy’s administration. While Coughlin and Scutari didn’t name Murphy, criticism of the BPU is also an implicit criticism of the governor, since all five BPU members were appointed or reappointed to their posts by Murphy.

A senior administration source echoed the frustration with the developers and said it’s incumbent on the companies to set the record straight, engage with residents at a community level, and put out positive messaging about the benefits of offshore wind — but so far sees failure in every respect.

Tory Mazzola, a spokesperson for Orsted, said the first of its two projects, Ocean Wind 1, is “already delivering on the policy goals the state and federal government have advanced, including the creation of good-paying clean energy jobs in New Jersey, further positioning the state as an offshore wind manufacturing and port hub for this growing industry, and providing renewable energy for residents and business owners.” There is not a state-based trade group for the offshore wind industry, though discussions about forming one are ongoing. Michael Muller, of Muller Public Strategies, who has been working on pro-offshore wind messaging, said an offshore wind coalition “has been running a robust campaign of digital, cable advertising, 100 billboards up and down the state, several op-ed columns from elected leaders and a large grassroots activist network that has been organizing in many of the shore communities.”

DRISCOLL CONFIRMED: Despite socialist organizers declaring victory at blocking him, the current head of the New York Power Authority has now been confirmed — by default. NYPA president and CEO Justin Driscoll quietly dropped the “acting” from his title on July 26, according to the authority. Driscoll will not have to face another confirmation fight in the Senate to secure his title, thanks to an obscure section of the Public Authorities Law. “Mr. Driscoll has established an outstanding record of accomplishment over the last two years when he was acting president and CEO,” said New York Power Authority Chairman John Koelmel in a statement. “He will now lead NYPA in its aggressive and continuing efforts to combat climate change, pursue the bold decarbonization objectives of Gov. Kathy Hochul and the Legislature, and prepare New York’s iconic canal system for a third century of operation.”

NYPA is poised to play an increasingly important role in the state’s effort to reduce emissions and green the electricity sector in the coming years. The authority already provides the majority of the renewable energy in New York and has secured contracts with partners to build two major transmission projects to support the state’s goals.

Driscoll faced strident opposition from the New York City Democratic Socialists of America and the Public Power NY coalition, which pointed to his previous support for Republicans and opposition to early versions of expanded powers for the authority. The group heralded the Senate declining to vote on Driscoll’s nomination as a victory and called on him to resign.

“With so much at stake to fully decarbonize New York’s grid and bring down the cost of utility bills, Governor Hochul’s blatant refusal to listen to the will of the people and slide in Driscoll’s confirmation when it never came to a vote reveals her lack of seriousness in implementing the historic Build Public Renewables Act,” said Elizabeth Oh, a coalition organizer with Public Power NY.

“This is just really a new low in the governor showing how power hungry and sneaky she wants to be in this position, and really how much she wants to see the New York State Senate as her enemy as opposed to her partner,” said Sen. Jabari Brisport, a socialist who opposed Driscoll. Brisport was not aware of Driscoll’s new status until POLITICO asked about the change this week. He suggested a public pressure campaign could force Driscoll to resign and that the Senate should consider ways to prevent longtime acting leaders in key posts.

Gubernatorial spokesperson Katy Zielinski said Driscoll was confirmed after the board of trustees nominated him “by operation of law.” “The Governor is pleased he will continue in this role on a permanent basis with broad support from labor and environmental groups,” she said. The governor’s office indicated Hochul did not receive a request from Senate Democrats to withdraw Driscoll.

Driscoll was nominated and officially sent to the Senate for confirmation in early June by the board of trustees after heading up the authority since late 2021. He was officially recommended to the board by Hochul for a permanent role in July 2022. The board sending the nomination started the clock on an obscure section of the Public Authorities Law. It says for some positions that the Senate has 60 days to act on the nomination if they’re in session and seven days from the start of session if they aren’t. If no vote is taken, as in this case, “such appointment shall be deemed confirmed without any further action by the Senate.”

The NYPA board officially sent over the nomination (kicking off the 60 day statutory clock for the Senate to act) on May 26. The session ended without the full Senate voting on Driscoll’s role on June 9.

The Senate could have voted on the nomination. They didn’t. “There were questions surrounding his nomination and therefore there was no vote before the end of session,” Senate Democratic spokesman Mike Murphy said in a statement Thursday. “We all understood that he would remain in his acting role and unfortunately we were not aware of this arcane and rarely utilized provision in public authorities law that would remove his acting title.”

What happens now? NYPA is conferring with state agencies and stakeholders for a report on New York’s progress on its renewable energy goals. “The conferral process is the first step in our commitment to learn how we can best fill in gaps and put our distinct resources to work,” Driscoll said in a statement on Thursday. The task force on the process is being led by Yves Noel, senior vice president and chief strategy officer, and Phil Toia, president, NYPA Development. A report is due at the end of October. You can contact the conferral team at: [email protected]. — Marie J. French

WIND HOOKUP COSTS DETAILED: The City of New York and Multiple Intervenors secured more information about the petitions from offshore wind developers for richer subsidies from ratepayers, and have withdrawn a challenge to the redactions in the original requests. Developers of the offshore wind projects filed updated versions of their requests with a few tidbits.

The information that was revealed is primarily about the interconnection plan for Beacon Wind 1, where Equinor and BP plan to plug in at a higher voltage in Astoria with a new substation to reduce the timeline for construction. That resulted in costs increasing by $120 million and a one-year delay from the schedule developers bid in but “avoids a multi-year delay,” according to the less-redacted petition. The developers’ proposed baseline for interconnection costs, above which there’d be cost sharing with ratepayers, is also now public: $48 million for Empire Wind 1, $358 million for Empire Wind 2 and $83 million for Beacon Wind. Ratepayers would be on the hook for 80 percent of any costs over these amounts and be entitled to 80 percent of any savings below it.

For Sunrise Wind, being developed by Orsted and Eversource, the new filing reveals the original commercial operation date of the project was August 2024. That’s in line with what former Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced when the deal for the project was struck. The petition largely blames permitting delays for missing that target and eliminating the possibility of savings by integrating the project with Orsted’s other projects including South Fork and Revolution Wind.

The Sunrise bid originally estimated interconnection costs of just $22 million based on a third-party engineering firm’s assessment. But the actual costs assessed by the grid operator are estimated to be $115 million, with an additional $3.3 million for utility costs. The cost increases experienced by Sunrise Wind are more than the 23 percent reached using NYSERDA’s inflation adjustment proposed in the third solicitation, according to the unredacted information. Applying that 23 percent adjustment would increase the strike price for Sunrise Wind’s ORECs by $26 per megawatt hour. An interconnection cost sharing mechanism like that in the third round would increase the price $1.50/MWh.

Comments on the petitions are still due August 28. — Marie J. French

MORE WIND WORRIES — POLITICO’s Ry Rivard: The leaders of the New Jersey Senate and Assembly put out a joint statement Monday expressing concern about the costs of offshore wind. The statement is the second by the two leaders to weigh in on controversial topics heading into a fall election where all 120 legislators are on the ballot. Last week, they criticized Board of Education amendments to its “Managing for Equality and Equity in Education” policy, which shifted to gender-neutral language and made other changes to the guidance for public schools.

The offshore wind statement came days after four companies submitted bids to the state Board of Public Utilities to build more wind farms off the New Jersey coast using ratepayer dollars.

Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and Senate President Nick Scutari — who is also acting as governor while Gov. Phil Murphy is abroad and following the death of the lieutenant governor — said the Legislature “has concerns about the BPU’s approach” to offshore wind.

“There are still many unanswered questions about the economic impact these projects will have on ratepayers as well as potential impacts to one of our state’s largest economic drivers, tourism at the shore,” the legislative leaders said. “The BPU should be able to share these impacts with the communities affected and the legislature before moving forward with these new offshore projects.”

Their offices did not immediately respond to a request to clarify the nature of their concerns, which came just weeks after they helped rush through legislation to allow the company behind New Jersey’s first offshore wind farm to build its project. That new law allows wind developer Orsted to keep federal tax credits that would have otherwise been returned to ratepayers, though the company argues without more money it may not have been able to build its project. The developers of the state’s second offshore wind farm have said without more money from the state, its project cannot be built.

TRIBUTES FOR ED LLOYD — Activists and officials alike praised Ed Lloyd, the long-time Pinelands Commission member who died on Aug. 5 at age 74. Jeff Tittel, the former head of the state Sierra Club, said, “I met 50 Ed years ago and worked closely with him over the last 35 years. … It is hard to imagine a world without Ed.” A biography from the Sierra Club remembered him as director of the Environmental Law Clinic, a professor at Columbia University, the president of the Environmental Endowment for New Jersey and someone who fought major companies over pollution, including Ciba Geigy and Solvay.

“A dedicated champion of climate action, Ed played an integral role in shaping and advancing my administration’s crucial climate agenda, fighting to protect New Jersey’s sensitive environmental resources, and holding polluters accountable,” Gov. Phil Murphy said in a statement. — Ry Rivard

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