New York PSC approves Con Edison’s storm hardening plan

Big Snowstorm New York

The New York State Public Service Commission approved the storm-hardening and resiliency plan of Consolidated Edison Co. of New York for 2016, which includes strengthening electric distribution and transmission lines, fortifying power plants and enhanced protection at substations, the PSC said in a Jan. 22 statement.

The order, which also addresses planned protections for Con Edison’s natural gas and steam distribution systems, addressed a “record investment” of nearly $459 million in 2016 for various system improvements, the PSC said.

The order was issued on Jan. 25.

The ruling on the 2016 plan marks the final phase of Con Edison’s work on improving resiliency following the devastation experienced due to Superstorm Sandy, which hit the East Coast in October 2012, and it follows previous rulings on utility plans for 2014 and 2015.

Following PSC directives, Con Edison invested $170.8 million in 2014, and $324.8 million in 2015, on storm hardening and resiliency projects, the PSC noted.

The projects are related to Con Edison’s coastal networks, overhead systems, substations, transmission and generation facilities, including protection of 16 substations from future storm surges or flooding by using measures such as reinforced perimeter walls, installing gates and floodwalls and raising the height of critical equipment, the PSC said.

Installation of the storm-hardening measures is critical to maintaining the operational integrity of facilities, including Con Edison’s East 13th St. substation, where flooding as a result of Superstorm Sandy resulted in a power outage in New York City, the PSC said.

In its 2014 order on the utility’s plan, the PSC found that Con Edison needed to develop new tools and flexibility to adapt to climate changes, and following that decision the utility adopted a new design standard to protect its systems in flood zones, the PSC said. That standard anticipates future flood levels above levels currently predicted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in anticipation of future sea level increases and other risks, the PSC noted.

Con Edison also committed to revisit its design standards every five years following the 2014 decision, the PSC added.

The order marks “the successful conclusion of the Con Edison’s highly lauded storm hardening collaborative, which brought together numerous parties” to ensure that the resiliency efforts are successful, the PSC said.

The commission directed Con Edison to have dual-fuel, back-up generators at power plants and key facilities where a loss would have the greatest impact on customers – the 74th St. and Ravenswood generation stations and the East 13th St. and Fresh Kills substations. The order also calls for Con Edison to develop a process for procuring and staging diesel fuel trucks and ensure that its fuel facilities are filled in advance of an emergency.

“The commission expects that Con Edison will continue its ongoing efforts to ensure that its utility systems are hardened and resilient in light of the most current data and analysis it has available to it,” the PSC said in the order.

“It is also expected that Con Edison will integrate those considerations into its system planning and construction forecasts and budgets, particularly in its anticipated filings seeking electric, gas and steam revenue requirement relief,” the commission said.

The investments to be made by the utility “will add to the tremendous progress Con Edison has been making to better protect New Yorkers,” PSC Chair Audrey Zibelman said in the statement.

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