New Plan Needed to Avoid Another Blackout

Posted: September 17, 2017
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Publication: Watertown Daily Times

By: Rob DiFrancesco

With all the excitement about the solar eclipse, it was easy to forget the 14th anniversary of an event that actually plunged New York into darkness: the 2003 Northeast Blackout.

Unlike the eclipse, the blackout had devastating consequences for New York, including an estimated $1 billion in economic damage and the tragic loss of 90 lives. Remembering the Northeast Blackout remains crucial because we are still at risk of large-scale blackouts.

To lessen the odds of this, we need abundant baseload power right here in New York so that we don’t have to rely on more vulnerable out-of-state sources. Unfortunately, we’re slated to lose our single-largest baseload generator of clean electricity, Indian Point. It will close in 2021; replacement projects — of which many are needed — are proving both slow and expensive to develop.

We also need a transmission grid that’s robust and up to date, neither of which properly describes ours. Siting and permitting new and upgraded lines, which our major electric utilities are thoughtfully pursuing, takes years — yet this process too is merely crawling along.

Meanwhile, new technologies that require abundant electricity are growing faster than conservation measures, so demand for electric power continues to expand.

We’ve been fortunate to enjoy the solar eclipse without having had to deal with a real blackout. But that’s no cause for complacency about our long-term energy needs. The time is now for our state government to move quickly on a comprehensive plan to provide for our energy needs safely and reliably, from generation through transmission, before another large-scale blackout forces us to confront our lack of preparation.

Rob DiFrancesco

New York

The writer is executive director of the New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance.