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August 22, 2022 Central East Energy Connect Illustrates the Importance of Large Transmission

Reducing carbon emissions and deploying more renewable energy depends on major grid expansion

The Central East Energy Connect (CEEC) transmission upgrade project, part of New York’s Energy Highway Blueprint, will reduce power congestion in the state’s Capital Region and expand access to clean energy. Deploying more renewables is a priority for the state which is often hindered by limited transmission capacity.

Together, MYR Energy Services (MYRE) and MYR Group subsidiary, The L.E. Myers Co., are making those improvements for project owner LS Power in collaboration with the New York Power Authority (NYPA). Construction began in February 2021.

MYRE is providing project management, construction management, material procurement, and construction services including right‐of‐way clearing, environmental controls, foundation installation, structure assembly and erection and conductor stringing. L.E. Myers, is performing line construction for the project.

The project involves major upgrades to the electrical transmission infrastructure, which in many cases is 50 to 60 years old. It includes removing more than 1,000 wooden transmission structures, installing steel structures, and increasing voltages from 230kV to 345kV which will expand powerline capacity more than fourfold. Existing substations will be upgraded or expanded. Two new substations will also be constructed.

“There’s a lot of demands that get put on the electric system as a whole. Being able to move power efficiently and reliably from points of generation to points of usage is critical to carrying out those [clean energy] goals.”

– Casey Carroll, an LS Power Vice President

The nearly 100-mile project is large in scale and scope and illustrates the broader need for nationwide transmission upgrades and expansions to deploy more renewables and meet emissions reduction goals. MYRE and L.E. Myers are playing a critical role by making these necessary upgrades.

Casey Carroll, an LS Power vice president, explained why such an expansion is “essential” for a greener energy future. “There’s a lot of demands that get put on the electric system as a whole. Being able to move power efficiently and reliably from points of generation to points of usage is critical to carrying out those [clean energy] goals,” Carroll explained. “As we add more renewables to the system, being able to move that energy from where it’s being generated to population centers that is really important … and that looks a lot different from our historic electrical grid.”

CEEC Will Support New York’s Clean Energy Goals, But Experts Say More is Needed Across the Nation

The CEEC project is very important for the state’s clean energy ambitions. New York State adopted a Clean Energy Standard that calls for 70 percent of New York’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030.

Carroll explained that the Central East corridor through the Mohawk Valley has long been one of the most congested portions of New York’s electric grid. He said the upgrades will “allow for future growth” while making use of the existing right of way.

Four lineworkers holding chains.
At work on the Central East Energy Connect in New York.

Gil C. Quiniones, NYPA’s president and CEO at the time, agreed, telling T&D World in June 2021, “The Central East Energy Connect transmission line upgrades will help ensure the resilience of New York’s energy transmission system and facilitate our state’s transition to cleaner energy.”

In addition to expanding access to clean energy, Carroll said the CEEC project will benefit communities in other ways including creating jobs for local craft workers and reducing the project’s footprint for adjacent landowners because many wooden structures are being replaced with fewer, steel monopoles.

In the United States, the Biden administration has set significant carbon reduction targets for 2030 and set an economy-wide net zero emissions target for 2050. Studies from experts at MIT, University of California, Princeton and government researchers continue to draw the same conclusion – that major transmission expansions are needed to reach such goals.

One 2020 Princeton study indicated that the U.S. needs to expand transmission systems by 60 percent by 2030 – and may need to triple them by 2050.

“The current power grid took 150 years to build. Now, to get to net-zero emissions by 2050, we have to build that amount of transmission again in the next 15 years and then build that much more again in the 15 years after that. It’s a huge amount of change,” said Jesse Jenkins, one of the three project leads. Jenkins is an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment.

They are not alone in their projections. According to Johannes Pfeifenberger of The Brattle Group, there have been between a dozen and two dozen studies in the past decade “showing that if a higher share of renewable generation is the objective, then a more robust regional and interregional transmission grid is the most cost-effective solution.”

Project Details: Central East Energy Connect