Gil Quiniones, president and CEO of the New York Power Authority, recently offered additional details on an electric vehicle expansion initiative in the state that was rolled out in June, as well as an update on the Authority’s digitization efforts as it strives to become the first digital utility in the U.S.
He made his comments at Greentech Media’s Grid Innovation Summit, which took place on June 20-21 in San Francisco, Calif.
Quiniones was interviewed on day two of the summit by Shayle Kann, Senior Vice President, Research & Strategy, Energy Impact Partners.
New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on May 31 announced a new $250 million electric vehicle expansion initiative, Evolve NY, with the NYPA. In addition to state funding, the program will also seek to create private sector partnerships through 2025 to aggressively accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles throughout New York State.
The initial phase of funding, approved on May 22 by NYPA trustees, directs $40 million to be allocated into three primary new programs through the end of 2019, including interstate fast chargers, airport fast chargers and EV model communities.
At the Greentech Media event, Quiniones put the EV initiative in the context of the state’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030.
“In New York, if we really are serious about hitting” that goal, “we need to address the transportation sector because that sector is actually growing in terms of emissions, rather than declining,” Quiniones said.
“We’ve done a good job in the power sector through our Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, but we need to attack the transportation sector,” he said.
This is one area where NYPA “can play a very important role” to break what he called “the chicken and the egg problem” when it comes to EVs. “People don’t want to buy electric vehicles because they’re not sure” whether there will be enough locations to charge the vehicles.
He said that between now and 2019, “we will build 200 DC fast chargers along the major highways of our state.”
Another element of the initiative involves installing DC fast chargers at or near the John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports in the state.
With respect to the DC fast chargers, the NYPA president and CEO noted that “right now, we have RFPs out for the buildout of the charging stations.” At the same time, NYPA is trying to figure out pricing issues and how it will “do the customer engagement part of it.”
The initiative also calls for EV Model Communities. These model communities will involve partnering with a NYPA municipal or co-operative distribution utility to support an EV friendly model community that includes a utility-managed charging platform to ensure affordability, reliability, and grid efficiency.
The community will test and scale new EV infrastructure and service business models that will encourage more residents to transition to driving EVs. Features may include developing home and public charging "subscriptions," an online customer portal, and EV education events.
“For the model community, we’re going to try really different ways” to address questions such as “how do we get people to buy electric vehicles and then once they buy electric vehicles, how can we work with them so that we can take advantage” of grid flexibility-type services, the NYPA official said.
Meanwhile, Quiniones also discussed NYPA’s digitization efforts.
NYPA in April announced the first phase of a multi-phase sensor deployment program that will incorporate new technologies to perform online monitoring of power plants, substations and power lines to boost efficiency and productivity and improve resiliency of New York’s statewide public power network. NYPA’s Board of Trustees approved capital expenditures in the amount of $9.3 million in support of the first phase of the sensor deployment program, which ultimately is a multi-phase program with a total estimated cost of $55 million.
The sensor program builds on Cuomo’s announcing the opening in December 2017 of NYPA’s Integrated Smart Operations Center (ISOC), a digitized power asset monitoring and diagnostic center at NYPA’s headquarters in White Plains, N.Y.
At the Greentech Media event, Quiniones noted that NYPA previously made the decision that it would be the first end-to-end digital utility.
“Today, as we speak, we are analyzing on a real-time basis 26,000 points from sensors and meters to assess the health” of NYPA’s generation fleet and “operate them as efficiently and effectively as possible,” he said.
Having a “constant MRI” on the Authority’s power plants and substations “is extremely, extremely important,” Quiniones said. “We’re cataloguing all the savings – we’re over $5 million in savings just from analyzing trends. We’re not even doing fancy AI or machine learning this point. That will come later.”
“We’re going to be increasing the sensors to about 90,000 by the end of next year,” Quiniones said.
“We’ve announced recently that we are doing the same with our customers. We are going to digitize the energy systems of our customers,” he said. “Slowly but surely, we’re digitizing every part of our business including the internal parts.”
An IT system to overlay the grid
At a later point, Quiniones said that he would like to see “a future where it’s going to be really simple for customers.”
He said that there is a need “to create a new IT system that overlays the power grid. An IT system that simultaneously solves the physics of the grid,” as well as the economics/regulatory part of the grid.
When asked to describe what NYPA may look like 20 years from now, Quiniones said that “we could be that entity between the utility and customers. I’ve always said to our team that NYPA must put the customer at the center of this transformation, so everything we do we always ask, what customer problem are we trying to solve because we don’t want to be enamored with technology for technology’s sake.”
Kann asked whether this means NYPA could become the disintermediator of the utility.
“In many ways, we do that now,” Quiniones responded. “We are not the distribution utility, but we have customers and we pay distribution charges to the distribution utilities,” he said.
“We do about $300 million a year in behind-the-meter services, so we already do a lot of customer business today and I can just see that going up, especially with our recent announcements” such as the EV initiative, he said.
Meanwhile, Quiniones also said that “we are going to study every country in Europe” that has pursued offshore wind. “We want to learn everything – what worked, what didn’t work – in those countries that built offshore wind,” prior to New York embarking on its effort to have 2.4 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030.
Cuomo on Jan. 29 released a comprehensive New York State offshore wind master plan that sets forth the state’s strategy for meeting its goal of having 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind energy generation by 2030.