O&R Proposes Long-term Investments to Protect System From Climate Change
O&R today proposed the next generation of investments to enhance system resilience and protect its customers from severe heat waves, storms and floods, as the pace of climate change accelerates.
The projects include continuing to strategically place overhead electric lines underground to protect them from storms; raising critical infrastructure; improving the water resiliency of equipment in flood zones; and using technology to improve customer communications during emergencies.
The goal is to prevent outages and other service problems that are inconvenient, disruptive, costly for the economy and, in many instances, a public safety hazard.
“Our climate change research with NYSERDA and Columbia University shows that extreme weather in our region is an increasingly urgent threat,” said Robert Sanchez, O&R’s president and CEO. “We must continue to make investments in our system to serve our customers in higher temperatures and more frequent and severe storm and flooding conditions. O&R is committed to helping the communities it serves meet their clean energy goals while also maintaining our electric service reliability and resiliency.”
The Projects and Programs *The investments O&R proposes in today’s filing include:
Selective Undergrounding Program: Convert approximately 30 miles of overhead distribution circuits and 5 miles of transmission lines to underground equipment during 2025 through 2029. That enhances the durability and reliability of the electric transmission and distribution systems.
Overhead Distribution System Hardening: Expand the existing program to remove open wires for a total of 60 miles over 5 years. This mitigates system exposure to external hazards such as tree contact.
Distribution Automation/Smart Grid Project: Accelerate the installation of computer-controlled devices to operate electric circuits from 8 to 5-year completion. That reduces the number of customers electric service outages by automatically isolating system damage.
Overhead Transmission Structure Replacement Program: Increase transmission pole replacements by 5-10 per year, including replacing wood structures with steel structures. That increases the transmission system’s ability to withstand more frequent and intense storm events, and even fire.
Hazard Tree Removal Program: Increase annual tree removal under this program by approximately 500 additional trees per year (1,300 hazard trees removed per year currently). That reduces power outage by helping prevent downed trees from damaging electric equipment, lines, and structures.
Substation Flooding Mitigation: Upgrade 3 electric substations --- Hillburn, Lovett, and Summitville --- by installing perimeter berms to prevent water infiltration and to channel the flow of flood water away from the facility, raise the substation control house and waterproof equipment cabinets inside the control house. These measures can reduce substation equipment damage from extreme rain events. They also can increase the reliability and life expectancy of the stations’ assets and avoid restoration and replacement costs.
Shoreline Protection Program: Implement mitigation measures such as installing riprap or retaining walls to prevent erosion around O&R shoreline equipment. This approach is aimed at providing a long-term solution to shoreline erosion damage due to sea level rise and flooding from severe storms. It also reduces risk to O&R’s shoreline infrastructure.
Weather Station Expansion Project: Deploy seven weather-monitoring stations throughout Orange and Rockland counties. These stations provide insights on weather and climate, including real time and long-term data, to help predict weather events and allow for more advanced storm preparation.
O&R Emergency Operations and Control Facility: Construct a dedicated emergency response operation and control facility on existing company land at a central location for an incident control center, planners, and dispatch of storm personnel. This facility would increase storm coordination and response mobility efficiency.
Storm Material Management Program: Build a dedicated storm material warehousing facility on existing company land at a central location to house critical stock equipment. This facility would help reduce event recovery time by allowing the company to distribute critical equipment for emergency use from a local stockpile. This approach also reduces extended lead times from existing supply chain issues.
O&R and Con Edison Storm Resilience Center: Create a modern, shared storm response facility would drive reduction in outage times through facilities to support service restoration crews. The facility also would provide training and coordination to better prepare and plan operational responses to weather events.
Continuing with Storm Mitigation Strategy: The projects would build on O&R’s ongoing resiliency work and the more than $83 million in storm-fortification investments O&R has made since Hurricane Sandy. The most devastating storm in the region’s recorded history, Hurricane Sandy ravaged the communities that O&R serves and knocked out power to more than 80 percent of its customers.
To make the appropriate upgrades O&R would invest approximately $400 million between 2025 and 2029. Based on the expected in-service dates for the proposed projects, the company estimates those investments would result in a rate impact to customers of approximately $160 million over the five years.
That could mean an estimated average annual residential bill increase of approximately 2%, or an estimated $4.24 per month for a typical residential customer using 600 kilowatt hours of electricity between 2025 and 2029.