Governor Cuomo Announces State Orders Con Edison to Take Immediate Action to Guarantee Power Reliability Across the Subway System
Con Edison Agrees to Comprehensive Inspection and Repair of Electric Power System
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo recently announced that the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) has directed Con Edison to take significant and immediate actions to improve the subway's power reliability and prevent future service failures. New York City subway riders have been forced to deal with repeated delays because of failures in power flow across the entire subway system. The PSC is the state's utility regulator and they investigated a number of MTA power outages and prescribed a Con Edison remediation plan to produce reliable power. The PSC will supervise the modifications.
Over the last 12 months alone, power-related issues have caused more than 32,000 subway delays and service disruptions.
These outages stem from four problem areas:
- Loss of power
- Frequent surges in power that force the system to go into failsafe mode (shutdown)
- Frequent power dips which cause equipment to fail
- An insufficient power back up system in the event of a power failure
To address these issues, the PSC has ordered Con Edison to perform the necessary remediation in coordination with the MTA. The PSC will monitor the progress on a weekly basis. The PSC has set an aggressive timeline for the work to be done: 6 months for priority projects, 9 months for second priority and the entire project completed within one year. Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), an independent, nonprofit organization for public interest energy research, will act as the agent/consultant to the PSC, and WSP, formerly known as Parsons Brinckerhoff, will act as the agent/consultant to the MTA. Work will be performed 7 days per week until the project is complete.
This is the most comprehensive power review ever done, literally testing and repairing the entire power flow system. The objective is the inspection and repair of the entire system, including traction power substations, manholes, cables, property line boxes, energy distribution rooms, signal relay rooms, signal junction boxes, track, signals, track side equipment, and interlockings.
Troubling failures of electrical equipment were first identified back in April and May of this year, raising questions about the quality of electricity provided throughout the MTA system. Con Edison has an obligation to provide good power all the way through the subway's track and signal system that does not break down or cause equipment failures.
The State's initial investigation also included two other power-related incidents that affected the MTA system on May 7 and May 9, 2017. On May 7, there was a failure of a Con Edison transformer at its Farragut transmission substation. There was no loss of power related to that event; however, the change in voltage impacted the MTA's system at the DeKalb station. Two days later, the DeKalb station lost signal power. The cause of the signal outage on May 9 has not been determined, partly because neither Con Edison nor the MTA had equipment to monitor the quality of the power at that location at the time of the incident.
The PSC Remediation Plan outlines specific tasks and timelines to remediate the system. Priority areas and repeat trouble spots will be overhauled first in approximately six months. The remainder of the system will be inspected within 12 months. EPRI will be the technical advisor to the PSC and monitor performance.
WSP, formerly known as Parsons Brinckerhoff, will serve as a consultant for the MTA and work with Con Edison and EPRI.
"To repair the MTA, we must also focus on the services that the MTA relies upon," Governor Cuomo said. "The number one necessity is a reliable power supply. That must be provided by Con Edison. Over the years there have been band aids placed all over the system. We need to fundamentally upgrade the entire system. I thank Con Edison for their cooperation."
"The increasingly frequent service outages and disruptions threaten the health and safety of millions of people who travel daily on the subway system," said Commission Chair John B. Rhodes. "We will hold Con Edison accountable to provide the necessary resources and its full cooperation to ensuring the remediation, maintenance and repair of the electricity services provided to the MTA."
Failure of Con Edison to comply with the PSC's direction may subject Con Edison to penalties.
The PSC's Remediation Plan directs Con Edison to do the following:
- Complete all manhole inspections, providing power to all MTA facilities;
- Place sensors in all manholes to notify Con Edison of any malfunction and conduct infrared inspection of cables;
- Inspect Property Line Boxes and Electric Distribution Rooms. The MTA (or their representative WSP) will determine the priority order of inspections;
- Inspect interlocking equipment and determine prioritized list;
- Install new smart meters and a more effective communications system between Con Edison and the MTA;
- Replace aluminum conductors with more reliable cooper cable conductors;
- Complete work to install redundancy at 17 "hotspots" and install redundancy at remaining prioritized locations working with the MTA;
- Provide a key operating employee on site at the MTA using dedicated, secure communications equipment;
- Con Edison, Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), and the PSC will agree upon the modernization of auto transfer to handle fluctuations in power;
- Con Edison will inspect all trackside equipment and signals working with EPRI and the MTA; and
- Con Edison will file with the PSC a monthly report on their progress.
The prioritized areas will be remediated within six months and the remaining inspections remediated by the end of 12 months.