The New York Power Authority has a block of unused low-cost hydropower earmarked for local industry -- Alcoa -- that's not being used up in Massena for the time being because of the economic downturn. Rather than selling it for a premium rate on the open market, as it does with unused industrial hydropower here, the authority is looking for a way of getting it in the hands of local businesses.
The Watertown Daily Times reports the authority is contemplating a plan in which it would "lower the electricity rate for North Country businesses by selling abandoned preservation power from the idling Alcoa East Plant in Massena."
Under the proposal, NYPA would sell about 254 megawatts of electricity that has been used by the Alcoa East Plant and use the revenue to reduce the rates for industrial, small business, retail and perhaps nonprofits in St. Lawrence, Lewis and Jefferson counties. The plan would not include residential rate-payers.
One of the TV stations in the North Country reports Power Authority President Richard Kessel as saying, "Rather than taking that power and selling it into the market, if we can utilize it for the benefit of the North Country, that's what I think we need to do."
Let's see. We've got 138 megawatts of unused power earmarked for industry located within 30 miles of the Niagara Power Project in Lewiston. That's nearly 20 percent of what's set aside for local industry. Last year, the authority sold the unused power and pocketed an estimated $45 million.
Rep. Brian Higgins submitted a bill last week that would require the Power Authority to turn over such profits in the future to a locally controlled development agency. In Massena, Kessel doesn't want things to get to that point. Rather than sell the power that will go unused in the interim, the authority is exploring ways to find other takers in the interim.
Sounds like an approach that could have application here.
We have a much broader business base than the North Country, so it might not make sense to spread it around, as the benefits would be spread a mile wide and an inch deep. An argument can be made that targeting the juice makes more sense.
Regardless, the concept of keeping the power within the community, rather than selling it to benefit the authority's coffers, makes a lot of sense.
It's not like the Power Authority needs the money.
Last year it cleared a record $298 million, in addition to making a $119 million "voluntary contribution" to state government to help with the budget deficit. The authority profits are likely to drop somewhat this year, as energy prices have fallen, but headquarters is projecting a healthy profit nevertheless.
taggedNew York Power Authority