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There’s a better way


May 7, 2014

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has devised an innovative way to address high electricity rates paid by residents of Long Island. Unfortunately, it’s at the expense of the ratepayers of Orange, Dutchess and Ulster counties. Claiming to address capacity issues for delivery of power to New York City, FERC has created a New Capacity Zone(NCZ) that lumps these Mid-Hudson counties in with those downstate, effectively increasing upstate customers’ electricity rates by 4% this year. Critics ranging from the Public Service Commission (PSC) to Congressman Chris Gibson (19th District) have pointed out that the NCZ is unnecessary and economically harmful. New York is already addressing capacity issues through the state’s Energy Highway Blueprint, and the PSC is reviewing four competing proposals to upgrade transmission lines and add at least 1,000 MW of carrying capacity to relieve transmission bottlenecks. Despite ongoing objections, the permanent $280 million rate hike took effect May 1.

Fortunately, there’s a better way to lower electricity costs without resorting to this kind of trickery. Seventy people gathered at the Homestead School in Glen Spey last Saturday to hear about the variety of options available and to tour the Homestead School’s ground-mounted solar array, which produces all of the electricity needed to power the school and a nearby residential installation at the home of John Burrow. The presenters included Stephen Stuart of Sullivan Alliance for Sustainable Development, which co-hosted the event, and three solar installers: Todd Okeson of East Coast Alternative Energy, the company that designed and installed the Homestead School’s project; John Hartley of NRG Home Solar, whose company installed Burrow’s system; and Rick Contrata of Atlantech Solar, who is installing a system on a commercial project in Livingston Manor. The audience included homeowners, business owners, school officials and representatives from town boards and their energy committees.