The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

Opinion

September 6, 2011

CONFER: The real story behind your power bill

MIDDLEPORT —  

As long as the Public Service Commission allows a pending rate change from National Grid — and there’s no reason they wouldn’t — the electric company’s customers will see significant savings come Jan. 1. The bill for the typical household/apartment will be nearly $9.50 lower per month, while homeowners with families (who use more power) drop by almost $16. That’s $114 and $192 in extra spending money per year. Not too shabby.

Commercial and industrial users will see even bigger savings. A warehouse or department store could save a few thousand dollars per month. Manufacturers will be faced with a windfall. Confer Plastics, for example, will save $24,000 each month. More than a quarter million dollars in annual benefit is incredibly good news. Think of how many other plants are in the same boat.

When folks read news of the rate cut’s passage, you might hear a collective “it’s about time” accompanied by some accusatory fingers pointed in National Grid’s direction. A lot of people might assume the high rates existed only for the financial benefit of the power company; after all, corporations are widely reviled for being “greedy.”

It should be known, though, that these long-held higher rates had been in place for the financial preservation of National Grid. If the rates hadn’t existed, National Grid wouldn’t exist, either. You see, the government intervened in the electrical markets more than 30 years ago and what it did has haunted power companies and their customers ever since.

Thanks to federal grants and 1978’s Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act, co-generation facilities became wildly popular across the United States. A co-gen plant creates electricity (typically with gas) and shares its waste (steam) with a nearby industrial firm or farm that can put it to use. PURPA mandated that the utilities buy co-gen electricity. That’s bad enough. Then, the federal government left implementation and enforcement of PURPA to the states.

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