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Power agency emphasizes job creation

Job creation is the key criterion used by the New York Power Authority in allocating low-cost electricity to area companies, those gathered for a hydroelectric power workshop were told Wednesday.

"Obviously, we want quality jobs," Michael J. Huvane, the Power Authority's manager for marketing and economic development, told about two dozen company executives in Conference Center Niagara Falls. "It's better to have 100 jobs that pay $30 an hour than 500 jobs that pay $6 an hour."

Companies must be located within a 30-mile radius of the Niagara Power Project in Lewiston to be eligible for expansion power, Huvane said.

Currently, about 120 companies in Western New York receive expansion and/or replacement power.

Another major factor the Power Authority uses to allocate low-cost electricity is a company's long-term commitment to the region and the state.

"What's your footprint in New York State? That's what we look at," Huvane said. "This is an economic-development program and is meant to be an incentive to expand, not a reward for expanding."

Businesses must be willing to commit in writing that they will use the low-cost power to create and maintain jobs. As Huvane put it, "Use it or lose it."

The workshop was an informational session to educate area businesses on available hydropower programs, said Thom Kraus, president of Niagara USA Chamber, which sponsored the breakfast meeting.

"Hopefully, this will promote an increase in investment and expansion of companies in the area," he said.

The fundamentals of hydropower were explained by Kenneth M. Kujawa, key account manager with National Grid.

"When a new company moves into the area, National Grid will determine the voltage class for the company's specific needs," he said.

Voltage is delivered in four categories, ranging from a high of 115,000 volts for the largest companies to a low of 480 volts for small businesses.

Prices for new allocations will range from $3.39 to $10.86 per kilowatt, depending on the size of the company, he said. Existing allocations will continue to be billed at $1.52 per kilowatt through Dec. 31, 2011.

Paul A. Ameis, executive vice president of Isochem Inc. of Lockport, said the workshop was helpful in understanding how demand affects a company's electricity bill, as well as the networking with the people who supply the power.

"I'm here to learn and get the background," said Rich Peers, facility manager for Covanta Niagara of Niagara Falls.

Kelly Brannen, longtime managing director of Niacet Corp. in Niagara Falls, said the workshop was a very handy refresher course.


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