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PSC program seeks to improve state energy efficiency

As temperatures climb in summer, so does electricity consumption. Currently, the Buffalo-Niagara Region's peak summer electricity usage is about 50 percent higher than the average amount of demand.

This huge increase in electricity demand means that some of the region's power plants must sharply increase production, an action that greatly increases the types of pollution that contribute to global warming.

Given the reality of an ever-increasing demand for electricity, as well as for natural gas, the state Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities, is embarking on a wide range of aggressive initiatives that will have long-lasting impact on the state's energy markets, and which will have positive effects on utilities, ratepayers, and the environment.

The commission, for example, recently initiated a plan to design an electric and natural gas energy efficiency initiative to establish targets for energy efficiency, similar to New York's existing renewable energy usage goals. This new energy efficiency initiative is intended to reverse the long-standing pattern of increasing energy use.

This unprecedented initiative seeks to reduce electric usage by 15 percent of projected levels by 2015, the very laudable goal set forth by Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer. It is considered the most aggressive program of its type undertaken in the nation, and is one of the most significant undertakings by the commission.

Our analysis concludes that benefits of the program will include cost savings due to reduced energy and capacity purchases and lower projected average market prices of energy. Further, according to department staff, benefits will result from the reduced future needs for new installed capacity, reduced emissions and increased economic development associated with the creation of new jobs.

The initiative calls for the state Legislature to strengthen building codes and raise appliance efficiency standards, and it asks that other relevant parties, such as the New York Power Authority, which is not regulated by the commission, join together to identify ways to reduce energy consumption.

The commission's aggressive promotion of new energy efficiency standards will have an impact on all New Yorkers, including those in the Buffalo-Niagara region. It is the intent of my staff to work with all interested parties and to provide the necessary strong leadership to ensure that these important initiatives, which are in the public interest, remain on track and are brought to successful conclusion.

Meanwhile, New Yorkers can help maintain electric system reliability and ensure adequate supplies of electricity by using electricity efficiently and conserving energy. If everyone reduces the amount of electricity they use, even just a little, it can make a big difference.

Patricia L. Acampora is chairwoman of the New York State Public Service Commission and chief executive officer of the Department of Public Service. She lives in Mattituck, Long Island.

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