Proposal for Dunkirk power plant would gouge customers - The Buffalo News

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Proposal for Dunkirk power plant would gouge customers

By Dennis Elsenbeck

Recently, much has been said about the future of the generating station in Dunkirk and the impact it will have on the community. The rhetoric of late has become increasingly heated, some of it misdirected at National Grid.

National Grid understands the community’s concerns – the potential loss of tax revenue, primarily – if the station closes. We are invested in the community as well. We pay taxes here, we are a major employer and we connect homes and businesses to the energy network. The success of the communities we serve drives our success as a company.

This issue affects all of our upstate customers, including those in the Chautauqua region. Over the past few years, we have worked hard at stabilizing rates for all our upstate customers.

The repowering plan, as proposed by the plant owner, would have a severe impact on all 1.6 million of our upstate New York customers. Unfortunately, the plant owner has asked that all of the repowering pricing information and terms be kept secret.

Instead, we have been accused of plotting to replace the plant with power from far-off plants in Pennsylvania, and that we would reap huge profits. Nothing could be further from the truth. Decisions regarding which plants sell power into the New York grid, and the price we all pay for it, are made by an independent energy market operator, not the utility. Delivery cost to the customer is the same whether the source is one mile or 100 miles away.

The reason the debate exists in the first place is that the owners of the Dunkirk station decided to mothball the plant because it no longer made financial sense to operate.

National Grid, which owns and manages the distribution network, has a responsibility to provide safe and reliable energy delivery service. Our proposals that have been requested by New York State’s Public Service Commission are intended to do that.

The transaction proposed by the plant owner – requiring our customers to be saddled with a generation contract that would be three to seven times more expensive than the transmission upgrades – forms the basis for our recommendation to the PSC.

The repowering of Dunkirk under the proposed terms is a windfall for the developer balanced on the backs of National Grid customers through unnecessary higher rates. If the community’s primary concern is the potential loss of tax revenue, is the best solution to saddle electric customers with long-term contracts that could raise commercial customer rates by up to 10 percent and residential rates up to 4 percent?

Clearly, opinions will differ but any solution will be complicated, and will require cooperation from all sides. The final decisions, though, need to be based on sound research and verifiable fact.

Dennis Elsenbeck is a regional executive for National Grid in Buffalo.

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