By Lee Davis
I read with interest two recent articles written by executives of National Grid, a United Kingdom-based regulated monopoly that operates in New York, New England and the United Kingdom. As you may know, its delivery charge typically represents the largest part of your electric bill every month – before you ever pay for your electricity.
National Grid has denounced a repowering project at Dunkirk that my company, NRG Energy, would like to build. National Grid has labeled our project as unnecessary and overpriced – and the latest accusation is that we are “hiding something.”
NRG’s Dunkirk repowering proposal, after all, is not unsolicited; it’s a response to a specific reliability need identified by National Grid. As a result of this need, NRG was directed by the New York Public Service Commission to submit an alternate proposal to a National Grid transmission project.
All of the details of our proposal have been provided directly to National Grid and the PSC as part of a formal process. Nothing is “hidden;” if National Grid believes otherwise, its officials simply do not understand how the regulatory process works. I suspect the root of National Grid’s angst is that it has been asked to compete. Monopolies simply do not function well in a competitive environment.
NRG is a competitive national energy provider. We are one of the largest solar developers in the nation, and we sell competitively priced energy directly to millions of customers – in direct competition with other retail energy suppliers. We own six large-scale power plants in New York. Unlike a regulated monopoly, we must compete in every element of our business.
Simply put, NRG’s Dunkirk repowering project is based on three ideals: First, it meets the reliability needs identified by National Grid. Second, it offers substantial economic and environmental benefits to Western New York and the state. Finally, the project provides a permanent solution to the reliability needs of the broader region – not a complicated patchwork of transmission projects that connect into neighboring regions, as proposed by National Grid.
We also believe it can address a large-scale congestion problem recently identified by the New York Independent System Operator. We feel a permanent solution – built and operated in New York by New Yorkers – makes much more sense than a temporary Band-Aid approach that will have to be reapplied again and again.
NRG wants to build the Dunkirk repowering project – we are in the business of supplying energy competitively. But more significantly, it will be an important resource and economic engine for New York and the local community. This project makes sense on every level for New York, and all the unfounded criticism that a monopoly can muster won’t change that fact.
Lee Davis is east region president of NRG Energy.