Another Voice: New York urgently needs to upgrade its transmission system for electricity - The Buffalo News
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Another Voice: New York urgently needs to upgrade its transmission system for electricity

By George D. Maziarz

Most people think about the energy that powers their home only once a month, and in that case their typical question is, “Why is my bill so high?”

One reason is New York’s antiquated and inefficient electrical transmission system. We cannot transfer power effectively from abundant upstate generation resources to the New York City market, where prices and demand are high. This scenario threatens upstate generation jobs and causes massive system congestion that increases rates across our state by $650 million a year.

In 2012, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced his Energy Highway initiative to address this problem. The goal was to develop transmission improvement projects that would ease congestion charges, allow the transfer of an additional 1,000 megawatts of power from upstate to New York City, and create thousands of additional jobs. As a part of this process, the Public Service Commission began to vet various transmission proposals. As of this writing, the PSC has whittled down the list of possible developers to just four and it is moving forward on a dual track.

This would be the largest statewide economic development driver that has been seen in decades. Here are just two of the high points:

• An upgrade will generate more than $7 billion in economic activity in the state and will create 12,000 direct and nearly 38,000 total jobs.

• The projects will facilitate the development of renewable generation. This, in turn, will generate almost $4.6 billion of economic activity and create an additional 8,000 direct jobs.

There are also significant benefits for our environment. Emission of carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide will be reduced by 370,000 tons and 200,000 tons, respectively.

These transmission projects are good for the economy, good for the environment and good for working men and women in our state.

However, time and again steel-in-the-ground economic development projects that would benefit our state have been stymied in the regulatory process or succumbed under pressure from special interests. We simply cannot let that happen this time.

In upstate New York, we have seen industry after industry leave as jobs were outsourced. Our power generation industry has been the one glaring exception. Upgrading transmission will allow this industry to continue to thrive, while reducing energy rates and improving our environment. It is the kind of win-win scenario that we always look for.

The PSC should implement the governor’s streamlined siting process for transmission lines in existing right of ways and move forward on these upgrades as soon as possible. The stakes are too high for it to do otherwise.

State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane, is chairman of the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee.

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