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Residential bills 50 percentabove national average

Homeowners living next door to one of the cheapest sources of energy in the nation might think they would catch a break in the price they pay for electricity.

They'd be wrong.

Residential customers in Erie and Niagara counties - like many industrial users - are largely shut out of that cheap power produced at the Niagara Power Project. Private utilities serving Western New York get enough low-cost power to provide about 5 percent of what they sell to residential customers, which saves a couple of dollars off a monthly bill. The rest is purchased at market rates. As a result, electricity rates in Erie and Niagara counties for residential customers are 50 percent higher than the national average, a Buffalo News analysis shows. That adds about $35 a month, or more than $400 a year, to the bill of a typical homeowner.

On average, New York's residential rates are the third highest in the nation. While high rates in New York City and Long Island drive up that average, costs in Erie and Niagara counties are higher than elsewhere upstate.

Ann Marie Maxwell of Buffalo doesn't need to read her bill to know her electric rates are high. She just has to listen to her husband.

"I have to hear him yell about it and shut off the lights," she said.

Maxwell finds it "amazing" that her family pays high rates with cheap power generated nearby.

"We can't take care of our own. How nice," she said.

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