Long Island’s energy policy seems always to be clouded in uncertainty, often resulting in avoidable financial consequences to Long Island ratepayers.
First LILCO, LIPA’s predecessor, saddled Long Island ratepayers with $7 billion in debt from the Shoreham Nuclear Plant which never produced one megawatt of power. Four billion dollars of that debt remains to be paid by ratepayers.
Then it was LIPA, fearing not having enough power during the peak-period summer months, that burdened Long Islanders with more capacity than was needed. Decisions influenced by political imperatives sought not to increase electric rates for this capacity, choosing instead to encumber ratepayers through increased LIPA debt.
Taking a different approach is the current iteration of LIPA which now has an energy plan prepared by PSEG Long Island which projects by 2030 decreasing Long Island energy needs as business and population demographics evolve. However, business and residential ratepayers should be paying attention because increased rates may be on the horizon.
As if Long Island energy costs are not high enough, increased energy costs lie ahead, depending on how far LIPA will go to meet New York’s energy policy. The state has ordered that, by 2030, 50 percent of energy must be produced by renewable energy resources, thus reducing the demand for fossil fuel energy production. The unintended consequence is how much more will ratepayers pay for alternative energy, such as the Deepwater wind farm, than they did for fossil fuels and what will that mean for Long Island’s economy, businesses and households?
New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli found that the $1.65 billion, 15 turbine Deepwater wind farm off Long Island’s East End producing a piddling 90 megawatts of power, as compared to Long Island’s current energy demand of 5,000 megawatts, would produce energy costing 22 cents per kilowatt hour over 20 years. The figure is about three times conventional energy costs.
While alternative energy is a laudable goal, there has to be economic balance and DiNapoli’s kilowatt per hour analysis suggests that there is more work to do in finding economic balance and justification for wind power.
Robert Amundsen of the New York Institute of Technology notes that “wind is not a peak resource because it can’t be relied on to provide power when needed and not able to turn off that power when unneeded.
Wind power on Long Island may not be ready for economic prime time. The Long Island economy depends on the efficient use of rate payer dollars and in restraining rising electric rates.
Cantor is director of the Long Island Center for Socio- Economic Policy and a former Suffolk County economic development commissioner. He can be reached at EcoDev1@aol.com.
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