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Dated, Old Transmission Lines Drive Rising Costs

DUNKIRK — High costs for power to Western New York during a recent heat wave are not surprising to New York state Assemblyman Andrew Goodell. But the exhorbitant price tag was.

Goodell spoke to The Post-Journal on Tuesday morning in the wake of the recent spike in prices on the New York Independent Supply Organization web site. Last Thursday afternoon at 2:30 in the 90-degree heat and humidity, the Locational Based Marginal Pricing for the Western New York region hit a mark of $596.22. The pricing takes into account the cost to provide the next MegaWatt of load to a specific location in the grid.

Driving up the cost is the congestion to bring the power to Western New York. Most of that comes from out of state in the form of fossil fuels, or in some cases, hydropower.

Goodell said the transmission system currently used in Western New York was built for locally produced power. Two of those main generators in the past were the closed Dunkirk plant and Huntley plant in Tonawanda. Without those stations, when electric use increases — especially on sweltering days the region encountered last week — the outdated transmission system has trouble handling the volume.

Both the Public Service Commission and the New York Independent System Operator are aware of the issues and are hoping to solve the congestion problems. But the repairs cannot happen overnight.

“It’s a slow process,” Goodell stated.

New York state, through Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s leadership, is pushing for more green energy options. Goodell backs those efforts, but sees trouble in the near future. Currently, about 82 percent of the power being used in the state continues to be fossil fuel, natural gas and nuclear. Sixteen percent is hydropower while the remaining 2 percent is solar and wind.

“The New York state electrical system is being driven by politics and polls,” the assemblyman said. Goodell said a much better answer – for the grid and customers – would be continuing to push green energy alternatives but have a greater diversity in power suppliers.

As for the high price of power during last week’s heat spell, Goodell said major manufacturing users could take a hit in their power bills while homeowners also could see a minor bump. He also noted the greatest cost in the monthly electric bill are the surcharges that subsidize nuclear plants as well as the wind energy.

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