An Energy Squeeze In New York

One of my interests continues to be how, in the State of New York, we deal with energy issues. I have some background as former owner of a natural gas exploration company (an industry which has pretty much been put out of business in the State by regulations from Albany,) and as a former Trustee of the New York Power Authority which still operates hydroelectric facilities on the Niagara and St. Lawrence rivers.

I also receive a daily “blurb” from a news energy service on what is happening across the State which I find interesting to read. Two recent news items came to my attention which really haven’t been discussed much around Upstate.

One announcement was that Con Edison in New York has put a moratorium on connecting any new natural gas hook-ups in that area. There is just not capacity in the pipelines supplying the city and suburbs of New York to allow for new natural gas customers.

And why is that? A least one answer is that New York State has been directly exacerbating the problem by following the lead of what I would call extremists in the environmental movement who support banning any new natural gas pipeline construction in the State. That policy is driven by the belief that in order to stop global warming we must cease all use of any fossil fuels including the most clean-burning of them, natural gas. Therefore, the State has not been issuing the needed stream-crossing and environmental permits required to build natural gas pipelines.

If you are in agreement with this policy, then you are probably celebrating Con Ed’s announcement of no new natural gas hook-ups. However, if you are trying to build a new house or apartment in Westchester or New York City and want to install an energy efficient natural gas furnace… then this is not good news for you.

A second news article dealt with similar problems facing electricity supply in the same area of the State. For years, the Governor has been advocating the shut-down of the Indian Point nuclear power plants in Westchester County. One is now scheduled to close in 2020 and the other in 2021. These plants have been producing up to 20% of the power in the New York City region and, when it comes to air quality, are cleaner burning than fossil fuel plants.

The “deep thinkers” in the environmental movement are probably celebrating the upcoming closure of these plants along with the policy not to replace them with natural gas generation. For them, it is a double win.

Yet, what it may mean for energy consumers in the New York area is less clear. Unless there is some type of substitute generation (and wind and solar are still a long way from being able to supply it,) could we be looking at rolling “brown-outs” in this major metropolitan region of the State? “Strap-hangers” could be the most affected since the subways are totally dependent on electricity. Of course, if outages happen and history is any lesson, we know who will be blamed–it will be the utility company’s fault.

It is easy to make pronouncements on everything going “green” by a certain date and New York leading the way. It is more difficult when it comes to actually keeping the lights on and your house heated.

Rolland Kidder is a Stow resident.