Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Local News

January 29, 2012

Cuomo: Sell upstate power downstate

Antiquated power lines and towers that are more than 35 years old are keeping upstate power from downstate customers, according to state leaders.

Coal-burning plants like AES in Somerset, which are running at less than capacity and facing closure, don’t have a way to get through to customers in need who are looking elsewhere for electricity.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pushing for investment in an  “Energy Highway,” and area leaders are behind it.

“That is extremely good news for us,” said Republican Sen. George Maziarz, who introduced the Democratic governor at the Buffalo-Niagara Convention Center on Wednesday. “He’s not talking about hydro power. He’s not talking about NYPA power. He’s talking about the independent power producers. That’s AES, NRG, the Huntley plant.”

Maziarz noted that AES Somerset is in bankruptcy and is probably operating at about 25 percent capacity. The plant on Lake Ontario, which is the highest taxpayer in Niagara County, was closed down for a period in 2011.

“Now it can’t make money,” the Newfane senator said. “They’re in bankruptcy, because they can’t get the power that we can produce over to the area that needs it most. Upstate New York has numerous generators that can’t sell their power, the system of transporting power is so antiquated.”

Energy distributors say there are hubs near Utica and outside Albany that are bottlenecks.

Cuomo said: “When you talk about rebuilding the economy, the one thing every business needs is power. When you look at our energy distribution center, it’s archaic, it’s outdated and it’s ineffective. Let’s build a power superhighway. We have tremendous supply in Northern New York, Western New York. We have tremendous demand in southern New York. We have to connect the dots and build a system and build the grid, build the system to distribute energy in this state.

The governor compared the energy highway of the future to the interstate highway system that exists today.

“It’s a smart grid system,” Cuomo said. “Private sector companies will build it. Let the state call them in. Let them invest in it. Let’s master plan. Issue an RFP.”

Cuomo believes the state generate $2 billion in economic activity.

“It is a $25 billion  construction program, leveraged with just $1 billion in state money. This can really give a jump start to the state economy.”

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