A pair of recently inked contracts to fuel more than one-third of New York City’s electricity grid with renewable energy will raise monthly electricity bills for upstate ratepayers up to 9.9 percent once the projects are on-line.  

Both downstate (ConEdison) and upstate (National Grid) customers will bear the project costs equally based on load share, but upstate customers—who tend to have lower electricity bills—are expected to experience roughly double the percentage increase. 

That’s according to petition just filed by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), which is now seeking to have the contracted projects approved by the Public Service Commission. 

The projects seem headed for approval, since Governor Hochul signed off on them and her office issued a press release Tuesday trumpeting their expected contribution toward achieving the seemingly-quixotic milestones for greenhouse gas reduction and alternative energy development required under the state’s 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA). Those metrics include the state (somehow) achieving 70 percent renewable energy by 2030 and a zero-emissions electricity supply by 2040. 

Those goals would necessitate greening New York City’s electricity grid, since the city consumes about one-third of state-wide electricity, and it does so by relying overwhelmingly on fossil-fuel generated electricity, especially after the decommissioning of the Indian Point nuclear facility.  

The dual projects contracted for are a 375-mile transmission line to bring hydropower from Quebec, and a 174-mile transmission line from Delaware County, that would transmit solar and wind energy from Central New York. The expected total cost of the two projects is nearly $24 billion, according to the petition. 

In related news Tuesday, the New York State Climate Action Council (Council) held a virtual public meeting at which it discussed a strategy to continue dodging — in its long-awaited “draft scoping plan” to be issued later this month—the question of who will pay the hundreds of billions of dollars required to achieve the CLCPA’s climate goals. 

A draft plan circulated in advance to the Council members (but not the public) prompted member concern regarding the need for an analysis of “energy affordability and impacts to consumer pricing.” But the “proposed resolution” to that concern was to point to the Council’s cost-benefit analysis. As we recently noted, however, that analysis makes no attempt to estimate ratepayer impact on the grounds that it’s currently unclear what specific policies will be adopted to achieve the law’s climate goals.   

But if the Council is not going to propose such policies, what will it do?  And if neither the CLCPA authors nor the council created by the law are determining how the law’s clean energy metrics are to be met, who is? 

Judging by the NYSERDA petition filed Tuesday, the unelected members of the Public Service Commission will be making a lot of the calls, as they decide the fate of ratepayers on a case-by-case basis, in a decidedly non-democratic forum, far removed from the public eye.   

About the Author

Peter Warren

Peter Warren is the Director of Research at the Empire Center for Public Policy.

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