Aid to NY state nuclear power plants will hit all electric customers
BERGEN — The cost of bringing the state’s energy portfolio to 50 percent renewable sources by 2030 will be felt all over the state next month.
But communities such as the village of Bergen — which have municipal electric departments — the costs of scaling up renewable sources and keeping four upstate nuclear power plants viable will be felt more deeply.
Village officials said Wednesday they have reached out to their approximately 670 customers, but are surprised increasing utility rates aren’t getting more attention. In Bergen alone, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Clean Energy Standard is expected to raise the cumulative bill paid by Bergen Electric consumers by $90,668 in 2017 to fund the Zero Emission Credit program.
“No matter who supplies your power, whether it’s Bergen Electric, or National Grid, or RG&E, every electricity user in the state is going to be paying more starting next month,” Bergen Administrator, Clerk and Treasurer Courtney Gale said last week with near incredulity. “(The state) is giving three power plants $482 million per year, basically subsidizing them so they make money … and it’s not just us, everyone in the whole state will have their rates increasing. We sent this letter out, and I’m sure we’ll get a lot of questions.”
In their one-page letter, the village told residents that the ZEC and the Renewable Energy Credit program that will fund renewable energy-generating facilities will show up on their bills, and that they are non-legislative mandates. “Bergen Electric has no choice but to abide with the order” it reads.
“As a village, we’re constantly looking for ways to make it more efficient for everybody, with LED streetlights and other things like that,” Mayor Anna Marie Barclay said. “So we’re on one side, trying to be as efficient as possible … and now we have to add a fee that’s totally out of our control. It’s frustrating.”
With all the focus on windmills off Long Island and the shuttering of the downstate region’s sole nuclear plant, Gale and Barclay said their outreach aims to raise awareness before residents’ bills rise.
It may be spelled out on a private energy firm’s bill, but it will just show up as a higher rate with municipal providers.
According to estimates prepared for the 41 New York communities that provide municipal electricity through a supply that’s partially subsidized from power generated at Niagara Falls, the Zero Emission Credits will vary based on the scale of systems.
Silver Springs is projected to have $20,431 in ZEC charges this year, with Castile at $26,891.
Communities supplying power to agri-business users such as Bonduelle in Bergen, or cold storage operations like Holley will see $97,991 in increases. Those supporting manufacturing facilities, like Arcade, will see $435,404.
They will have higher costs but increases are set across the board at roughly $0.003 per kilowatt hour of electricity.
Even though the village is limited by contracts not to produce its own power in an effort to reduce rates further, Bergen supplies power to residential and commercial users at a market rate of around $0.06 to $0.08 per kilowatt hour, which Barclay said is a small but beneficial support the village can offer.
“It’s a perk that people are glad to hear about,” Barclay said. “It’s not something that causes people to move here to somewhere else, but it does make a difference. Our electric bills are maybe two-thirds of what someone’s bill is outside of the village. And if you have electric heat it’s a huge difference.”
Gale estimated roughly a third of the Bergen’s homes are heated by electric sources, and one subdivision is all electric — there’s no natural gas.
“For a lot of people in Bergen (it makes sense) because it’s so cheap to heat their whole house with electric,” Gale said, at costs of a few hundred dollars per month in the winter. “For them, a little increase is still going to be a lot, and those are people who already have a hard time paying for electric. It will hurt them more.”
Village seeking ideas for grant
Barclay and Gale said Bergen’s energy bonafides are serious and growing. They have already reached the requirements for NYSERDA’s Clean Energy Community program, which will provide grants of $100,000 to four Rochester-area municipalities and five $50,000 grants to five more that show progress on energy efficiency.
By changing all of the village’s streetlights to LEDs over the past years, passing two policy resolutions and staging an energy efficiency training, the village is ready to claim the prizes. Now they need to figure out what to ask for.
Projects would need to be related to additional energy savings, but would have to create a community-wide benefit. Barclay said adding an electric vehicle charging station is one possibility, which could pull more Thruway and I-490 traffic into the village to eat and shop.
“There’s a lot of options,” she said.
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