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Astonishingly secretive process – New York’s very costly nuclear bailout

 Public deserves truth about nuclear bailout http://www.timesunion.com/opinion/article/Commentary-Public-deserves-truth-about-nuclear-11717763.php, By Blair Horner,  July 29, 2017 
It’s been one year since Gov. Andrew Cuomo quietly foisted an estimated $7.6 billion electric utility rate hike on the people of New York to bail out three aging, upstate nuclear power plants. Since then, we’ve learned a lot about how bad that deal was, but we still don’t know much about how the administration cooked it up.

Here’s what we know: The deal is the result of an astonishingly secretive process. True, some hearings were held, but on a proposed bailout ranging from $59 million to $660 million. After the process wrapped up, the administration jacked up the price into the billions, without any meaningful public process to debate its merits.

The Cuomo administration didn’t release an estimate for the entire cost of the 12-year plan, so the independent Public Utility Law Project crunched the numbers and found it could be as much as $7.6 billion. That stunning transfer of wealth to the single corporation owning the plants may well be the largest in New York’s history.

The first two years of the bailout are estimated to cost ratepayers $964,900,000, an average of more than $1.3 million per day.

Since the bailout hit utility bills on April 1, New Yorkers have paid nearly $163 million extra to prop up these plants. That’s a huge amount of money in a state like New York, already burdened with some of the highest utility rates in the country, and where 800,000 ratepayers are behind on their utility bills.

Included in that $163 million is close to $10 million in extra charges being footed by Niagara Mohawk residential ratepayers, based on the PULP analysis.

 No one with a utility bill is immune. School districts, hospitals, businesses and municipalities are now grappling with higher utility rates because of a deal that was hammered out with virtually no public input.

Albany County, for example, is slated to pay up to $225,543 more per year for the bailout. Albany’s school district may pay up to $87,552 more per year and Albany Medical Center up to $537,843 per year.

Despite the massive scale of the bailout, New Yorkers still don’t know what alternatives the Cuomo administration considered to meet our energy needs. But there are clearly other paths to study. For example, the analysis released this month by energy expert Amory Lovins, which criticizes the growing trend toward subsidizing costly, uneconomical nuclear power plants.

Lovins, once named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People, found that bailouts like the kind New York just implemented could be avoided by closing unprofitable nuclear plants and reinvesting their operating costs into energy efficiency, such as better insulation, windows, and appliances.

Because energy efficiency reduces demand and is so much cheaper per kWh than the energy produced by a nuclear plant, it could replace the power generated by the nuclear plant and replace some of the power generated by coal or gas, all for the same price as one kWh of nuclear energy.

Lovins’ independent analysis contradicts the Cuomo administration’s assertions that the bailout is the only way New York can reduce carbon emissions and meet its energy needs.

To “celebrate” the one-year anniversary of the bailout, let’s hope the administration finally conducts a comprehensive public review of all the alternatives to spending billions to keep old, unprofitable nuclear power plants running.

It’s not too late to reverse course and invest in 21st-century, clean, efficient power sources. New York ratepayers deserve to have their money bankroll job-creating technologies that help attack the problem of energy pollution, not kick the can 12 years down the road.

Blair Horner is executive director the New York Public Interest Research Group.

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July 31, 2017 - Posted by | business and costs, politics, USA

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