• Gipson Helps Devise Plan to Reduce Energy Costs

• Gipson Helps Devise Plan to Reduce Energy Costs

PoJo_LogoThere may be a way to short-circuit a rise in power costs that we’re paying now in the mid- and lower Hudson Valley. Maybe.

Three legislators have pitched a plan to Gov. Andrew Cuomo they say could offset the higher power costs people pay under a “new capacity zone” ordered by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Their idea would require an executive order by Cuomo to alter the uses of a special fund the state has for utility system improvements. They say using this money would mitigate the higher supply charges all consumers in the mid- and lower Hudson Valley now pay, thanks to a FERC order aimed at raising bulk power prices to encourage private enterprises to build more power plants. FERC on Tuesday said it would not rehear the plan as many have urged, including the New York state Public Service Commission and Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp.

State Sens. Terry Gipson, D-Rhinebeck, Cecilia Tkaczyk, D-Duanesburg, and George Latimer, D-Rye, offered the idea Thursday.

There was no reply late Thursday when the governor’s press office was called.

The senators asked Cuomo to direct the state’s Public Service Commission to use funds from the system benefits charge to mitigate the fiscal impact of the FERC capacity zone. Central Hudson has estimated that this new charge, effective as of May 1, adds about 6 percent to residential bills and about 10 percent to industrial bills.

As for the commission, a spokesman, Jim Denn, said they don’t comment on proposals by legislators.

In a statement, Gipson said, “The federal government continues to appear steadfast in their unfortunate plan to increase electric rates for the Hudson Valley in order to better service New York City and Long Island. Adding insult to injury is FERC’s refusal to even respond to the Hudson Valley families and businesses whose hard-earned dollars they are taking. We are now asking Governor Cuomo and New York state to continue to fight alongside Hudson Valley residents and take the necessary steps to help mitigate the harsh impact the capacity zone’s rate increases will have on families and our local economy.”

The system benefits charge was established to fund policies like energy efficiency and alternative energy. Everyone pays into it with each electric bill. On a Central Hudson bill, it’s under “SBC/RPS Chgs,” and was running $0.00771 per kilowatt-hour, or nearly eight-tenths of a cent for using 1,000 watts for an hour. Gipson had offered legislation earlier to allow the commission to use SBC money, but an executive order would be quicker.

Statewide, the SBC has a budget of nearly $100 million per year. Most of it is spent through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. Gipson said there is $300 million of uncommitted funds in the 2012-2016 plan.

The proposal brought a cautious reaction from one power-issues activist, Jennifer Metzger of Citizens for Local Power. “It seems premature at this point to use those funds,” which are aimed at encouraging clean energy and reducing fossil-fuel use that adds to climate change, she said. So far, the FERC zone plan is only helping to bring back fossil-fuel plants, she said.

The fight should be against the FERC zone charges, she said. “We want to relieve the burden on ratepayers, but the first line of defense is to do what we can to eliminate that zone altogether and reverse that decision.”

A petition from Central Hudson and the Public Service Commission calling for a stay of the plan is to be heard Tuesday in the federal Court of Appeals.