Thursday, May 22, 2014

When you control the power, you have all the power

In the mid-1990s, voters in the upstate New York city of Glens Falls rejected a proposal to create a municipal power corporation, of the kind 47 localities in NYS now haveThe then-Niagara Mohawk spent a lot of money propagandizing against the referendum so as to preserve its monopoly. 

When multinational National Grid proposed to buy Niagara Mohawk, it was sold as a good deal for customers, who would allegedly benefit from the larger corporation's resources and economies of scale. Customers have never seen one iota of benefit from this merger, but plenty of pain.

The TOTAL rate for the public electric utility in Massena in northern New York is less than the DELIVERY ONLY rate that National Grid charged this month (even before you pay for the actual electric supply). Assuming the municipal utility's website is correct, residential electric rates in Massena have remained the same since 1997 (around the time GF resident's rejected a similar utility).

Right now, individual towns, villages or cities can form their own municipal power corporation, if they feel like spending millions in legal fees to fight National Grid and its ilk. In 2010, a proposal in the New York state legislature would have allowed smaller municipalities to band together to form regional power corporations. The bill appears to have withered on the vine. I wonder why.

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