November 20, 2012

Hollowing out NYSEG

It's not just the office building at the intersection of Routes 13 and 366 that's empty - Iberdrola, the parent company of NYSEG, seems focused on cost-cutting and only cost-cutting:

Dozens of employees retired or resigned and were not replaced. Key units went from 20 employees to three or four -- because, auditors found, Spanish executives believed utilities in New York state, susceptible to fierce blizzards and powerful hurricanes, could get by with the same workforce as their units in Spain, where weather is somewhat more serene...

  • Auditors repeatedly said RG&E and NYSEG suffered from staff shortages. In 2009 and 2010, Iberdrola's first two full years in charge, 219 workers retired -- and exactly four of them were replaced, the audit said....

  • While auditors asserted Iberdrola executives in Spain were not very attentive to goings-on at their U.S. subsidiaries, the exception was employment. They mandated big reductions at their upstate New York properties and the corporate board monitored reductions almost monthly.

It doesn't sound like this has (yet) had an effect on day to day operations, but it seems likely that it's part of why NYSEG has been a laggard in repairs after weather events. Resilience requires investment.

(This op-ed makes the larger point that NYSEG is far from alone in Americans' lack of investment in infrastructure, though it's extra strange that a Spanish company is leading us toward weaker systems.)

Update: Here's the report from the Ithaca Journal.

Posted by simon at November 20, 2012 5:10 PM in
Note on photos


Nathanael said:

Mebbe we can nationalize it. The electrical grid shouldn't be owned by private entities anyway; I wonder what it would cost to build my own pole line.