January 11, 2008

Examining municipal power

I probably shouldn't admit this on a Dryden blog, but there are lots of times I'm jealous of Groton. Their downtown seems to be doing better than Dryden's at this point, the state highways that connect the Village to the world are less overwhelmed with traffic, and walking around the Village's center is a lot easier. The Journal today looks at another advantage they have: municipal electric power, with much lower rates than NYSEG.

As someone concerned about the rate at which we use energy, I'm not entirely thrilled about "cheap low rates!", which is definitely something that makes people happy about it. On the other hand, electrical energy is extremely flexible, and can be generated in all kinds of ways. (I know Auburn had hydroelectric generation; I don't know if Groton could do that with Owasco Inlet.)

I know there are people who think giving anything new to government is a terrible idea, but it's probably obvious by now that I'm not one of them. I trust local government officials vastly more than I trust far away stockholders insulated from liability - there's actually a way to keep local officials accountable to the people they serve. State regulation is all we have to keep NYSEG accountable, and frankly, NYSEG hasn't been interested in being accountable for a lot of years.

At one point former Town Supervisor Steve Trumbull suggested - I'm not sure if he was joking - that the Town could consider building a windmill on the new Town Hall property. Wind power controlled by local government with the intent of powering local homes and businesses can feel a lot less threatening than wind power owned by distant investors whose main hope is to make money generating power cheaply here and selling it to New York City at a premium. (Federal officials seem especially interested in treating Upsate New York as a power source for the city, though I don't know if Dryden residents have noticed the activity to our east.)

I don't think it's legally possible at this point for the Town of Dryden or the villages to start a municipal power company like Groton's. Still, it's worth thinking about options beyond the current combination of regulation and generally meaningless "Voice Your Choice" we have now.

The Journal also notes tomorrow night's Concert for the Cafe.

County Legislator Mike Hattery is mentioned briefly in an article about concerns about the County's possible new Health Department building on Brown Road.

At the state level, there's lots of news:

Posted by simon at January 11, 2008 8:39 AM in , ,
Note on photos


KAZ said:

Amen to your proposal to shut down the lottery. It's a scam at both ends--it rips off the consumer and enables his/her addiction, and the supposed recipient of the bounty rarely sees a dime. Stand in line at Clark's and watch who's buying tickets. Shame on NYS.

Nathanael Nerode said:

I somehow doubt that it's illegal to start a municipal power company.

It would probably have to be organized a bit differently, but if 'cooperatives' can act as the power resellers (like the one consisting of municipal governments), governments can own the production facilities (like the Niagara hydropower), and governments can own the transmission lines (*always* possible, since governments have to grant the license to build them), it seems that there's undoubtedly some way to set it up.

You'd probably have to segment it into three separate companies, transmission, production, and billing (preferably set up as not-for-profits, but as for-profits if necessary) operated at arms length and each owned by the governments involved. The upfront capital investment would be large to say the least. But I'm pretty damn sure it could be done legally.

I doubt you could maintain the 'cheap energy' factor Groton has, but you could certainly maintain the 'reliable, responsible to citizens' factor, and you could probably discount the *transmission* costs.