Did you know that there is a plan for an Energy Highway with enormous high-voltage towers that will run right through the center of scenic Columbia & Dutchess Counties?
The high-voltage transmission towers proposed under the Energy Highway initiative could reach a height of 120 feet (40 feet higher than the tallest tree in the region) and cut through 25 communities in seven Hudson Valley counties, threatening businesses and regional assets that are the foundation of our economy.
The economy in Columbia and Dutchess Counties is dependent on two major industries – tourism and agriculture. If a proposal comes along that threatens both of these economic drivers, it is essential to step back and take a look at why it’s being proposed, how much it might cost and what the benefits, if any, would be to area residents and businesses. So far we’ve been completely unsatisfied with the answers we’ve discovered.
WHAT IS BEING PROPOSED
The Energy Highway initiative was based on the recommendations of a study in 2012 by an Energy Task Force established by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, which primarily called for transmission proposals to move new and existing generation capacity from upstate to the New York City area – specifically 1,000 mW of transmission capacity down the Hudson River Valley at a proposed cost of $1.4 billion.
The initiative was flawed from the beginning in that it was based on two non-validated assumptions; one, that there was a need for additional transmission capacity and two, that building giant, above ground transmission towers was the only solution. Both of these assumptions have never been supported by factual data. And in the fast changing world of technology, climate, and consumer behavior, the whole process set in motion by the Energy Highway initiative is becoming a very costly anachronism.
“A need for additional power lines to serve New York City is not supported by measurable evidence or by any independent determination of need.” – Gidon Eshel (2014), “Hudson Valley Transmission Line Plan: Assessing Need and Alternatives”
AT WHAT COST
How a Utility company makes money is regulated by the State’s Public Service Commission (PSC). Based on a business model established over 100 years ago, utility companies are guaranteed profitability in return for a stable electricity supply. Utilities derive revenue from selling electricity, as a commodity, and are allowed to recover all of their costs plus a profit – guaranteed. The PSC determines what utility companies can charge ratepayers by agreeing on the profit first and then decide what the cost of service needs to be. Additionally, utility companies are guaranteed even larger profits when they make big investments in infrastructure…such as the Monster Power Lines proposed in the Energy Highway.
All costs for infrastructure are passed through to the ratepayer. In the case of the Energy Highway initiative, the PSC has ruled that the Southern Tier of New York State –the Hudson Valley and downstate — will shoulder 90% of the project costs – and 80% of any cost overruns. Any cost overruns! And the Utility will be enjoying a 12% return. Guaranteed!
“40% of the average electric bill in the US can be attributed to transmission and distribution (T&D) costs.” – Deutsche Bank Market Research (2015)
This is OUR money. An expenditure of $1.0+ billion is a magnet for corporate waste. The Hudson Valley is shouldering 90% of the costs with no direct benefit to our area and hugely negative environmental and visual impacts that are damaging to our communities and local economies.
This is a huge amount of money, and if it’s to be spent it should be on the technology of tomorrow, not a “fossil-fuel based bloated asset” that serves the financial interests of utilities and suppliers rather than advancing the present and future energy interests of New York City, the Hudson Valley and New York State.
“New York utility customers are paying 40% more for electricity over the past decade while the price of natural gas, the principal fuel used to generate it, has dropped 39%. One reason for this irony is capital spending by utilities, primarily on generation and transmission — $17 billion in that same period.” – Timothy Schoechle, Ph.D., The National Institute for Science, Law and Pubic Policy