Chamber Corner

NRG repowering gets a state budget boost

By TODD TRANUM

President and CEO of the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce & Executive Director of the Manufacturers Association of the Southern Tier

There is some positive news for Chautauqua County and for local business in the new state budget approved this past week in Albany. The measure includes language that requires the state Public Service Commission to consider a number of factors in decisions to repower existing electric generating facilities, such as the NRG plant in Dunkirk. Those factors include the impact on ratepayers as well as the economic opportunity in a repowering project.

State Senator Cathy Young on Friday said the language “codifies into law factors currently being considering by the Public Service Commission in studying whether to repower mothballed coal plants.” NRG Energy proposes to convert the existing coal plant in Dunkirk into an advanced natural gas plant. The firm recently completed an economic impact analysis, which found that when operational, the repowered plant will reduce the wholesale cost of electricity in the state, which can be passed along to ratepayers by their utilities.

Specifically, New York wholesale energy prices would be decreased by an average of $1.11 per megawatt hour with the plant repowered, rather than retired. As a result, prices in the Dunkirk region would drop by $2.35 per megawatt hour. Combined, electricity cost savings will exceed $300 million per year, more than $3 billion in total over the ten-year period studied.

In addition, during the three years of construction, the project will create more than 300 jobs in the region, while the overall repowering will sustain over 1,400 jobs in the long term. NRG’s assessment also demonstrates that the project will considerably reduce emissions.

Assemblyman Andrew Goodell added, “Lower utility costs have a significant impact for homeowners, small businesses, and our overall economic improvement efforts. This is not a base hit; it’s a home run.”

This analysis is fantastic news for the people of New York,” Senator Young said. “Jobs, lower power prices, grid reliability, and lower emissions – they’re all here.”

Both the state budget language and the NRG assessment report are very good news for Chautauqua County. If the NRG plant were to close it would not only reduce jobs, it could also mean a tremendous loss in tax revenue for the city of Dunkirk and the county. Kudos to all involved in the PowerUpWNY project for the work they have done to help keep the NRG facility operating in a new way, and to Senator Young and Assemblyman Goodell for their work in Albany to be sure that all factors must be considered before the PSC makes any decision on a plant closure that would have created extreme financial hardships in Chautauqua County.

As the NRG project continues to work its way through the Public Service Commission review, we will continue to seek support from local officials, businesses, and residents. Please keep up the good work you have all done in contacting state officials to make Western New York’s voice heard on this critical power project.

State Legislative Breakfast set for April 19

Each year the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce provides opportunities for its members to have a direct conversation with elected officials from each level of government. This year, the State Legislative Breakfast will be held April 19 at the Lakewood Rod & Gun Club. Senator Cathy Young and Assemblyman Andrew Goodell will provide their insights about legislation in Albany, and be available for questions from the audience.

The State Legislative Breakfast is sponsored by Affinity One Federal Credit Union, Buffamante, Whipple, Buttafaro, PC, DFT Communications, Jamestown Community College, Jamestown Mattress Company, KeyBank, Lake Erie Regional Health System of New York, Nestle Purina PetCare, the OBSERVER, The Post-Journal, Serta Mattress Company, SKF Aeroengine North America, the State University of New York at Fredonia, WCA Hospital, and WJTN/WWSE/WKSN/WHUG/WQFX.

The State Legislative Breakfast is just $15 per person. You can register online through the Chamber’s website and online events calendar or call the Chamber at 366-6200 or 484-1101.