‘Big trouble’ without repowering


The possible closing of production facilities like NRG Dunkirk means that New York will become an energy importer.

New York will be importing power from states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania. Power will be imported from facilities that burn coal. Due to increasing regulatory pressures from the Environmental Protection Agency many of the Ohio and Pennsylvania facilities are scheduling to close down.

In recent weeks President Obama announced new initiatives that will place even more pressure on coal burning facilities to close their operations.

The supply and demand economics of this situation are very simple. Less production while demand increases for electricity leads to dramatic cost increases for ratepayers. It is estimated that 34 gigawatts of power is going off-line in response to EPA rulings. One gigawatt powers approximately 1 million homes annually.

If the NRG Dunkirk facility is forced to close, Western New York will be subjected to the rapidly changing economics of the market. Most of the coal-fired facilities that New York will be dependent upon for power are located in the Northeast. Many of the facilities are in the process of closing as I write this article.

Failure to repower NRG Dunkirk will lead to big trouble. Neither our businesses nor home owners want to be placed in this position of vulnerability to outside market changes that are driving up energy costs. We must repower the NRG Dunkirk facility.

New York state has the opportunity to step up and assert itself as a manufacturer of electrical power. NRG has proposed to make a private investment of $700 million dollars in clean, state of the art natural gas electrical production capacity right here in Chautauqua County. The support of this project by the Public Service Commission is critical if New York State is to remain a manufacturer of energy. This project is a clear defining point in terms of New York State energy policy.

Will New York continue to produce energy or subject itself to rapidly changing markets outside of the State’s control? We support the continuation of manufacturing electrical power in New York State. We support the repowering of the NRG Dunkirk facility.

Let’s focus for a moment on the opportunity. The investment proposed by NRG will help all New Yorkers. It is estimated that the project will reduce the annual wholesale cost of electric energy for New York consumers by $142 million per year. The project estimates that it will reduce the cost of wholesale power and very importantly reduce the reliance on out-of-state generation. The economic impact of this project for New York State is substantial as the project will increase the gross state product over the same period of operation on average of $348 million per year.

Repowering the NRG Dunkirk facility brings value to all of New York state. Repowering the NRG Dunkirk facility will reinforce New York State’s commitment to clean energy generation. Let’s keep New York State in the business of manufacturing energy, let’s invest in a clean, state of the art technology, let’s support private investment, let’s create jobs, let’s repower the NRG, Dunkirk facility.

Todd Tranum is the executive director of the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce.