Thursday, October 21, 2010

Commentary: National Grid Rates A Shambles

Earlier this year, I published a piece on a state Public Service Commission (PSC) investigation into National Grid’s sketchy finances.

The monopoly power deliverer stood accused by the PSC of charging its Upstate New York electric customers for computers in New England, software licenses on Long Island and other corporate costs that have nothing to do with Upstate utility operations.

A recent Post-Standard article added further tidbits uncovered during the PSC investigation: $1,254 for a National Grid executive to ship his wine collection across the Atlantic, $3,566 to repair another executive’s washing machine and pool cover on Long Island, and $35,700 to send a third employee’s children to a private school in Boston.

However, the Syracuse paper reported that the PSC will be forced to decide on National Grid’s proposed $400 million hike to its already sky-high rates long before the audit is complete. The PSC chairman told a senate committee that state law requires the commission to vote on the proposal within 11 months of its submission.

The president of National Grid USA said the rate hike is needed because much of the utility’s infrastructure is half a century or more old. Power bills have skyrocketed since its purchase of the former Niagara Mohawk, a purchase, it was promised at the time, would be wonderful for rate payers thanks to consolidation efficiencies. It begs the question: where has the money gone?

The multinational wants an 11.1 percent annual profit margin, while the PSC contends the rate should be ‘only’ 9 percent.

New Yorkers still pay the highest power bills in the nation. This fiasco may give some insight why.

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A nearly-lifelong resident of Glens Falls, Brian Farenell has been involved in writing and journalism since his high school days. After receiving a bachelor's degree from Clarkson University, he spent two years in the Peace Corps in the Republic of Guinea, West Africa. Although his traditional focuses have been international affairs (he's been published in Foreign Policy magazine) and media criticism, Brian maintains his own blog at Musings of a (Fairly) Young Contrarian, where he also offers insights and ideas about national and local issues.




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