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Upgrade Or Mop Up?

When we take the full cost of blackouts into account, more proactive investment in local energy resiliency is a no-brainer.

Today’s NY Times has a great article about the choices we face in whether we upgrade our power system to withstand storms or just continue to mop up afterward.

Yesterday, the proposed Champlain Hudson Power Express 1000 MW line cleared a major hurdle, when two judges issued a key ruling favorable to the project’s proceeding.

The CHP Express submerged power line would cost $2.2 billion to construct–using 100% private sector debt financing–and run 333 miles from Quebec to New York City using natural and manmade waterways as well as existing rail and transmission right of ways in between.

According to ConEdison’s CEO Kevin Burke, stormproofing our local grid is much more expensive than mopping up after a storm. 

The utility estimates that burying its grid in NYC and Westchester would cost $40 billion. (Ironically, by 2017 the proposed CHP Express line would do exactly that–lie safely underground out of harm’s way. That’s why I mention it here: The private sector will fund undergrounding of major transmission infrastructure.)

The post-Sandy clean up may cost ConEdison about $450 million–far less than hardening its infrastructure against future storms.

After the worst storms, the government often helps to pay for the clean up, and–in addition–allows the utility’s costs to be recovered through rate increases in subsequent years. Either way, we rate payers pay.

The Times estimates our electric rates will rise 3% for three years to pay for the post-Sandy power line clean up alone.

So, why shouldn’t utilities just mop up now and continue to sit tight for the next storm?

Because the actual cost of a major outage may 50 times higher than that of the lost electricity, according to a recent report from the National Academy of Sciences.

As we all know, the actual cost of power outages goes well beyond restoring the power. To include the societal cost, we have to include the regional economic impact of lost business, destroyed inventory, and non-utility damage recovery costs, such as local public works and first responders turning out for ‘downed lines’ calls. 

When we take the full cost of blackouts into account, more proactive investment in local energy resiliency is a no-brainer. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Miguel Hernandez January 02, 2013 at 09:16 PM
Am all for solar and hydropower and have urged Bill Hanauer to investigate it for Ossining's water filtration plant and recreation center. I have a solar powered generator at home that needs no gasoline and emits no carbon. However, its battery has limitations. Anyway am working with several local officials to convene a panel of experts to discuss the feasibility of underground and overhead electricity delivery systems and other improvements to the power disaster recovery process. Hope you will come and contribute your knowledge.
SPK January 02, 2013 at 09:24 PM
When you find yourself in a hole, Rule #1 of holes is to stop digging. Starting tomorrow, no new construction...residential or commercial...will be serviced with above-ground utilities. After that, lets see what we as rate-payers can afford.
Full Truth January 02, 2013 at 09:30 PM
It's time to become proactive in this country. ConEd should evaluate potential hazards to the grid and remove them.
John Taggart January 02, 2013 at 10:14 PM
The Champlain power line is NOT a good idea. Its just more outsourcing of rateables, jobs and independence. We need revenue producers here and we need to start thinking about building what we need here. A 330 mile power line from out side the US, passing right by the sites of our gone generation plants , and a line with only a 12 year life span is a foolish short term bandaid. Any thing that can be built in Canada like hydro can be built here on the Hudson
Bob Zahm January 02, 2013 at 10:40 PM
@j335 - are you also in favor of stopping all imports of cars, of steel, of electronics?

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