Recharge NY: Powering Our Economy Forward

Column by Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush (R,C-Black River)

This year’s state budget process was especially challenging. Legislators and the governor had difficult decisions to make. Cuts had to be made. But, at the same time, we needed to look at what programs were worth investing in to help strengthen our economy and get us back in the black. While there are some measures in the final budget that still concern me, such as the lack of mandate relief and uncertainties regarding prison closures, there are certain aspects of the budget that I am pleased were included. One of those measures is Recharge NY.

Here, in New York State, electricity is expensive. In fact, New York is third in the nation in terms of the average retail price of electricity (to ultimate consumers) in cents per kilowatt-hour. Only Connecticut (2) and Hawaii (1) rank higher than New York. Residential consumers and businesses shoulder the burden of these nation-leading costs.

We see the high cost of electricity right there in black and white in our monthly residential electric bill, and certain sectors of business are no different. Industries such as manufacturing and agriculture are highly energy intensive and, thus, bear an even greater share of energy costs, making it harder for private sector businesses to be profitable.

New York State is no longer known as a manufacturing hub in the United States. But think about the states that are manufacturing leaders: Virginia, Ohio, South Carolina, Georgia. What do they have that we don’t? Cheap power. High electricity prices are a significant financial disincentive to businesses that would otherwise look at New York to invest, considering our well-educated, highly-skilled workforce. But how many private sector jobs have we lost over the years because our electricity rates are America’s third highest? While it is impossible to determine that number for sure, the fact that our state has nearly 800,000 unemployed is a good indication that the lost jobs and lost opportunities have been plentiful.

This year’s budget takes a step forward in fixing this problem and making New York’s energy rates more competitive in the long term. The enactment of the Recharge NY power program, which serves as a replacement to the Power for Jobs program that expires on May 15, 2011, will deliver low-cost power to qualifying businesses and non-profits. The measure also fosters new private sector opportunities and economic development, while supporting investments in energy efficiency initiatives. Key provisions of Recharge NY include:

  • Establishing a new, permanent program to replace the Power for Jobs program (which had to be renewed by the legislature yearly) that will deliver predictability and certainty for companies participating in the program.
  • Expanding the current Power for Jobs program from 450 Megawatts to 910 Megawatts which comes from the Niagara and St. Lawrence hydroelectric plants. While the power will now be available throughout the state, rural customers affected by the changes in the program will be compensated through a dedicated fund administered by the New York Power Authority.
  • Providing long-term contracts of up to seven years to help businesses create and retain jobs in New York State, and removing the uncertainty about the availability of low-cost power.
  • For the first time since the Power for Jobs program was enacted, agricultural businesses will be eligible to receive discounts on power through an $8 million dedicated NYPA fund.

Recharge NY is good for consumers, good for our economy and good for businesses, providing low-cost energy to help power our economy forward.

As always, I welcome your questions and learning of your concerns. Please contact me at 315-493-5797 or I also invite you to stop by my open house on Monday, April 25, from 4-6 p.m. at my new district office, 15 Bridge Street, West Carthage.