DUNKIRK, N.Y. -- Western New Yorkers paid the highest electric rates in the state during part of the heat wave that hit the area back in July.
Numbers from the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) show that for 25 hours of the heat wave, the Western New York region paid the most in the state, even more than the New York City area, which traditionally pays some of the highest rates in the entire country.
2 On Your Side crunched the numbers, which vary widely from day to day and hour to hour. But at noon on July 17, the WNY region was paying $1,164.22/MWHr compared to just $103.49/MWHr for the New York City area. That means were were paying 11 times more here locally, despite the fact that we're usually lower and have the Niagara Power Project in our back yard.
A spokesperson for the NYISO says congestion within the power system was to blame, and a number of factors were at play: high demand due to the heat, two forced transmission outages, and the mothballing of the NRG Plant in Dunkirk.
NRG has shut down 3 of its 4 units at the facility, reducing output and also causing constrains on how much power can be brought in from other sources, like the Niagara Power Project.
The Public Service Commission (PSC) is considering two proposals to deal with the congestion issue caused by the NRG partial shutdown.
One plan from NRG would be to re-power the plant and switch it from burning coal -- which is no longer economically viable -- to instead burn natural gas.
State Senator Cathy Young (R-57th District) has led the charge to re-power the plant, and she was joined Tuesday by Senator Charles Schumer and virtually every local politician in the Dunkirk area, no matter party affiliation.
"We need to make sure that the NRG plant is re-powered," Senator Young said. "Because we need that safe, reliable, clean local source of power right here in Dunkirk."
Another option is also before the PSC. National Grid's proposal would be to upgrade transmission lines to bring in power from elsewhere. That would result in the closing of the Dunkirk plant. National Grid says it's the best plan, because it would be cheaper than re-powering the Dunkirk plant, thus saving ratepayers money.
The PSC is acception public comments until August 16. A final decision is expected in a few months.