Capital Energy: Unpaid utilities come due; Rise of storage

May 17, 2014 by  
Filed under Solar Energy Tips

By Scott Waldman and David Giambusso

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UNPAID UTILITY BILLS COME DUE: New Yorkers owe an estimated $1 billion in unpaid utility bills and tens of thousands of them will soon see their electricity turned off for nonpayment, according to testimony heard Thursday at the Public Service Commission. “We’re going to see a rise in shut-offs and a rise in shut-off threats,” Gerald Norlander, executive director of the Public Utility Law Project. State officials revealed that the state received about 1,500 customer complaints about utility bills this winter, three times that of last year. High bills were caused by a sharp spike in natural gas prices and tight supplies related to a lack of pipelines, according to utility representatives, state officials and consumer advocates.

STORAGE: THE NEXT FRONTIER A panel of energy leaders discussed the future and importance of energy storage in upending the state’s energy grid this week in Manhattan. The technology, if deployed on a wide scale could relieve pressure on the grid and solve many of the challenges of renewable energy.


  • The next big thing: Energy storage
  • Capital Energy: Astorino’s asterisk, playing it safe on human-tissue power
  • Capital Energy: Astorino’s fracking switch; Stay for capacity zone


“Intelligent energy storage is going to be an incredibly important player on the future energy grid,” said Bill Acker, president of the the New York Battery and Energy Storage Technology Consortium, at a conference Wednesday night in Manhattan. “We have a number of issues on the grid that are solvable and tractable by adding intelligence and storage.”

LEAK DISCOVERY: The Harlem gas explosion that killed eight people has led to a rapid rise in people calling to report gas smells, The New York Times’ Patrick McGeehan reports. That has meant a tremendous increase in the number of leaks discovered and repaired, a Con Ed executive recently wrote in an internal memo.

FERC WANTS EAGLE PROTECTIONS: The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a letter Wednesday expressing concern about how construction on the Constitution natural gas pipeline route in Central New York will affect bald eagle habitats. They are also seeking justification for radio towers called for in the construction proposal. The 124-mile pipeline will bring natural gas fracked in Pennsylvania to Schoharie County, outside of Albany. Federal regulators have scheduled a final decision for September, and it’s not clear if Wednesday’s letter will delay that.


SOLAR GROWTH IN NY: A Louisiana-based solar company plans to open 10 locations in New York because of the state’s solar program. Albany is a strong market because it has a lot of older homes with well-built roofs that face south. PosiGen will create 120 jobs in the renewable industry in its first 18 months.

– Green Mountain offers full solar: The Vermont based Green Mountain Energy Company announced Thursday they were offering a 100 percent solar-backed electricity plan to consumers in New York and Pennsylvania.

LEAKY FITZPATRICK NUCLEAR PLANT: Tim Knauss at the Syracuse Post-Standard reports that the FitzPatrick nuclear plant’s cooling system has sprung several leaks after repairs were neglected. Workers at the plant have had to reduce power 11 times to repair the leaks.

BREAKING BAKKEN: Rep. Steve Daines of Montana sat with local law enforcement officials this week to discuss the overwhelming rise in the illegal methamphetamine trade in the Bakken shale region of North Dakota and Montana. With the fracking boom that has brought an influx of jobs and income to the region, drug dealers and producers have also descended to ply their trade, The Billings Gazette reports.

Talk to us. If you have a story in the world of New York energy, we want to hear it. Email tips, scoops, ideas and complaints to and Follow us on Twitter at @Giambusso and @scottpwaldman.

MEXICO’S DANGEROUS POTENTIAL: Mexico has oil reserves estimated to be worth at least $11 trillion. The only problem investors face are the organized crime, drug cartels and corruption that come with the territory, the Houston Chronicle reports. That inhibits investment, particularly in energy, because natural resources are located in some of the violent-plagued areas where dozens of people have been murdered recently.

100 STILL TRAPPED IN TURKISH COAL MINE: 100 people remain trapped underground after the worst coal mine accident in Turkish history claimed 284 lives this week, The Wall Street Journal reports. Dozens of miners were hastily buried as protests broke out over the government’s oversight of the mine.

KENNEDY AT FUKUSHIMA: Caroline Kennedy, the U.S. Ambassador to Japan visited the Fukushima nuclear reactor offering aid in the ongoing mitigation of water damage, The New York Post reports. Kennedy said the U.S. “will offer our experience and capabilities, in particular, toward the near-term resolution of ongoing water-contamination issues.”

KEYSTONE DRAGS OTHER PIPELINES DOWN: The five-year fight over Keystone XL has brought increasing federal scrutiny to pipelines everywhere, EE’s Elana Schor reports. Still, opposition to those projects has not caught fire with the public like Keystone. “What’s happening with Keystone is the new normal,” Michael Whatley, executive vice president at the industry group Consumer Energy Alliance, said. “As the opposition groups bring more scrutiny to these projects, it’s not surprising that regulators are going to bring more scrutiny.”

WANT MORE ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT COVERAGE THROUGHOUT THE DAY? To learn more about how to get bite-size “whiteboard” alerts that focus specifically on energy and environment issues sent directly to your inbox, please contact Lauren Englander at

FRACKING AIR EMISSIONS: Sixty-four environment and community organizations have asked the federal government to limit air pollution emissions from the rapidly expanding oil and gas industry that are impacting many of the nation’s urban areas, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

GOODBYE PHANTOM FEE: The AP’s Jonathan Fahey reports that a fee electric customers have been paying for 31 years to fund a federal nuclear waste site will disappear soon. The primary reason for cutting the fee: the site doesn’t exist.

“The money was collected to build a long-term disposal site for the highly radioactive nuclear waste generated by the nation’s nuclear power plants that is, by law, the federal government’s responsibility. The site was supposed to have opened in 1998, but there is no such site nor even any tangible plans for one. Don’t expect a refund, however. The latest Energy Department strategy, laid out in a report last year, is to have a site designed by 2042 and built by 2048 using the money in the fund.”

WIRES GOING IN PENINSULA PARK: Park commissioners in Great Neck gave the OK yesterday for PSEG Long Island to bury electrical wires under Peninsula Park in the Village of Thomaston as part of a grid update.

LI GROUP ENDORSES WIND PROJECT: The Association for a Better Long Island endorsed a proposal by Deepwater Wind to build a 200 MW wind farm 30 miles off the east end of Long Island, the Digital Journal reports.

“In response to the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA)’s request for new sources of renewable energy, Deepwater Wind is proposing supplying Long Island with more than 200 megawatts of renewable energy from Deepwater ONE, an offshore wind farm to be located approximately 30 miles east of Montauk. At this distance, the wind farm will be “over the horizon,” and not visible from any point on Long Island.”

SUFFOLK APPROVES FUNDING FOR STEM: The Suffolk County legislature appropriated funding for design and planning of a two-story, 34,000 square foot Renewable Energy and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Center on the Suffolk County Community College Brentwood campus. If completed, it will be the first of its kind in the state community college system.

POTOWN CALLS OUT FERC: The Poughkeepsie Journal editorial board pens a fiery missive on the inequities of the FERC’s capacity zone which is already driving prices up in the Lower Hudson Valley.

“This deranged scenario is completely unacceptable. Pressure must be brought to bear to force the FERC to act. And while the petitions run their course in federal court, Congress also should get deeply involved.”

Want to follow the ebb and flow of all the legislation moving through New York? That’s why we have the DAILY BILL TRACKER:


– IPPNY: Energy Evolution: Powering the Future Grid May 20 and 21 at the Desmond Hotel Conference Center 660 Albany Shaker Road Albany, NY 12211

– FBR Energy Technology Summit Wednesday, May 28, 2014 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in NYC

– Con Edison Supplier Diversity Program, Wednesday June 4 from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Con Ed building


– 80 percent of UK supports renewable energy, a new survey finds.

–Anywhere a controversial transmission line ends up south of Rochester will make someone unhappy.


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