The village nearest where I live is (lovely) Fairport, NY. One of the features of being a Fairport resident is that you can purchase your power through Fairport Electric, which is a village owned power company that purchases power from the New York Power Authority, and then sells it to residents for very low prices.
Go check your own electric bill.
Fairport charges 3.5 cents per kilowatt-hour for residential users of electricity. If you use over 1,000 kilowatt hours the charge increases to 5.4 cents.
Here is what typical electric generation costs Americans. Here are the present-value of energy costs by source. Even for hydro, which most of NYPA power comes from, the average cost of new generation is 8.6 cents per kilowatt-hour.
A few simple points for today's post:
- Fairport residents clearly value this cheap power. How much? We can look at average house prices there versus in surrounding areas, controlling for other characteristics. This would be a nice senior paper topic … hmpphhhh … it would also be a nice paper topic to see whether this program is progressive or regressive. Where, after all, are the subsidies to NYPA coming from? How are they able to sell power for half of what the average American pays (and yes, I am aware of the Lake Wobegon problem here … someone surely can sell power for less than the average, but I'd like to know how in a state that is not exactly "low cost")
- While hydro power may be clean, it is certainly very land-intense. In order to power all of NYS with hydro power, we'd have to flood something like 1/3 of the land area. No snarky comments please about Utica or Staten Island.
- Many houses in Fairport are 100% electric, which means that hydro power is used to heat homes. This is surely more costly than using natural gas.
- If you want to see how climate policy is going to play out nationwide, try closing down Fairport Electric and see how the residents respond. They are among the most sensible and nice people I've ever met, for what it's worth.
- Isn't the very existence of Fairport electric, or of NYPA completely contradictory to "our" current energy plans? Even if it is all coming from clean hydro, is there any way to reconcile subsidizing electricity like this with broader climate goals? After all, if Fairport residents paid a higher price for their electricity, that would mean more power would be available to other customers – and presumably those needs are being met by less clean coal or gas power plants than the hydro supplied by the NYPA.