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February 18, 2014

City electric rates to jump in next few months

PLATTSBURGH — City of Plattsburgh electricity users can expect much higher bills than normal the next few months due to this winter’s severe weather.

“And we don’t anybody to be surprised,” Mayor James Calnon said Monday.

Bills for all Municipal Lighting Department customers are expected to be significantly higher than usual in March and April as charges for January and February are calculated.

Extremely cold weather this season is to blame, as it has driven up costs for fuel across the nation.

“Normally, it is just a North Country event, but this is happening all across the state and country this winter, and it is driving up costs everywhere,” Calnon said.

EXTRA POWER

The city purchases most of its power from hydroelectric plants on the St. Lawrence River at a relatively inexpensive price. Under a deal locked in for decades, the price is set for a supply of up to 103 megawatts per month.

If the city uses more than 103 megawatts, it must buy additional power on the open market at a much higher rate than the hydropower, MLD Manager William Treacy explained.

Most of the additional power in New York state comes from natural-gas providers, and the price of that fuel has skyrocketed, Treacy said.

“It went from about $4 per 1 million BTUs to about $80,” he said.

“We had the coldest January in about a decade, and it was everywhere, the Northeast, Midwest, everywhere.”

BRACE FOR BIG BILLS

Most MLD customers have electric baseboard heat. Bills are usually higher in the winter than the rest of the year, but this year, costs are expected to exceed normal winter bills.

Calnon said the city peaked at a high demand of 114 megawatts in January.

“We have to buy power for those extra megawatts, and the cost on the open market for that is much greater,” he said.

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