PLATTSBURGH — A new ruling by the Public Service Commission will allow the City of Plattsburgh to charge cryptocurrency businesses more for electricity.
But it does not completely solve the problem of high rates for everyone.
"It's a step in the right direction, though," Mayor Colin Read said.
The commission, which regulates the New York Municipal Power Authority — under which Plattsburgh's Municipal Lighting Department falls — ruled that utilities can charge higher commercial rates to those who use large amounts of power.
In Plattsburgh, MLD purchases inexpensive hydropower from NYPA operations on the St. Lawrence River, which allows the city to charge extremely attractive, low rates.
But when the system goes over its allotted hydropower, it must buy additional power in the open market, which, Read said, can cost seven times higher.
When that happens, all ratepayers must share the expense.
The city went over its allotted hydro amount in December and January, causing many residential bills to skyrocket.
Some residents complained that their bills were as much as $300 higher.
Extremely cold weather those two months added to the high costs.
But, also, two large cryptocurrency operations in the city are sucking up more power than, for example, what Georgia-Pacific's entire paper mill does.
Those cryptocurrency businesses employee only a few people.
The Common Council will vote tonight on a moratorium on any more cryptocurrency mining operations setting up shop for the next 18 months.
The council wants to buy time to search for ways to deal with the high use and cost of electricity in the past year.
'LITTLE BIT OF PROGRESS'
Read said the Public Service Commission decision to allow higher rates for cryptocurrency operations will help, but it won't affect the amount of power the system uses, he said, and it won't prevent the city from going over its quota of cheap hydro power.
"It's a little bit of progress, but we still need to figure out a way of stabilizing our quota," the mayor said.
"It (the decision) at least allows us to differentiate our customers."
Read said the city could consider allowing new cryptocurrency operations to only operate in off-peak hours, which would cut down the amount of power used.
The commission said that if it had allowed higher rates for cryptocurrency outfits earlier this year, the two companies in Plattsburgh would have seen a more than 60 percent increase in their bills.
"We always welcome and encourage companies to build and grow their businesses in New York," PSC Commissioner Chair John B. Rhoses said in a news release.
"However, we must ensure business customers pay an appropriate price for the electricity they use. This is especially true in small communities with finite amounts of low-cost power available."
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