How To Keep The Lights On
July 31st, 2006

The New York Times asked eight experts to write essays advising Con Ed on what can be done to prevent future blackouts.

Two suggest decreasing customer demand. Mike Gordon of ConsumerPowerline recommends giving “financial incentives to large energy consumers for curtailing electricity use in peak periods.” Amory B. Lovins of Rocky Mountain Institute says there should be a decrease of customer usage, in particular by increasing the efficient use of power in buildings and equipment (“especially air-conditioners”) ; he also suggests increasing “clean, local ‘micropower’ plants”

Energy consultant George C. Loehr believes that the electric power supply should be re-regulated; similarly, Assemblymember Catherine Nolan writes that “we must restore adequate oversight of utilities.”

Assemblymember Michael Gianaris believes that Con Edison should be held more accountable for its action (or inaction): “The recent debacle in Queens, the death by electrocution of Jodie Lane in 2004 and the 1999 blackout in Washington Heights all have one thing in common: in none of these instances did Con Ed and its executives face serious consequences for their failings.”

Gianaris believes fines should be levied, and the amount of cash reimbursement that Con Ed gives to affected customers should be increased – with Con Ed legally prohibited from passing on the cost of these expenses to the public through rate increases.

Peter Fox-Penner of the Brattle Group proposes redesigning the entire United States power grid to deal with the increasingly extreme weather, “perhaps the early effects of global climate change,” that he says was the real cause of the power failure in Queens.

Three of the experts – Nolan, engineering professor Anjan Bose and Nicole Gelinas of City Journal – all focus on upgrading the aging equipment.

For more about the problem of the city’s aging infrastructure – not just its electrical system, but also the subway and the sewer – see this week’s Issue of the Week, The Aging City.

By on July 31, 2006, 5:19 am
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