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Any little savings we can get from any revenue avenue whatsoever is very important to the livelihood of the farmers.

Alcoa restart brings end to power discounts

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The resumption of production at Alcoa's east smelter in Massena is a huge boost to a region that's been battered by the recession. 120 people are back on the pot lines. Alcoa's planning to invest millions of dollars in modernizing the facility.

But there's a sliver of bad news. Alcoa's share of low cost power was going to businesses and farms across the North Country. Yesterday, the New York Power Authority announced those discounts will be phased out. David Sommerstein reports.

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David Sommerstein
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You could consider it a gift more than anything.  Alcoa didn’t need all of its share of low cost power from the Moses-Saunders power dam on the St. Lawrence River.  That’s because one of its smelters went idle in 2009 due to low aluminum prices.

So the New York Power Authority applied that power to discounts for commercial entities in Jefferson, St. Lawrence, and Franklin counties.  NYPA says more than 3,000 businesses and farms saw their electricity bills go down an average of 9%.  NYPA says that’s a total energy costs savings of 10 million dollars.

You didn’t have to apply.  National Grid and NYSEG automatically deducted the discount.  So some businesses may not have noticed the difference.

But Franklin County Farm Bureau president Dennis Egan says it mattered a  lot to dairy farmers.

Dairy has been taking quite a hit to the low milk prices.  And any little savings we can get from any revenue avenue whatsoever is very important to the livelihood of the farmers.  Any size farm, it doesn’t matter, it’s still a proportion thereof, and it’s gonna be bad news for everybody.

Bad news because now that Alcoa’s smelter is back online, NYPA announced it’s going to phase out the power discounts over three months.  CEO Richie Kessell said in a press release, “it was a great opportunity” for local businesses and farms to reduce their bills in difficult economic times.

For North Country Public Radio, I’m David Sommerstein.

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