Commission sets rules for sale of streetlights
A state Public Service Commission order finalizing fees that utilities can charge for the sale of streetlights to municipalities is expected to speed the move to public ownership and updating of the fixtures.
The decision was made at a meeting Thursday, with the commission setting formulas for charges levied when utilities change lights, update fixtures, inspect equipment, sell the equipment, and remove poles.
Among the issues resolved was who should pay for the removal of a fixture, which commissioners decided should only be paid by a municipality if it requested the change.
“If the removal is made at the request of the customer, the utility may charge the customer for this service,” they wrote. “Otherwise, the customer should not be charged.”
The order was issued as communities such as Kingston and Rosendale
are considering moving to light-emitting dioder (LED) lights, which use far less electricity than traditional sodium vapor and mercury lamps, and possibly taking over ownership of the equipment.
Municipalities in some cases are seeking to buy the entire pole and fixture to reduce rental charges assessed by utilities.
“Right now, the utilities
have all of the power between the utilities and municipalities in the purchase process because they control or have all the information that municipalities need to make informed decisions about what is reasonable and what is not reasonable,” said Citizens for Local Power spokeswoman Jennifer Metzger, who is also a Rosendale Town Board member.
“So we were seeking to make sure that all of the costs that utilities were imposing were reasonable and related to the actual cost of service,” she said. “All of the utilities have their own arcane way of doing things that is different from one utility to the next. So we were calling for standardization, much greater transparency, and fairness with respect to costs.”
Central Hudson spokesman John Maserjian said a standard, 70-watt sodium vapor uses 344 kilowatts per hour each year at a $27 cost. LED bulbs can emit the same amount of light using only 39 watts of electricity, or 156 kilowatt hours per year, at a $12.48 annual cost.
Metzger said the costs could be reduced even further with lower wattage bulbs and that comparisons
used by Central Hudson do not reflect the actual change in how much area is covered by LED bulbs.
“All of the utilities have oversized for the lights that they are replacing,” she said. “The wattage levels are higher than they need to be so the energy savings are not as great as they would be is a more appropriately sized LED was installed.”