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Editorial: LIPA should hold off on wind power contract

In this Aug. 23, 2013 file photo wind

In this Aug. 23, 2013 file photo wind turbines are silhouetted by the setting sun as they produce electricity near Beaumont, Kan. Credit: AP

The Long Island Power Authority recently shelved plans to add a second huge natural gas-fueled generating plant in Yaphank. Now it must hit the pause button for renewable energy projects.

When LIPA's trustees meet Wednesday, it will be the board's final chance to approve long-term contracts to build new sources of power before it hands off that responsibility. On the table are bids from the finalists LIPA chose in its competition for 280 megawatts of electricity from renewable sources. As Newsday reported, one finalist is Deepwater Wind of Rhode Island, which has undertaken a big lobbying campaign to persuade LIPA to approve a $1.5-billion project to build 35 wind turbines 30 miles offshore from Montauk. Also under consideration are solar projects that deliver cheaper power than the wind proposal.

This is not an argument parsing the merits of the wind or the sun as the better power source. Or at what higher price point we choose renewables over fossil fuels as a public-policy decision. The point is a simple one -- why the rush? Long Island has enough power generation to meet demand even at peak times until at least 2020.

LIPA has made poor choices in the past and too often locked in supply at terms that were too costly. Under the LIPA Reform Act of 2013, PSEG Long Island, the private utility that took over management of the local grid last year, will expand its reach to power-planning decisions in January. PSEG is developing a comprehensive plan to determine how much power will be needed and where. It will evaluate alternative sources and ways to decrease the volatility of power prices.

The crippling cost of electricity hamstrings business development and pains homeowners. There is little margin for error in planning for our future.