More than 30 years ago, the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) was created as a public authority, nonprofit entity, to address the failures of the privately-owned Long Island Lighting Company (LILCO) after the debacle of the Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant and years of high rates and poor service. But the "public-private" model that was put into place, first with National Grid and now with PSEG LI, has been incredibly expensive and unreliable compared to other utilities and subject to political interference from Albany. Click here for a timeline history of LILCO and LIPA.
We believe the public-private model should be eliminated. In the current system PSEG LI's profits go to its shareholders, upper management, and its overpaid CEO, who made over $1 million in 2021 between salary, stocks, and bonuses. We stand to save $75 million per year with LIPA becoming fully public so that it operates and maintains the grid itself.
We envision LIPA becoming a democratic energy utility, a nonprofit run that enables engagement in decision-making. LIPA's Board of Trustees will be directly accountable to the ratepayers—households, businesses, schools, and cities, towns and villages—across the LIPA service area of Long Island and the Rockaways.
This restructured utility will have an appointed Board of Trustees that local voices help determine, a revamped, empowered, and expanded Community Board and a new independent Energy Observatory to work with and support them both to engage the public.
The newly empowered Community Board will be composed of diverse local community members, community-based organizations, labor unions, members of disadvantaged communities, and businesses and have its own budget.
The newly established Energy Observatory will monitor the Board of Trustees, assist the Community Board, and support and engage the public. The Observatory will be funded with half of the DPS LI budget–currently $13 million–with the DPS receiving the other half.
DPS LI was created in 2014 to monitor LIPA and PSEG but it has not supported ratepayers’ needs. It did not verify PSEG LI’s claim to LIPA that it was prepared for Tropical Storm Isaias. In fact, PSEG's preparation and response to the storm was an utter failure that left half a million ratepayers unable to report their loss of power, and too many with power unrestored for a week or longer.
While we recognize that DPS LI plays a critical role in establishing the metrics by which LIPA is assessed and held accountable to state and federal regulations, it is not capable of advocating for the ratepayer.
This will be the role of the Observatory. It will create programs for sustained public engagement, conduct independent research, evaluate utility services, and advocate for ratepayer and community ventures to create a more reliable, renewable, resilient, and just energy system.
The Community Board will partner with the Energy Observatory in order to:
1) engage the public to provide input on the utility's performance and services, comment at board meetings and hearings, and review budgets;
2) observe and offer input on LIPA policies, procedures, programs, and actions;
3) contract with local educational institutions to conduct relevant, independent research to deal with the changing climate and equitably integrating renewable and performance-enhancing technologies in homes, schools, businesses, and municipalities in Nassau and Suffolk Counties and the Rockaways;
4) enable diverse ratepayers to make proposals to address their needs and desires for more affordable, renewable, and resilient programs (e. g. community-owned solar and thermal energy networks, energy conservation retrofits, school bus vehicle-to-grid networks);
As a locally-controlled, customer-centric utility LIPA will be a trusted partner. It will work well with its ratepayers to support them to save money, conserve energy, live more comfortably, and become more resilient. In the face of climate change threats, escalating energy costs, and a green transition sweeping the world, we need a utility that is innovative and adaptive. This will require a good working relationship with the workers who maintain the electric system, the ratepayers, their communities, and the environment in general.
Our new utility will invest its revenues locally to transition to 100% clean renewable energy in accordance with NY state goals. It will also increase resiliency and reliability and lower rates. It will also initiate innovative programs and services that will benefit the ratepayers and serve the public good.
In summary, LIPA will remain a non-profit corporation but be restructured and refocused to operate transparently. The locally determined Board of Trustees, will work with a reimagined Community Board and a new Energy Observatory to provide a first-class electric utility and experience for its ratepayers. Read our full proposal here.