Here are the recommended talking points on which to focus.
- We need to transform the Board of Trustees to make it more accountable and diverse. This means restructuring the Board to have more expertise and to better represent ratepayers and their communities.
- We need to establish an accountable and representative multi-stakeholder Board of Trustees where local voices help determine the composition by appointment. Right now all appointments to the LIPA Board are made by the governor and elected state officials with no meaningful input from local communities.
- The Board must be multi-stakeholder in terms of both constituencies and expertise. It should be composed of traditional members skilled in management, policy, law, science, engineering, technology, and cybersecurity. It should also consist of workers, customers, and community-based organizations, as well as experts in justice, resilience, and engagement.
- Ultimately, major issues of governance should be focused around the creation of a new empowered Community Board to replace the current Advisory Board, which has little power and rarely meets. The new Community Board will center justice, affordability, innovation, and inclusion in its deliberations and recommendations. It will play a central role in advising the Board, bringing ratepayer, business and community voices into the planning process, and creating policy around rates and shut offs, and other major topics.
- The current Department of Public Service-Long Island should stay in place to monitor the operations of LIPA but its budget should be halved and used to fund a ratepayer-led Energy Observatory to monitor the LIPA Board and support a reconfigured Community Board in carrying out research, energy planning, and project implementation.
- LIPA's mission should be expanded to include climate justice, energy democracy, equity, and greater participation by its customers. This is necessary to change the underlying purpose of the utility, which does not currently prioritize these issues.
- A new Community Board must be established to replace the existing Advisory Board. The Community Board should be made up of representatives from diverse sectors and backgrounds including social justice, environmental, Indigenous Nations, business, labor, local government, economic development, energy, low and fixed income, consumer, civic, and education. These representatives should include those in Disadvantaged Communities in the LIPA service territory as defined by the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. It should also have appropriate regional representation to account for the particular geographic scope of the service territory.
- The Community Board must play a leading role in engaging communities across the LIPA service territory in determining rate structure, accessing energy programs, implementing renewable energy projects, providing support during outrages and other emergencies, and developing initiatives to help the utility realize its mission. It must be resourced with research support, technical assistance, and a budget to carry out its work.
- In order for the Community Board to be properly resourced, it must be supported by an independent Energy Observatory which would be funded by half of the current DPS-LI budget. Every self-directed public utility needs an independent partner institution to help monitor and advise the utility, engage ratepayers, conduct independent research, and support communities in their own efforts for resilience and energy justice.
- A fully funded independent Energy Observatory would be a partner for the Community Board in order to:
- Play a leading role in managing the system: making decisions around rates and shutoffs, long-term energy planning, community investments, and more.
- Engage the public to provide direction and input on the utility’s performance and services, comment at relevant meetings and hearings, and determine budgets;
- Develop LIPA policies, procedures, programs, and actions;
- Contract with local schools and universities to conduct relevant, independent research to deal with the changing climate and to equitably integrate renewable and performance-enhancing technologies in homes, schools, businesses, and municipalities in Nassau and Suffolk Counties and the Rockaways;
- 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 and other battery-to-grid options)
- Unless requested by the workers, there must be no change to jobs, salaries, or benefits for the 2,500 ServCo employees. LIPA made, and kept, the same promise when it transitioned from National Grid to PSEG Long Island management in 2014. This dedicated workforce is integral to LIPA's success under any management structure.
- IBEW Local 1049 has made it clear they do not want to be a public sector union. There are a few pathways to ensuring this outcome that they will help determine.
- We must support IBEW's position in the transition and stand with the workers who have kept this system running.
- PSEG-LI is an investor-owned utility (IOU) that costs $80 million a year for high-priced executives. It sends its profits to its stockholders whose only interest is their rate of return on investment. Ending the public-private model means saving these management fees and investing excess revenue to create more affordable and reliable service.
- A locally run LIPA with an empowered Community Board and Energy Observatory can create programs and services to benefit low-income and fixed-income ratepayers, local small businesses, and vulnerable communities.
- An electric system that is fully operated by LIPA can create programs that will help low income households save money and reduce energy consumption by retrofitting homes and apartments with heat pumps, solar panels, and battery storage at a subsidized cost. All of these technologies manage and reduce energy usage and help phase out polluting fossil fuel infrastructure in line with NY state climate mandates.
- A restructured utility will be better positioned to uphold NY's goal of tackling the energy burden on low and moderate income (LMI) customers by ensuring they don’t spend more than 6% of their monthly income on their energy bills.
- A restructured utility will be better positioned to implement ideas like the recent decision by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to end power shutoffs for low-income customers who can’t pay.
Overall Benefits of Public Power
- The hybrid public-private partnership between LIPA and PSEG does not work for the people of Long Island and the Rockaways. Compared to other utilities we pay more for lower quality service. Customer satisfaction with LIPA/PSEG is among the lowest in the region.
- We have a chance with this Commission to finally make LIPA fully public and locally owned and operated, which would eliminate the middleman (PSEG), cost less, be more accountable, and more directly connected to and representative of the customers and communities of Long Island and the Rockaways.
- Publicly-owned utilities and co-ops nationwide fare as well or better than private sector utilities in the measures customers care about most: customer satisfaction and reliability. They also tend to be leaders in clean energy.
- Across the country, 2,000 public power utilities serve almost 15% of Americans, offering 13% cheaper rates and 46% shorter outage times than private utilities. In the face of worsening storms, Winter Park, Florida voted to municipalize in 2003. They've since expanded solar generation and vastly improved grid reliability, while keeping rates below their state’s average.
- Municipal utilities can be remarkably innovative: In 1996, Chattanooga's Electric Power Board began investing in fiber optics, laying the groundwork for a world-class smart grid that has reduced power outages by 60% and saved the city close to $60 million annually.
- LIPA's own 2021 Options Analysis for the Management of LIPA Assets report supports this path: “Eliminating management fees and affiliate expenses saves approx. $100 million annually. Municipal Management is financially feasible and an attractive alternative to the single-source service provider model. This savings can be used for storm hardening, investing in clean energy production, and lowering rates.”