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Energy Here and Now: New York’s Independent Future

Wednesday September 2003

Speakers: Peter W. Huber, Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute; Founder, Digital Power Group, and Co-Author, Huber Mills Digital Power Report
John Gilbert, Co-Chairman of Energy Sub-committee, New York City Building Congress
Mark Mills, Co-Author, Huber Mills Digital Power Report, and Co-Founder, Digital Power Group
Peter Gross, Chief Executive Officer, EYP Mission Critical Facilities, Inc.

Just over two months ago the Manhattan Institute hosted an energy conference which sought to answer a key question: “New York’s Energy Future: Looking Bright or Headed for a Blackout?” Institute experts discussed the severe strain on New York’s electricity resources, and determined that unless our power infrastructure was brought into line with 21st century demands, a blackout would be inevitable.

At 4:11 PM on August 14th, they were proven right—sooner and to a larger degree than anyone expected.

The fact is that more than 90 percent of the growth in U.S. energy demand since 1980 has been met by electricity. All the fastest growth sectors of the economy—information technology and telecom most notably—depend entirely on electricity for their fuel. Nuclear power has repeatedly shown itself to be the “greenest” source of electrical energy available: clean, safe, cheap and efficient.

Nonetheless, even as the city struggles to maintain peak capacity and provide for future energy needs, politicians and community activists are lobbying the state to shut down the two nuclear power plants at Indian Point—which supply up to 30 percent of New York City and Westchester’s energy. As we also learned during the blackout, locally-generated power supply—like the kind provided by Indian Point—is the only bulwark against massive cascading outages that leave all of Manhattan dark when a tree cuts a power line in Ohio.

Furthermore, a steady supply of cheap, clean energy is essential to New York’s future prosperity. Electricity is the lifeblood of the city’s dynamic economy, sustaining its industries and its infrastructure. The blackout cost the city $1 billion, but there’s no telling what the losses will be if businesses move out of New York fearing further outages. Under any circumstances, it will be a strain New York’s already weakened economy can hardly afford to bear.