By Nathan Duke
Plants in the Astoria area generate about 60 percent of the city's electricity, according to elected officials.The New York Independent System Operator, a wholesale power supplier regulated by the federal government, is projecting that the lower Hudson Valley will need system reinforcements equivalent to 500-megawatts of capacity beginning in 2008. The shortfall could possibly lead to power shortages in the New York metropolitan area if not addressed, said Garry Brown, a spokesman for the power wholesaler.But Gianaris said the situation was not as urgent as it may sound.”The energy industry typically tries to scare people into thinking that we are running out of energy,” he said. Despite the projection, Brown said there are a variety of ways to address the need before it becomes a problem.”There seems to be many responses forthcoming to address this need,” he said. “There's a process in place to ensure that nobody's lights are going out. This process is designed to make sure nobody goes dark.”Brown said the shortfall could likely be handled through additional power generation or conservation and that Con Edison is upgrading its transmission system in the city. In addition, developers are discussing the construction of power plants to address the needs, he said.Nevertheless, he said the city could face problems in the next decade if the state Legislature does not pass a new law governing the planning and construction of new power plants. The state law expired three years ago.”There is concern about not getting a new siting law,” he said. “Plants in (the next decade) will not be able to get built.”Gianaris said the last thing western Queens needs is more power plants.”In the longer term, we need to be sure we have an efficient energy capacity, but it's not something we need to scare people about today,” he said. “We do not need to force more power plants down the throats of communities who already bear the entire (city's) burden.”Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D- Astoria) also said the borough is already overburdened with power plants.”No new power plants are needed within New York City's borders and especially not in western Queens, which provides about 60 percent of power for the city,” he said.On New Year's Eve, the New York Power Authority opened a new 500-megawatt plant in Astoria to eventually phase out the Charles Poletti Power Project, which is the city's highest polluter. NYPA officials said the new plant will be the cleanest and most efficient generating facility ever built in the city.In addition to the Independent System Operator's report, which came out Dec. 21, the New York Building Congress issued a news release in January which stated that the city needs 6,000 to 7,000 additional megawatts of new electricity resources by 2025 to support new citywide developments.Brown said now that the immediate needs have been identified for the city, proposals to address these needs can be weighed.”For the short term, there are projects in the pipeline that appear to be available to meet the city's needs,” he said.Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.