I’ve taken on some sizable projects in my time including the redevelopment of the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center and the revitalization of the Nassau HUB. Regardless: I’m in my twenties, out of the political spectrum right now and a busy college student. So sure, the odds of me getting a phone call from Andrew Cuomo tomorrow morning with an offer of employment to run LIPA are realistically impossible, at least at this part of my career
Nonetheless, I’ve been listening to people across the region talk about LIPA; the people I shared an overloaded power strip with at that crowded Panera in the midst of the blackout; my friend whose first responder father had to come home to a dark house after working a long shift; Rudy Giuliani’s comments about New York’s infrastructure; and of course the massive amounts of comments day by day on the patch forums…just to name a few. And I’ve been thinking about a few ideas, a strategy I would set in place if I got that phone call from the Governor
I’d like to share them with you.
A NEW LIPA
First, I would completely clean slate and re-charter LIPA as a nonprofit corporation. LIPA would be chaired by the County Executives of Nassau and Suffolk Counties and a LIPA Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees would have 12 members on a rotating board each serving nonconsecutive, non-paid 1 year terms; and consist of business leaders and average citizens, like the cross of a chamber of commerce and a library board.
LIPA’s new size would be vastly reduced and its role strictly administrative. Its personnel would number around 100 specialists who would manage the budget, communicate with customers and government, monitor the “smart grid” (mentioned below) and direct maintenance / repair / upgrade operations through outsourced “LIPA Licensees”. LIPA managers administrating the new authority would serve on year-by-year contracts and must be professionals in municipal utilities, electrical engineering and other directly applicable fields. In this sense, LIPA will be ‘Mission Control’.
The utility work itself for Long Island’s electrical infrastructure will be outsourced by LIPA to a consortium of private, independently run electrical companies. These companies will be hired on a year-by-year agreement and become ‘LIPA Licensees’; This situation will allow for an open market of prospective and current licensee companies to compete for highest quality and service at the lowest price. For emergencies such as that with Hurricane Sandy, companies from across the nation will be brought in on a provisional basis with a simple contractual arrangement between themselves and LIPA.
In total, this will establish a new system for LIPA: a concise, clear structure for our power management. New LIPA will be a nonprofit corporation, not a semi-governmental authority. Its size will be efficient and its role strictly administrative, ‘Mission Control’. Any mismanagement issues, negligence or inefficiency on LIPA’s end will point to a short-list staff of 100 employees and managers, making accountability more direct and problem-solving and optimal efficiency an easier task.
The power infrastructure work will be subcontracted through LIPA to a series of licensees. These work crews and companies will be private entities who must bid for and prove their cost and quality efficiency. Consistent performance will lead to secure contracts, inefficiency and failure on the LIPA Licensee end will lead to license termination.
A NEW INFRASTRUCTURE
Second, I would begin to plan out and set up the complete modernization and redevelopment of Long Island’s power infrastructure into the 21st century such that ‘three week long’ let alone ‘three hour long’ blackouts never occur again.
Long Island would begin a 10-15 year process of rebuilding its power and data infrastructure; starting with major downtown areas, retail/office corridors, cities and large inland suburban areas and ending with a complete renovation of every powered inch of the island.
In this process, all power and data lines will be rebuilt underground in watertight, temperature controlled utility tubes; perhaps placed below roadways utilizing modern utility tunnel-building technology. These new utility tubes will be computerized and networked together both electronically and physically into a ‘Smart Grid’ which will monitor, control and display the entire power network.
The Smart Grid will be able to identify outages and other power infrastructure issues in real time down to the exact location on a customer-by-customer basis; making power restoration exponentially easier and power rerouting for areas unaffected by damage but affected by a nearby damaged area instantaneous.
In case of damaged lines, each section can be easily removed and replaced from a manhole: so that if a cooling system failed and a 100 foot section of underground wire and a substation exploded, the Smart Grid can shut off power in the affected area, automatically reroute power to surrounding unaffected areas and allow for workers to easily replace wire and infrastructure within a few hours tops.
In suburban areas where power poles are necessary to connect lines from the utility tunnels to homes, aerodynamically designed composite, fiberglass or hard plastic poles will be used.
The Smart Grid, together with well built and protected power infrastructure, will make Long Island a model of brand new regional electric infrastructure done right as opposed to a case study of obsolete regional electric infrastructure done wrong.
SO TO CLOSE
And there is more I would do. I would work with private green energy companies to construct a South Shore Windfarm from Long Beach to Captree and beyond. They would be far enough offshore not to disturb boaters and beachgoers and frankly who cares if they’ll be visible in the distance? I would investigate the idea of tidal generators like the ones Bloomberg wants to build in the East and Hudson Rivers to generate electricity. I would allow LIPA customers owning solar panels to sell their power back into the Long Island Grid or ‘bank kilowatt hours’ evenly so that any amount of power they put into the system will balance against power they take out.
All in the interest of increased efficiency, decreased waste, optimized systems, and reduced cost to the customer – Long Islanders.
So a highly efficient LIPA, a highly efficient consortium of power workers, a brand new, high technology ‘smart grid’ and new approaches to powering Long Island.
I’m the first to admit my plan sounds ambitious, optimistic, perhaps even naïve. But, Long Island – it beats the status quo, does it not? And hey, maybe my words will make it all the way to Albany and inspire a few movers and shakers to get moving and shaking on implementing more good ideas and less damage control.
Because at the end of the day, as I always say: Long Island has the ability to accomplish great things as a region – if it’s population, business community and local government can start to open up to and welcome in new energy, new ideas, critical thinking and new approaches to not only problem solving, but solution making.
So Andrew, give me a ring sometime.