Democrat and Chronicle from Rochester, New York on June 1, 1980 · Page 28
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Democrat and Chronicle from Rochester, New York · Page 28

Rochester, New York
Issue Date:
Sunday, June 1, 1980
Page 28
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f RG&E 9B? H:'.'OCKAT AND CliRO:;!CIX, Rx-hesvr. N Y. Sun.. June 1. 1930 From Pane fi Since 197:., IIG&e has lost 93 steam customers. As custom-r irave the system, remaining customers must pay a higher share of operating costs, creating a price incentive for customers to join those who have left. RG&E officials expect to ask the commission later this year for another 10 percent increase in steam rates said Mario Silvestrone, RG&E's vice president in charge of consumer services and puhlic affairs. But steam-fed prohlems affect more people than building owners and RG&E. City and county taxpayers are expected to pay more than $1 million in steam bills to heat and cool the downtown Civic Center this year. That bill could be cut by about 40 percent if the city and county invested an estimated $6 million to install boilers, said James Binn, who is in charge of county building operations. Within the next six months, the county is expected to hire a consulting firm to study how to cut energy costs in the center's four office buildings and heated, underground garage. The city could cut its $900,000-a-year' steam bill by one-third if it installed boilers in its 20 buildings, said A. Paul Friederich, city property engineer. But if the city leaves the system, steam costs for remaining customers could rise. So the city is waiting for several reports on the steam system before it makes major changes, Friederich said. Meanwhile, owners of small downtown buildings say they are in a no-win situation: pay high RG&E steam rates or pay the high costs of converting to a private boiler. Conversion often includes not only the cost of a boiler but also a $15,000 a year salary of a boiler operator. "That would cancel out my savings," said Dan Speedy, president of Speedy Cleaners, headquartered at 128 Court St. Speedy, who uses steam for heat as well as for his dry cleaning operation, paid a steam bill of $60,000 last year. He is considering converting from RG&E steam to his own boilers. Some downtown building owners say they don't have space for a boiler. Others lament trading dependable RG&E steam for a boiler that could break down. No individual boiler could he as reliable as RG&E's whole steam system, said Robert K. Lee, vice president and manager of the real estate management department of Lincoln First Bank of Rochester. "If there are problems at one plant they just divert steam from another." Lincoln First Tower needs dependable steam. Lee said that a boiler breakdown at Lincoln Tower on a winter day with 1 ""-"""fxgj-r' M-J Pipes at Kurlash Co. channel steam heat from RG&E temperatures in the teens could cause expensive problems. Steam pipes are buried in some of the white columns that line the side of the building. If emergency measures todrain them failed, damage to frozen, ruptured pipes and interior water damage could tally a quarter of a million dollars in 24 hours, Lee said. Some operators of downtown build ings, like Midtown Holdings Corp. and the Rochester School District, have enjoyed fuel cost savings because they converted to their own boilers. But downtown business people still shake their heads. They say RG&E's central steam system should be able to produce steam less expensively than a whole city of privately owned boilers. And from the beginning of the system in 1889 to the late 1960s, the system did produce steam cheaply. In the late 1960s customers paid 91 cents for 1,000 pounds of steam. The low cost was due primarily to the low cost of plentiful coal $7.80 a ton. In March of this year, a typical downtown building owner paid about $10.50 for 1,000 pounds of steam. What has made steam so expensive? RG&E officals give the following causes: Exodus and reconstruction: Many former downtown steam customers have moved to the suburbs in the past 20 years. And downtown construction, especially for urban development, has displaced other customers and re quired ripping up old pipes and paying for new ones. Federal orders to clean the air: An order by the Environmental Protection Agency required converting coal-fired steam plants to other fuels to protect air quality. RG&E paid more than $10 million to convert its three coal fired steam plants one to oil, one to gas and a third to oil and gas. Rising gas and oil prices. Right after RG&E completed its plant conversions in 197,1. oil prices began to rise. All of these costs have been reflected in higher rates, says RG&E. RG&E has its own problems with the steam system. RG&E says it is only slightly profitable. The state Puhlic Service Commission, which sets limits on how much money RG&E can make, recognizes the problem. RG&E's operating costs have been so high in recent years, it hasn't been able to make as much money as the commission allows. The commission granted RG&E all of the 15 percent rate increase it requested last year. So what will happen to Rochester's steam system? Will it die as owners of downtown buildings drop off the system to save money? That's not likely, says RG&E, because many large customers like Genesee Brewing Co. Inc., Genesee Hospital and Delco Products, Division of General Motors Corp., have said they intend to continue to buy large quantities of steam. For a large operation, installing boilers is an ex-nsive project similar to building a small steam plant, said Daniel W. Carhaugh, manager of personnel relations for Delco. Serving large-volume customers is a more economical venture for RG&E than serving small-volume customers. RG&E has to invest in nearly as much piping and equipment to sell much less steam to small customers, said RG&E spokesman Richard Peck. Hill small downtown customers be driven off the system by high prices, leaving only big-volume buyers? Perhaps not. RR&E says it wants to keep all of its steam customers. And city, county and federal officials are working on reports that may find ways to save the steam svstem. TOMORROW: Steam studies will help the city decide whether to say goodbye to RG&E's steam system. I . Hlf ' V, ft .1(1 R If I ill np4Mliiii p ii nil I V in 4i RUGGED ECONOMY FLOOR TILE PRACTICAL. TOUGH & LONG-LASTING! POPULAR PATTERN & VERSATILE COLORS! LIMIT 10 cm. m A A a1 : j i Km: HOME IMPROVEMENT SUPERMART EH'f , Ml - mmm - . r TILE PAJNT AND WALLPAPER SALE 0 SQ. 'ft til. WALLPAPFR PRE-PASTED & WASHABLF FOR EASY INSMi i JKE DESIGNS FOR EVERY ROOM- rnll 12EHURRY! BRIGHT CERAMIC WALL TILE FIRED-0N GLAZE RESISTS DIRT. STAINS, CHIPS & MARS! ri A A A. 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