A little-noticed fee on Con Ed bills goes to finance energy efficiency projects throughout New York State, but a Times analysis of how the money gets distributed found that a disproportionate amount of NYC dollars gets out of town. The so-called SBC [System Benefits Charge] typically amounts to about a dollar a month for the average NYC Con Ed customer. According to the Times, local Con Ed customers paid half of the state's total SBC charges over the past decade, while about 59% percent of the rebates, loans and other benefits handed out by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority went to fund projects outside of the metropolitan area.

The 250-employee agency that distributes the fund, which could add up to about $350 million this year, is governed by the Public Service Commission, whose five members are appointed by the governor. The amount of money at their disposal has ballooned, so now some state lawmakers are trying to bring it under legislative control. Democratic Assemblyman Kevin A. Cahill tells the Times, "It shouldn't be a mini-pork barrel."

And city officials say New Yorkers deserve a more appropriate proportion of the money, which is spent on things like an energy-efficient ice rink in West Nyack, or incandescent traffic lights in Syracuse that save more than four million kilowatt-hours a year. Closer to home, millions have been spent to recycle the steam produced by natural gas generators installed in office towers like The New York Times Building. The Pepsi-Cola bottling plant in College Point, Queens also used SBC funds to harness steam power, and the Times has an interesting article about that, as well.

Photo courtesy Deeper Sea