Turning Challenges into Opportunities: 2015 New York State Energy Plan

October 6, 2015

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Turning Challenges into Opportunities: 2015 New York State Energy Plan
By: Arthur “Jerry” Kremer and Rob DiFrancesco

Since 2008, New York’s State Energy Planning Board has been responsible for developing an annual Energy Plan that anticipates the state’s future energy needs and goals.[i] The 2015 Energy Plan is the most ambitious yet in its clean-energy aims, setting three goals:

  1. Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% from 1990 levels.
  2. Raise the percentage of renewable energy generation to 50% from 25% of the state’s total.
  3. Increase energy efficiency in buildings to reduce usage by 600 trillion BTU.

These goals will require significant effort on several fronts if they are to be achieved.

Goal 1: Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The state seeks an aggressive reduction in greenhouse gas (GhG) emissions, considering them to be the leading “cause of climate change”[ii] as well as a threat to the local environment and health of New Yorkers.

The first step in reducing GhG emissions is to support existing sources of clean baseload energy and add to them. 31% of our power comes from nuclear plants that emit virtually zero carbon. [iii]

Indian Point Energy Center, the nuclear plant that supplies approximately 25% of the power to New York City and Westchester County, prevents over 8.5 million tons of carbon dioxide from being released annually—exceeding the combined annual impact of every state energy program.[iv] Should Indian Point cease to operate, GhG emissions would increase significantly because natural gas, a fossil fuel, would be needed to replace most of the lost nuclear power.

The 2015 Energy Plan recognizes that the “continued safe operation of nuclear” is an “important” factor in achieving the state’s objectives, but it stops short of fully endorsing nuclear as a means of reducing GhGs—an omission it should correct .[v]For all intents and purposes, it is impossible to achieve the Plan’s GhG goals without nuclear power.

Goal 2: Generate 50% of Energy from Renewable Sources

GhG emissions can be further reduced by deriving more energy from market-competitive renewable sources. 51% of New York’s electricity comes from nuclear and hydroelectric generation,[vi] as compared to less than 5% from solar and wind. Renewable technologies need substantial private investment, not taxpayer or ratepayer dollars, to grow.

Furthermore, if we’re to deliver renewable power more efficiently from upstate sources to demand-heavy downstate, New York must build new transmission lines and upgrade older ones. Again, private investors, not taxpayers or ratepayers, must bear the cost.

Goal 3: Achieve 600 Trillion BTU of Energy Efficiency Savings

The Plan proposes that buildings reduce their energy use by 600 trillion BTU, the equivalent of a 23% reduction from 2012 levels. Energy-efficiency measures will reduce consumption of both the natural gas and heating oil used to warm buildings and the fuels used to generate electricity.[vii]

In addition to this initiative, the state is encouraging voluntary consumer participation in energy reduction activities via the Clean Energy Fund (CEF), which administers tax breaks, financial incentives, and other programs to foster energy efficiency.

Let’s Not Forget: Affordability, Accountability, Transparency, and Job Creation

In order for all our citizens to benefit from the new initiatives outlined above, affordability must also be a priority. The most direct way to reduce the burden of energy costs on hard-pressed families is to cut or eliminate the surcharges, taxes, and fees that comprise 25% of the typical utility bill.

Accountability and transparency must also be achieved via specific details and cost benefit analysis for every initiative the state undertakes. For instance, lawmakers are proposing to provide the Clean Energy Fund with $5 billion in funding over the next 10 years; we need to know where this money will go, for what, and why this will be valuable. New Yorkers already pay among the highest electricity costs in the nation; new energy proposals must not add to their bills.

Job creation will rise as New York lowers electricity costs and enhances system reliability, because businesses and industries will have an incentive to stay here and expand even further.

CONCLUSION

The 2015 Energy Plan aims to turn challenges into opportunities. To make our state an energy leader, we must keep existing sources of clean baseload energy, reduce ratepayer costs, cover financial risks with private investment, and grow jobs in New York.

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About the Authors: Arthur “Jerry” Kremer is the former chairman of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee and a principal author of the state’s power plan siting law. He now serves as chairman of the New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance (New York AREA). Rob DiFrancesco is the director of New York AREA, a diverse organization of more than 150 business, labor, and community groups. Founded in 2003, New York AREA’s mission is to ensure that New York has an ample and reliable electricity supply, and economic prosperity for years to come. For more information visit www.area-alliance.org.

 

 

 

[i] Paterson, David “No. 2: Establishing a State Energy Planning Board and Authorizing the Creation and Implementation of a State Energy Plan”, Executive Order 2. Retrieved October 1, 2015. http://worldcat.org/arcviewer/4/AO%23/2010/12/28/H1293463408438/viewer/file2391.html

[ii] “Volume 1: The Energy to Lead” New York State Energy Plan, June 2015, page 44. Retrieved October 1, 2015. http://energyplan.ny.gov/Plans/2015

[iii] “Coal, Gas, Nuclear, Hydro? How Your State Generates Power.” NPR. NPR, 10 Sept. 2015. Retrieved 01 Oct. 2015. http://www.npr.org/2015/09/10/319535020/coal-gas-nuclear-hydro-how-your-state-generates-power?ft=nprml&f=1001%2C1003%2C1004%2C1090

[iv] “…ongoing energy efficiency programs developed in New York with support from the Systems Benefit Charge, Renewable Portfolios Standard (RPS), Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (EEPS), Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), and other initiatives is estimated to be a reduction of 7.7 million tons of carbon dioxide per year” Ibid, page 19. Retrieved October 1, 2015. http://energyplan.ny.gov/Plans/2015

[v] Ibid, page 9.

[vi] U.S. Energy Information Administration “New York State Energy Profile”, July 16, 2015. Retrieved October 1, 2015. http://www.eia.gov/state/print.cfm?sid=NY

[vii] “Volume2: End-Use Energy” New York State Energy Plan, June 2015, page 41. Retrieved October 1, 2015. http://energyplan.ny.gov/Plans/2015