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Urgent opportunity to fight for clean energy in NY and slow climate change

Effects of Global Warming in Upstate New York _ Union of Concerned Scientists

Courtesy: Union of Concerned Scientists
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New Yorkers have a unique opportunity to support sustainable energy in our state – and we all need to pay attention and speak up.

Solar_panels_on_a_roofThe state-led initiative Reforming the Energy Vision (REV), seeks to address the immense challenges facing New York State’s energy system, maintain the state’s leadership on climate policy and provide affordable energy to the public. Aiming to radically alter the trajectory of New York’s energy delivery system, the initiative emerged in late 2014 and is planned throughout 2015 culminating in 2016 (see the timeline below).

This timeline demonstrates the how quickly the PSC is moving and why the public needs to act. By William Opalka and Rich Heidorn Jr. of RTO Insider

This timeline demonstrates the how quickly the PSC is moving and why the public needs to act. By William Opalka and Rich Heidorn Jr. of RTO Insider

North America’s energy delivery system, including the grid, is a significant hurdle towards implementing renewable energy. New York’s energy infrastructure is rapidly aging and projected to cost $30 billion dollars to upgrade and replace (New York Public Service Commission, 2014).

Courtesy: Union of Concerned Scientists

Courtesy: Union of Concerned Scientists

But the goal is urgent. Climate change is a great challenge facing the Hudson River. Under high emissions scenarios, our current carbon trajectory, New York is projected to have the climate similar to the state of Georgia by 2100 (Union of Concerned Scientists). Centralized electricity generation powered mostly by coal, oil and gas is a primary driver of climate change.

The REV proceedings have 6 tenets:

“1) Enhanced customer knowledge and tools that will support effective management of the total energy bill; 2) Market animation and leverage of customer contributions; 3) System wide efficiency; 4) Fuel and resource diversity; 5) System reliability and resiliency; and 6) Reduction of carbon emissions.” (Public Service Commission, 2014, emphasis added)

Why should clean water advocates be involved?

Oil sheen after a transformer fire at Indian Point on May 10, 2015

Oil sheen after a transformer fire at Indian Point on May 10, 2015

Public engagement from the viewpoint of water is imperative in the rapidly changing landscape of New York’s energy system. Many of the challenges the Hudson River faces are due to a legacy of 20th century energy systems such as Indian Point Nuclear Plant and fossil fuel electricity generation plants. (Read more about how the water intakes at these plants harm wildlife and impair our waterways.) Transforming the electricity grid to handle renewable energy such as wind and solar hastens the day when large centralized power plants such as Danskammer and Indian Point close, saving money for the consumer – and billions of fish.

REV is a Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity to Promote Renewable Energy

Andrew_Cuomo_by_Pat_Arnow_croppedGov. Andrew Cuomo has directed the PSC to bring together stakeholders from across the state to help re-imagine the New York’s energy system. The opportunity for public engagement, including Riverkeeper and supporters, to influence the process towards aggressive renewable energy and local energy control has never been greater. REV is under an accelerated timetable as part of New York’s strategy to meet the requirements of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan by June 2016. Therefore, the decisions made between now and the end of 2015 will decide the scope of New York’s energy transformation.

“Reforming the Energy Vision (REV), aims to reorient both the electric industry and the ratemaking paradigm toward a consumer-centered approach that harnesses technology and markets. Distributed energy resources (DER) will be integrated into the planning and operation of electric distribution systems, to achieve optimal system efficiencies, secure universal, affordable service, and enable the development of a resilient, climate-friendly energy system” (Public Service Commission, 2014, emphasis added).

The REV, has been divided into two tracks. Track one of the PCS’s Order, outlining the general vision of a restructured utility market including distributed energy resources and the ownership of those resources. Track two is much more ambitious, proposing a new paradigm for utilities to make a profit. In the old (current) model, utilities make a guaranteed rate of return based on the amount of distribution system they built. The PSC has proposed instead that utilities make profits based on the benefits they provide customers. However, the fight becomes how to design such a framework.

How will various benefits be weighted? Will the protection of water resources be considered a benefit? How will climate protection benefits be weighed against reliability and other system benefits? These are questions the public needs answered.

Track two is now open for public comment and requires immediate consideration. Comments are due on June 1, 2015.

Additionally, NYSERDA has proposed the creation of a Clean Energy Fund (CEF) focused on “market animation” and abolishing most consumer-level, direct financial incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency. With the CEF, NYSERDA aims to leverage private capital and focus on maturing the clean energy market in New York State. The public comment period for the CEF has been extended until July 2015.

Submit Comments on the REV and CEF

Submit your comments on the REV through the Alliance for a Green Energy Economy (AGREE) or individually: submit your comments here.

Comment on the Clean Energy Fund here.

The opportunity to act is now. We must seize it and be heard.

The importance of the Reforming the Energy Vision proceedings is an opportunity for New York State to lead the world in a clean energy, and allow the state to dramatically reduce the impacts of electricity generation on our water. The choices New York makes within the next few years will dramatically influence the direction of energy policy across North America.

The Reforming the Energy Vision proceedings and development of the Clean Energy Fund is an important step towards achieving the state’s goal of an 80 percent reduction of GHG emissions by 2050. The public must engage in this process and activate our communities in advocating for a healthy Hudson through our transition to clean energy.

Resources to Learn More

Citizens for Local Power

Alliance for a Green Energy Economy

Natural Resources Defense Council

Pace Energy and Climate Center

New York Public Service Commission$FILE/REV%20factsheet%208%2020%2014%20%282%29.pdf

Union of Concerned Scientists

Climate Central

Tell Gov. Hochul to block invasive species at the Erie and Champlain canals
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