WEEKEND EDITION

Is Anybody There? New York State Needs a Leader for Green Energy

| August 4, 2011 10:49 AM

All the pieces are in place to develop sustainable and efficient energy in New York state except one: leadership.

That was the consensus from a panel of experts, advocates and government officials yesterday who said New York has the capacity to grow its wind, solar and natural gas energy production, while also conserving more power and improving the electric grid – as long as there’s a plan for doing so.

Nearly two-thirds of the one million rooftops in New York City is suitable for solar panels. If all of these rooftops had panels, the city could get half of its electricity from solar power. MetroFocus/Sam Lewis

“It’s really time for the state to step up to the plate and become the major player,” said Jerry Kremer, former chairman of the Assembly Ways & Means Committee and current chairman of Empire Government Strategies.

Kremer called for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to apply the same strategy he used to devise a plan for Medicaid – convening a task force of stakeholders and experts who can chart a path to the future.

“Send the signals to the private investors it’s safe to come in to New York and spend money here and invest in capital construction. Send a message to the people who want to bring new technologies into this state,” he said. “The idea is the job of the state of New York is far from done.”

Kremer was one of six panelists at the “Meeting Demand” breakfast hosted by City Hall, Baruch College, the New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance and McKenna, Long, & Aldridge, LLP on the future of energy in New York.

Even without a comprehensive plan in place, they said, New York has the potential for robust future supply, but needs more planning to encourage investment in new power sources.

“We don’t really still have a policy blueprint for how you finance generation, infrastructure, energy efficiency,” said Ashok Gupta, director of energy at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “A lot of technology, a lot of solutions, a lot of things that we can do, but…you need clarity of policy in terms of these long term investments that we don’t have.”

Gupta said new transmission lines, new offshore wind farms and more efficient generators in existing power plants are all proven technologies that can accommodate the region’s growing need for power. But Kevin Lanahan, Con Edison’s government relations director, said traditional energy resources will provide the bulk of the state’s power for the near future.

“We can’t forget that the electric infrastructure and natural gas infrastructure makes all of this possible,” Lenahan said. “We need to balance out investments in resource planning, long-term planning, with costs.”

Moving forward will require a range of new initiatives, panelists said – including conservation measures such as retrofitting buildings to be more efficient, and installing smart meters to let electric customers monitor and control their power use more closely.

“We have to balance all of these resources,” said Sergej Mahnovski, senior advisor and director of the Office of Energy Policy and Infrastructure at the city Department of Environmental Protection. “There is no magic bullet, so we have to be careful.”

Ray Long, vice president of government affairs at NRG Energy, said his company’s natural gas-fired electric plants can provide more power with lower emissions, and can be built relatively quickly if agreements are in place to buy their power.

“We don’t need to look much further than our own backyard in and around the New York City area to see the opportunity to get new technologies in place in a reasonable amount of time,” Long said.

With so many different strategies to provide enough power for New York – and with disagreements raging about the Indian Point nuclear plant and “hydrofracking” natural gas drilling – panelists said the ultimate responsibility for coordinating them lies with the state.

“I’ve been hearing about some of those things for years. I’d love to see them. I wish they’d happen faster,” said Queens Sen. Michael Gianaris. “What we lacked in the state and continue to lack – although there’s some sign of progress – is an energy vision.”

Read the full post at City Hall News.

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