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NYS Exposed: Cuomo energy plan brings support, questions

June 05, 2017 08:47 PM

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plans to require more of the state’s electricity come from green sources brought cheers but also skepticism.

“Renewable energy is the sign of the future, no matter what people think,” exclaimed homeowner Joe Fox. Fox showed off his home solar array in Somerset where Apex Clean Energy planned to build the 200 megawatt “Lighthouse” solar energy farm on some 10,000 acres of farmland across Orleans and Niagara counties.

“Wind turbines come. They will provide an excellent tax base for the community. And, really, it's a positive step in the right direction for the future of the town and the future of the entire state.”

Governor Cuomo reiterated his commitment to renewable energy on Friday, declaring support for the Paris Climate Accord after President Trump announced the United States would withdraw from the deal. “We will have the most aggressive renewable standard in the nation and comply with the Paris accords,” he announced. The governor also unveiled a $1.5 billion request for proposals for renewable energy projects, specifically “wind, solar, etc.” Cuomo said.

“Heavily political,” countered Ken Girardin with the Empire Center think tank. “The state, ostensibly, is trying to reduce carbon emissions. But they're not regulating carbon emissions. They’re just saying we are going to force people to buy a bunch of power from windmills and solar panels.”

Girardin complained that subsidies from both state and federal sources were distorting energy markets, pumping money from U.S. taxpayers and New York State electric customers into wind and solar businesses that could otherwise never compete against less expensive energy sources like natural gas, or hydroelectric power in a fair market.

“The reason we don't already have windmills and solar panels everywhere it's because they're really expensive to operate,” Girardin said. “But the state is saying regardless of cost you have to buy your power from these sort of things. So that's going to drive up the average electric bill in New York."

Girardin pointed to Governor Cuomo’s “Clean Energy Standard” (CES) and his “50 by 30” plan to derive 50 percent of the state’s electricity from renewable sources by the year 2030. The plan’s criteria invite participation by solar and wind farm developers but exclude hydroelectric power that involves the building of any new dams or new lakes.

That restriction limits the state’s potential ability to buy hydro power from a major potential supplier, Canada’s Hydro Quebec, which is dramatically increasing its power generation capacity. “Hydro Quebec,” Girardin said, “is building additional dams and hydroelectric facilities at a rate of about one nuclear power plant over the next five years. The state of New York has specifically disqualified them from selling that power towards a New York’s renewable goals. So, I would offer that up, as the first example that, yes this is political."

Representatives of the governor retorted against what it called “critics aligned with fossil fuel interests.”

A statement from the governor’s press office declared that “without the CES, customer bills would skyrocket as the energy would be replaced with more expensive, dirty fuel and fracked gas and New York would forfeit our leadership on climate change.”

In Somerset, plans for the Lighthouse wind project also brought concerns and neighborhood division. Signs advocating and opposing the project line the roads and both advocates and opponents of the plan awaited the results of the developer’s process of “stipulations” meetings.  Apex Clean Energy predicted a formal application to the state to site the project could be ready by the end of the year.

Fox declared he is comfortable and supportive of the project  "I don't see any problem. It doesn't bother me a bit. I bought this property to look at the lake, not a farm field.”

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Charles Molineaux

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