New York’s Proposed Energy Plan, Based On Flawed Assumptions

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[On The Environment: Op-Ed]

The New York State Energy Planning Board recently released a “Draft New York State Energy Plan” that hopes to address challenges that impact all facets of our lives.

Issues of major concern include high energy costs, continuing reliance on imported fuels, aging energy infrastructure, and climate change.

While the draft plan is over 100 pages long and clearly required great effort, it is built on false assumptions.  Unfortunately, conclusions and recommendations that are reached using false assumptions can’t be relied on to provide New York City and State residents with the electricity they must have for their economy to grow and prosper.  Put differently, a house built on a faulty foundation is a house built on sand.

Specifically, the plan sets forth five objectives, to 1) Maintain Reliability, 2) Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions, 3) Stabilize Energy Costs and Improve Economic Competitiveness, 4) Reduce Public Health and Environmental Risks and 5) Improve Energy Independence. 

After laying out these laudable objectives, the same report goes on to call for the closure of The Indian Point Energy Center – the cleanest, least expensive, domestically fueled source of power in the New York City region.  And moreover, the City’s single largest source of electricity that does not emit air pollutants or greenhouse gases as a result of its energy production, and as recently as August 12th received another positive safety review from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), an independent federal government agency.

In conducting the analysis for this report, the State used two scenarios for assessing future electricity needs.  The first scenario is based on conclusions reached by the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO), an independent, not-for-profit corporation - whose core mission is “maintaining and enhancing regional reliability” of New York’s power supply. 

In the second scenario the State assumes that energy efficiency investments will be able to reduce the State’s forecasted electricity needs 15% by 2015, or roughly 75% more than the independent agency responsible for running our electrical system.

This difference between these two scenarios, while possibly appearing minor and distant, is the difference between prudent, responsible planning and politically motivated planning.  Why? New York City’s environmental sustainability plan said it best: “Reducing our demand while absorbing (population) growth will not only be difficult—it has never been done before.  Energy efficiency programs in the United States began during the 1970s, but consumption has still steadily risen along with the proliferation of air conditioners, cell phones, laptops and other electronic devices.  Even the most successful programs in the country have failed to flatten demand…”

While the creation of this report goes on in Albany, our members – many from low-income and minority communities - continue to struggle. The air they breathe violates federal health standards, their children suffer from asthma at rates as high as four times the national average, and over time, electricity costs represent an increasing and larger portion of their many bills.  In fact, outside of Hawaii, New York’s electricity costs are the highest in the nation.

The bottom line: Our members need to see the objectives of this Energy Plan achieved.  An unrealistic and unachievable, politically motivated, plan will hurt our communities and is doomed for failure.

We need solid, real-world planning, that will result in cleaner air, less expensive energy and a stronger economy. Therefore, our membership, representing numerous community organizations, small business associations and labor unions, urges Governor Patterson to take back this plan, eliminate the flaws in its foundation and most importantly, ensure that the stated objectives are achieved. 

Then we will have a sound plan, the goals of which will be realized and the benefits of which will include less costly electricity, cleaner air and a stronger, more vibrant, economy.

Mr. Joseph is the Assistant Director of SHARE (Safe, Healthy, Affordable and Reliable Energy)

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