Saturday, May 14, 2016

New York Plans to Make Fighting Climate Change Good Business - by Justin Gillis

Flowers grow from electric socket (Credit: Brian Stauffer) Click to Enlarge.
A governor wants to lead on green energy.  The state’s utilities are nervously falling in line.  Young entrepreneurs are buzzing, determined to be part of the generation that finally solves climate change

To most ears, that might sound like California, where all those things and more are happening.  But it also describes New York.

New York?

The state may not leap to mind as being in the vanguard of the green economy.  But under Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the most populous state in the Northeast is in a close race with its counterpart in the West in setting ambitious climate goals.  And in some ways, New York may be on the verge of pulling ahead of California.

Without much fanfare, Mr. Cuomo has started a big effort to retool his state’s utilities for the modern age, trying to apply market forces to transform the way electricity is produced, transmitted and consumed.

Critical rules are due in coming weeks from a state agency, the Public Service Commission. Depending on the details, Mr. Cuomo’s program could prove to be the most ambitious effort in the country, and possibly in the world, to enlist the profit motive as an ally in the fight against global warming.

Mr. Cuomo has been vocal on the issue of climate change since the state suffered through the trauma of Hurricane Sandy in 2012.  The governor toured the remains of century-old homes reduced to splinters by that storm.  Scientists said the damage had been worsened by sea-level rise induced by human emissions of greenhouse gases.

“In the case of climate change, denial is not a survival strategy,” Mr. Cuomo said at Columbia University in October.  “Climate change is a reality, and not to address it is gross negligence by government and irresponsible as citizens.”

New York starts with advantages.  It receives about 26 percent of its power from renewable sources already.  Much of that comes from upstate dams, but wind farms have been popping up around the state, and solar power is up 575 percent in four years.  Transport emissions are among the lowest in the country because of New York City’s huge transit system.

The state has largely shut down its coal-burning power plants, and Mr. Cuomo intends to close the rest of them by 2020.  He has set a goal of getting 50 percent of the state’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

Mr. Cuomo hopes to shutter the Indian Point nuclear plant north of New York City for safety reasons, but he recently offered plans to save upstate nuclear power plants.  Those are at risk of closing because of low electricity prices driven by cheap natural gas, but he argues that losing the plants would take the state backward on emissions.  Mr. Cuomo has drawn some opposition on this from environmental groups, who are otherwise largely supporting his approach.

The heart of Mr. Cuomo’s policy is his intention to enlist market forces in shaking up the utility industry.  That plan has a name:  Reforming the Energy Vision.  Yes, it does sound like something dreamed up by hippies at their commune in the mountains.

In fact, Mr. Cuomo is among the most business-friendly of the nation’s Democratic governors, and his plan is being led by a former partner at Goldman Sachs, Richard L. Kauffman.

Read more at New York Plans to Make Fighting Climate Change Good Business

No comments:

Post a Comment