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PSEG-LI’s Utility 2.0: A vision for the “utility of the future”or business as usual?

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This summer, PSEG-LI released “Utility 2.0,” the utility’s long-awaited Long Range Plan for renewable energy on Long Island. While PSEG-LI’s commitment to invest in energy efficiency and solar as well as steps to cut unnecessary electric use at peak times is a good start, the Plan fails to provide a necessary clean energy vision for Long Island’s future.  Long Islanders want and need a plan that facilitates the transition from a carbon-intensive, fossil powered economy to a low-carbon economy dependent on large-scale renewable energy sources, like offshore wind. Saddling Long Islanders to more of the same, more fossil fuels and more excuses to wait is not the long range plan we hoped for.  The discussion of transitioning from fossil fuels to cleaner, renewable energy has been taking place for years.  The time for implementation is now.

Moreover, the plan lacks a clear blueprint with aggressive, yet achievable goals. Long Island needs a new energy vision.  An energy vision that will set us apart and make us a leader in combating climate change, reducing toxins, and investing in clean, safe renewable energy.  Our energy plan needs to be both a vision and a road map to achieving our goals.  Setting long-term goals is critical to maximizing Long Island’s efficiency and renewable energy potential, while demonstrating to the industry that New York is open for business.

1. What about climate change? Considering that the electricity sector is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions on Long Island, it’s frustrating that climate change is mentioned only once in this 96 page document. In Dave Daly’s cover letter he states that the plan, “seek(s) to align with the energy policy and initiatives supported by the Authority, DPS, and the government of the State of New York.” Why, then, is there no mention of either the State’s goal of 80% GHG reductions economy wide by 2050, or the interim goal of 50% by 2030? What is PSEG-LI’s envisioned role in working to reach NYS’s GHG reduction goals?  Utility 2.0 should define the Utility’s role in combating climate change and should offer a clear blueprint for meeting the State’s GHG reduction goals.

2. Where’s our wind? Large scale offshore wind power needs to play a significant role in Long Island’s energy future.  We need to stop talking about it and start implementing it. Despite the fact that an entire section of this plan is devoted to addressing load constraints on the South Fork, the Plan is silent on large scale offshore wind. Since PSEG-LI will be assuming planning responsibilities for power procurement within six months, it is extremely concerning that there is no discussion of the various proposed offshore wind projects.

A 900 MW wind farm planned for 30 miles off of Montauk has very real potential to feed a growing and hungry Suffolk County market if it leads to a power purchase agreement in 2014. Power from this wind farm is currently planned to go to Rhode Island but LI can tap into this resource if PSEG has the political will to do so.  In order to move away from fossil fuels and to fulfill New York State’s commitment to renewable energy generation, this Long Range plan must embrace offshore wind as a key part of Long Island’s sustainable energy future.

3. Solar:  We are making progress on solar—but we can do more. According to a recently released report issued by The Solar Foundation, New York State ranks fifth in the nation in solar energy jobs, up from seventh place last year. Due in large part to NY-SUN programs, the state has created over 5,000 jobs in the solar industry, with the potential to grow as more investment in the solar market continues. The Plan should make increasing solar a priority—and not just residential solar, but commercial solar as well. We have a lot of flat roofs on Long Island.  Let’s put those flat roofs to good use, while investing in local jobs and small businesses.

4. Let’s start a Green Roofs for Long Island program. Green roofs serve several purposes for a building, such as absorbing rainwater, providing insulation, creating a habitat for wildlife, and helping to lower urban air temperatures and mitigate the heat island effect.  Green roofs are becoming common in Chicago, as well as in Atlanta, Portland, and other United States cities, where their use is encouraged by regulations to combat the urban heat-island effect. In the case of Chicago, the city has passed codes offering incentives to builders who put green roofs on their buildings. It has been estimated that if all the roofs in a major city were greened, urban temperatures could be reduced by as much as 7 degrees Celsius. Green roofs can also reduce heat loss and energy consumption in winter conditions.

This plan was supposed to put forth a vision for the “utility of the future.” Instead we got more of the same. Business-as-usual is not the solution Long Islanders are looking for. And it is certainly not a vision for the future. PSEG-LI can continue to kick the can down the road for a few more years and watch as we fall behind and fail to meet state policy goals for reducing carbon emissions—or we can hit the reset button.  Planning is important, stalling is crippling. Long Island has been planning for far too long.  This is an opportunity to provide a better life for Long Islanders, now and in the future, and for PSEG-LI to become a leader and symbol of what it means to embrace a clean energy economy in the millennium. Let’s not let it become a missed opportunity.

 

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2 Comments

  1. Posted September 22, 2014 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    Thank you CCE for this blog post and your vital and sustained advocacy for clean energy. While I certainly agree with your key points, I found a few encouraging aspects.

    Throughout the report PSEG-LI acknowledges that the electric utility paradigm is shifting fast. Instead of seeing its role as the traditional utility of yore, it acknowledges that it is becoming a Distribution Resource Platform Provider (DSPP), as mentioned in Section 4: Long-Term Vision. This is a not-so-subtle shift from the current utility business model. The plan lays out new mechanisms for the DRPP to survive by simultaneously providing reliable electricity to all customers while supporting the dramatic growth of renewable, energy efficiency and direct load control.

    EmPower Solar and many partners are working to make solar, wind, battery storage, and electric vehicles a majority of the Long Island energy mix as soon as possible. We think this is doable, and will result in profound societal benefits, including a far stronger economy and crucial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

    Figuring out how to reconcile the dramatic growth of distributed energy resources (DER) and maintain the reliability of the highly complicated utility grid – which we will need to be intact for the foreseeable future – is a complicated task.

    PSEG-LI’s inaugural Utility 2.0 report does not solve all the problems, but it is a decent first draft and that we can work within the framework it envisions – there are clearly bright, dedicated people at PSEG-LI, and they are ready to roll up their sleeves.

    No doubt we are also benefiting from impressive leadership from Governor Cuomo’s office, the New York State Public Service Commission led by Audrey Zibelman, and of course NYSERDA. NYS’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) is trailblazing and a great rally cry to figure these issues out.

    We certainly have a long way to go, but CCE’s constant support and vision is inspiring and makes us aim higher. It will also inspire PSEG-LI and NYS to achieve more. Thank you for your leadership and advocacy.

  2. Ron
    Posted October 7, 2014 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for some intelligent talk on the.. imperative of having a long-term energy plan for Long Island, especially one that capitalizes on two of Long Islands greatest resources – the Wind and Sun. Free fuel, clean technology, forward looking, 21-century job creating plans are long overdue.

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