Energy plan pushes conservation, solar and wind

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - A new state energy plan calls for more conservation, more use of renewable sources such as solar and wind power, a tougher New York building code and a disclosure requirement for a building's utility usage when it's sold.

Gov. David Paterson said the plan he accepted from the State Energy Planning Board provides the blueprint for a continuing transition to a clean energy economy over the next decade.

Initiatives for 2010 include the building sale disclosure and removing loopholes that have limited the effectiveness of the state's energy code. Both require legislative action. Others include procuring 100 megawatts more of solar energy statewide and requesting bids for an offshore Long Island wind project.

"By adopting the recommendations of this plan, we will ensure that New Yorkers get energy that is more affordable and more reliable, and we will do it in a way that recognizes that the environment needs to be protected," Paterson said.

Broad goals include reducing electricity demand 15 percent below forecasts by 2015, while increasing renewable generation to 30 percent of demand, both helping to reduce burning oil and coal.

"In the short run, investments in energy efficiency reduce energy use and bills for participating customers," the report said.

Over the long term, reduced electricity demand has been shown to ease wholesale electricity prices and reduce price volatility as well as pollutants, the report said.

Thomas Congdon, Paterson's deputy secretary for energy and chairman of the board, said their models show reduced energy costs far outweigh incremental expenses for the programs. New York spends about $60 billion annually to meet its energy needs, with half of that money leaving the state, he said.

The energy conservation code for buildings has a loophole for partial renovations that needs to be closed, as well as one for historic properties that should be limited to structures only, not the overall property, Congdon said. Legislation to require disclosing a building's energy characteristics at the time of sale would involve showing prospective buyers the utility bills, meant in part to persuade them to do energy-saving retrofits and take advantage of subsidies, he said.

New York has roughly 30,000 megawatts of total electrical capacity. Nuclear power accounts for about 30 percent of supply, hydropower for another 15 to 18 percent, and over the past few years the state has added about 1,000 megawatts of wind generation, Congdon said.

Next year's goals include working with the New York Power Authority to procure another 100 megawatts of solar energy statewide. Over a decade, state programs have helped develop 20 megawatts of solar power, while the Long Island Power Authority is close to contracting for 50 megawatts, Congdon said.

Other goals include working with NYPA to establish its offshore wind project in the Great Lakes. The authority recently requested bids for up to 300 megawatts of capacity, potentially 100 wind towers. A second project, off Long Island's Rockaways, involves LIPA and other partners and a planned bid request next year for 300 to 600 megawatts of wind turbine capacity, Congdon said.

The plan calls for stringent environmental safeguards for natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale gas reserves in New York's Southern Tier, as well as identifying strategies to cut greenhouse gas pollution by 80 percent by 2050.


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