The Reforming the Energy Vision plan is part of the Cuomo administration’s effort to radically modernize the New York power grid and reduce greenhouse gasses
By Editorial
March 11, 2015 – 11:42am


Close observers are seeing significant progress in New York State’s recent moves on alternative, nonpolluting energy. In late February the state’s Public Service Commission issued an outline for its Reforming the Energy Vision plan, with an aim of making New York’s electric grid cleaner, resilient in the face of natural disasters, and cheaper for consumers. This is extremely good news and dovetails nicely with a goal set by the Town of East Hampton to supply all of the community’s electric needs from renewable sources by 2020.

The Reforming the Energy Vision plan is part of the Cuomo administration’s effort to radically modernize the New York power grid and reduce greenhouse gasses. If brought to fruition, it will vastly improve electricity technology and reduce energy consumption.

Importantly, the plan reinforces rules that have been around since the 1990s that block the state’s utilities from owning their own generating plants. This will help ensure private, widely distributed systems, such as rooftop solar and wind, and encourage innovation through strong, free market competition. For Long Island ratepayers, this would leave PSEG to manage the electricity delivery system but allow residents and local governments to continue to explore green alternatives and continue to block utilities’ monopolistic tendencies. Think of PSEG and Con Ed and the like as the retailers, while a range of independent producers, from homeowners to local governments, will be the wholesalers.

There is a strong economic argument for dispersed private power production that centers on keeping more dollars in New York State, or even right here on Long Island. Coal, oil, and natural gas electric plants tend to be far from the areas of highest use, and the fossil fuels on which they depend come from even farther away. Though solar panels might be manufactured elsewhere, they represent a one-time expense. The installation and maintenance, particularly of home and small commercial systems, is nearly entirely a local affair and could be a job producer.

From an environmental perspective, the move toward nonpolluting power sources is imperative. Problems linked to generating plants include respiratory and other health concerns for their immediate neighbors, often people at the lower end of the income scale. Coal-fired plants are a major cause of the ocean acidification that is widely threatening marine species, including those in South Fork waters. And electricity generation accounts for about a third of emissions linked to anthropogenic climate change. Here on the narrow end of a rapidly eroding island, anything that can help reduce global warming and its attendant sea level rise should be strongly supported.

Summertime peak demand makes this is a very big deal in East Hampton Town. PSEG Long Island recently announced that it was seeking proposals for new South Fork power plants to help with surging use during the hot-weather months. The Reforming the Energy Vision plan, if quickly put into place, could force PSEG and the Long Island Power Authority, which oversees it, to look for nonpolluting options. This might include reversing a rejection last year of several large solar projects at town-owned sites and looking again at offshore wind.

The Reforming the Energy Vision plan indicates a long-sighted approach to electricity production and use in New York. We hope that its goals are speedily implemented.