Utilities Posed to Pounce on Green Energy

Last June, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a law requiring 70% of New York State’s electricity to come from renewable energy by 2030.  To reach this goal, Mid-Hudson Valley officials have expressed support for a bill that would allow utility companies to participate in the renewable energy business.

Sen. Jen Metzger, D-Rosendale, and Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, D-Kingston, along with Chris Tague, R-Schoharie, have all expressed that they either support the bill or are at least open to the idea. 

Utility companies are large firms that supply electricity, gas and water to the public. Utilities are subject to monopoly regulation, making it illegal for these companies to create renewable energy.  

The bill’s sponsor is Sen. Kevin S. Parker, D-Brooklyn, the chairman of the Energy and Telecommunications Committee.  The bill states that current economic factors threaten the “most cost-effective” clean energy sources and the bill will aim to establish “utility support for these facilities to protect critical infrastructure and ensure that the [70] by 30 goal is achieved as economically as possible.”

Both versions of the bill have passed in the Senate and the Assembly for the 2019-2020 legislative session. A version of this bill had also been introduced in the 2017-2018 session; however, it did not pass in the Assembly. 

Metzger is a member of the Energy and Telecommunications Committee and previously said that she was reviewing the bill carefully to make sure it would actually intend to help reach the state’s goal, according to The Daily Freeman.

“I do not think we are at the point of saying it is necessary—rather, it is something that should not be categorically ruled out. When we passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act this year, we set ambitious but absolutely essential targets to address the climate crisis, including achieving 70% of electricity from renewable resources by 2030,” Metzger said. “In order to reach these goals, we need to vastly increase renewable generation in New York, along with grid-connected energy storage, and we need to explore all options for expanding build-out. There may be some limited circumstances in which utility ownership would be beneficial, and it is worth at least examining the possibilities.”

The Independent Power Producers of New York, Inc. (IPPNY) objects the decision to allow utilities to create renewable energy because it will undermine policies that protect ratepayers through supporting competition between electricity companies, by prohibiting utility generation facilities.   

“The best way to enhance New York’s ability to attract renewable energy investment is a market-based large-scale renewables program designed to achieve the 70% goal, not one that backtracks on our progress with competitive markets,” said Anne Reynolds, executive director of Alliance for Clean Energy New York, in a press release. “Independent developers of wind energy and other technologies have proven their ability to bring clean energy to market most efficiently and cost effectively. Allowing utilities to own and rate-base renewable generation would chill competition and discourage cost-effective investment.”

Jess Mullen, Climate Action Coalition coordinator, said it’s necessary to allow utilities to create renewable energy so they can move away from the fossil fuel business and aid the fight against the climate crisis.

“If utility companies are left out of the question  then transition to renewable energy will not be complete,” Mullen said. “Utility companies switching to renewable energy will result in new, less devastating actions and corporate priorities that don’t perpetuate the climate crisis.”