Wednesday, September 30, 2009

New York state drafts energy plan

While Congress continues to debate cap-and-trade proposals, some state governments are moving forward on their own energy plans. The latest example is New York state, which issued a draft policy setting forth a 10-year plan.

The New York plan identifies energy efficiency as an economic way to expand its clean energy economy.

“In the short-run, investments in energy efficiency reduce energy use and bills for participating customers,” said the plan’s executive summary. “In the long-run, a significant reduction in electricity demand has been shown to put downward pressure on wholesale electricity prices, reduce price volatility, and reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other air pollutants.”

The draft plan notes efficiency improvements in transportation also would reduce greenhouse gas emissions. New York Gov. David A. Paterson issued an executive order last year calling for a state energy plan, which could be finalized by Dec. 31, 2009.

The plan calls for reducing electricity use by 15% below 2015 forecasts and increasing the proportion of renewable generation to 30% of electricity demand by 2015. Andrew C. Byers, an associate vice-president with Black & Veatch, believes that it could prove to be a stretch for New York to meet its renewable power goal.

“Although renewables make up about 21% of the state’s electricity already, large-scale hydropower accounts for 19% while wind and biomass are less than 2% combined,” Byers wrote in a recent Black & Veatch Pathfinder newsletter.

“Since the state’s hydropower resources are already developed, getting to 30% will require adding five times as much power from other renewables, which are much more expensive than traditional fossil fuel generation,” Byers said. “Skeptics fear that this means much higher subsidies, paid for through increases in ratepayers’ bills.”

Decades ago, people promoted conservation. Today, people are promoting energy efficiency. But as Byers points out, it remains to be seen whether the goals can be met in the timetables being proposed.

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