OPINION: We need to protect NY’s homemade renewable energy
If New York is serious about doing everything we can to address climate change, we need to start by keeping our homemade renewable energy right here in New York.
The damage caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 cost the state more than $32 billion — some neighborhoods are still recovering — and forced us to start having real conversations around climate change. Unfortunately, a Republican-controlled senate ignored Mother Nature’s warning, and stonewalled significant action.
Fast forward almost seven years later, and with a Democratic majority serving in the State Senate, we passed one of the most ambitious climate plans in the nation. Receiving less attention, but with broad bipartisan support and the potential to have an immediate impact, was the New York Renewables Protection Act. All we need is for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign it.
The legislation — which I was proud to introduce with Assemblymember Michael Cusick — will support and safeguard New York’s existing renewable energy operations, like privately owned hydro power and land-based wind farms. The bill ensures that homegrown energy stays in-state so that New Yorkers can benefit from the jobs, tax revenue and — most importantly — clean energy they generate.
Here’s the urgency: Existing renewable energy producers are receiving incentives from neighboring states like Massachusetts, and exporting their clean energy across state lines. In 2017 alone, New York State exported more than 550 megawatts of clean, renewable energy — enough to power more than 500,000 homes. This trend will only continue if Gov. Cuomo fails to sign this bipartisan legislation that affords existing renewable energy producers the same protection as new energy producers.
Starting this year, even more renewable energy producers will see their New York State Energy Research and Development Authority contracts expire, and they could start exporting energy to neighboring states or shut down altogether.
Current policies are obstructing our clean energy goals and creating economic perils for smaller, existing producers who are left with minimal options. We need the governor’s support to make sure that energy export is not the only viable option for these existing energy producers.
The truth is, New York is not on track to meet the aggressive renewable energy goals set in the climate bill, which includes producing 70 percent of the state’s energy from renewable sources by 2030, and 100 percent by 2040. We haven’t even hit our 2015 target of 30 percent renewable energy generation (instead, we’re stuck at about 26). And alienating existing renewable energy producers and losing our established resources will only backslide New York’s progress to attaining these renewable energy goals.
The brilliance of our system of government is its ability to allow ideas to flourish, with the potential to create a better society for our citizens. As lawmakers, we are tasked with advocating for our constituents on all matters that affect their lives and livelihoods.
Right now, nothing threatens that future more than climate change: rising sea levels and global temperature, warming oceans, creating ideal conditions for more extreme weather events.
We hope the governor would be open to partner with us so we can achieve the audacious goal of combating climate change and creating a better and safer future for generations to come. The legislature heeded the call of New Yorkers and put forward a common-sense bill. The ball is now in the governor’s court to prove he is committed to New York’s renewable energy goal.
New York State Sen. Kevin Parker represents New York State’s 21st Senate District and is the chairperson of the Committee on Energy and Telecommunications.
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