Concerned about where your energy comes from? Are you wondering if our use of renewable power sources, like solar and wind, will increase? Do you have questions about nuclear power? How about our increasing use of natural gas?

The state will be holding public hearings on its Draft Energy Plan next week in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and on Long Island in early March (see details below).

The hearings are during the work week which make them less accessible. New Yorkers can also comment online until March 31st. Additional public hearings on the plan are supposed to take place in Buffalo, Syracuse, and Albany.

Trying to Make Sense of 600 Pages

In the next couple weeks, we will be selecting individual pieces of the enormous plan that we—and others—think are particularly noteworthy.

The Governor’s new initiatives on renewable energy and clean technology are outlined in the plan. One of the most meaningful clean energy steps the state is taking is a massive investment—$1 billion—in solar energy.

The ten-year statewide solar program would increase solar power generation ten-fold to 3,000 megawatts, which, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, could power almost half a million homes. The state has also proposed a program to put solar panels on schools.

Concerns from Some Environmental Organizations

The state’s plan projects a 50% reduction in carbon emissions from New York State by 2030, and an 80% reduction in overall green house gas emissions by 2050.

Some environmental organizations argue that because these emissions targets are partially dependent on the increased use of natural gas across New York, the plan “perpetuates” the use of fossil fuels.

“If gas companies spend billions on a new natural gas infrastructure they will want to see a return on this investment, which would tie us to natural gas for many, many years,” said Wes Gillingham, Catskill Mountainkeeper’s program director, in a statement.

Gillingham’s comments were echoed by groups like United for Action and the Alliance for a Green Economy.

Gillingham said it was necessary for the state to take a hard look at the “impacts of natural gas infrastructure, and the increased methane emissions that would come with it.”

There is a spectrum of opinions within the environmental community about the strength of the state’s commitment to the use of renewables vis a vis gas. Richard Schrader, the New York State legislative director for the NRDC, was more optimistic that the balance between renewables, like solar and wind, and natural gas, would ultimately swing toward renewables.

In light of new funding for solar, and because the state is establishing a “Green Bank” to stimulate private investment in clean energy, Schrader told NYER this week that renewables would make a real “dent” in New York’s future use of natural gas.

What Are the State’s Energy Targets?

The Alliance for a Green Economy (AGREE), which includes the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club, has conducted an initial analysis of the energy plan and noted that, “the 80% reduction [in green house gases] by 2050 is ambitious, and it represents a victory for the environmental movement that the state is not backing off from that commitment.”

But AGREE’s authors argue that, “the plan is fairly light, however, on details for how that 80% reduction will be achieved and what the 2030 or 2050 energy mixes might look like…The…Plan should clarify the target fuel mix for 2030 and 2050. Doing so would not only help with infrastructure and policy planning, but it will help energy experts and advocacy organizations better evaluate the plan.”

AGREE raises questions, for example, about whether the state will continue to use nuclear power until 2050. Governor Cuomo has indicated in the past that he believes Indian Point should ultimately be closed. The reactors at Indian Point, which is located in Westchester County, are currently undergoing a lengthy license renewal process.

Public Hearings on the State’s Draft Energy Plan

Wednesday, 2/19/14 at 3pm
Brooklyn College, Gold Room, Student Center, 6th Floor, Campus Road & East 27th Street, Brooklyn, NY

Thursday, 2/20/14 at 10am
John Jay College, 2nd floor, 524 West 59 Street, between 10th and 11th Avenues, New York, NY

Long Island
Monday, 3/3/14 at 1pm;
SUNY Farmingdale, Little Theater at Roosevelt Hall, Melville Road, Farmingdale, New York