New York’s Renewable Plan Will Create Energy Poor

Cuomo's Legacy - Dick DowneyRichard Downey
Unatego Area Landowners Association


Governor Cuomo’s renewable plan for New York State’s energy will surely fail, as it has in Germany, making its people energy poor.

November’s election and the incoming President’s appointees have seeded the clouds in Central New York for a rain of Letters to the Editor regarding gas. The letters run the table on the evils of gas development (it’s-the-end-of-the-world) and Constitution Pipeline (it’s-the-end-of-the-world, only-closer.) The writers don’t believe gas will be our bridge fuel to the future.

Sorry to disappoint these folks, but natural gas is bridging the future right now, even as they’re putting pen to paper. Gas is providing this bridge without massive subsidies and hidden costs.

The Energy Information Agency (EIA) reports total US energy production – as measured in BTUs – has gone up 22% since 1996. Natural gas now accounts for about a third of those BTUs. Gas heats over 100 million homes in the US. Last spring gas surpassed coal as the primary fuel used in electric generation. In replacing oil and coal for heating and electric generation, gas has cleaned our air, lowering particulates, sulfur and nitrous oxides in our cities while bringing the national CO2 emissions to a 25 year low. Yes, Gas Deniers, the use of natural gas brought CO2 emissions down while total energy use, including gas, has expanded.

For all their vaunted concern for climate change, Europe’s focus on renewables hasn’t produced anything near the results accomplished of market-based, hydraulically fractured natural gas in the USA. Retail electricity in Europe costs three to four times the rates found in the USA. The costs are so high that’s there’s a whole class of people in Germany labeled the “energy poor.” They can’t afford to pay their electric bills. Industrial rates, controlled by the government, encourages crony capitalism. Favorite companies get favored rates.

energy poor

The environmental results? Germany’s CO2 emissions are still going up. While high-cost renewable energy gets priority use in the European system, “brown” coal generators are the primary back-up and must always remain fired up and on line to serve when renewables fail to meet load demands. After 16 years of “energiewende” policy and hundreds of billions of euros spent, Germany still only gets only 20% of its energy from wind and solar.

Our Governor wants to bring the European plan to New York. It’s outlined in his Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) strategy. Take a spare evening to thumb through its 57 pages. Written in the style of a time-share brochure, the business model is strictly “bait and switch,” with a dash of three-card monte.

To meet his “50 by 30” goals (50% renewable energy by 2030), the Governor dances through a thicket of government agencies, public and private entities, financial mechanisms, and on-the-fly strategies, trying to turn lead into gold. The “lead” is the wholesale price of NY wind and solar energy. For a preview of the future, consider the Long Island Solar Farm at Brookhaven, New York’s sole utility-grade solar power plant. It sold its electricity to the Long Island Power Authority in 2015 for 26.2 cents per kWh. The “gold” is New York’s 3.7 cents per kWh average cost of wholesale electricity in New York for 2015.

energy poor

Long Island Solar Farm

With a spread like this, the basic numbers won’t work.

The alchemy to achieve “50 by 30” can’t be done with current technology. If past experience tells us anything, it won’t be done economically with vague promises of “efficiencies to the system.” It shouldn’t be done with the upheaval in costs to the taxpayer and the ratepayer. It won’t be done on time with the inevitable legal road blocks it will encounter. Hopefully, voter outrage won’t allow it when they learn that they have a new taxing agency, the Public Service Commission, for whom they didn’t vote.

In the meantime, our Governor has built a legal moat around the State to keep a powerful (pun intended) engine of economic growth beyond the walls. That engine is affordable, flexible, scalable, cleaner natural gas. Upstaters need gas for heat and we need gas to power a resurgence of industry in the territories beyond the Tappan Zee Bridge.

So what purpose does the Governor’s strategy serve? Climate change? Climate change, man-made or otherwise, seems to be better off when we switch electric generation from coal to natural gas than when we spend billions to force a technology before its time.

Renewable energy? In its time. Natural gas? NOW!

Richard Downey is a retired New York City schoolteacher and a member of the Unatego Board of Education and the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York.

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15 thoughts on “New York’s Renewable Plan Will Create Energy Poor

  1. Would you like this for your county?
    My rural county in Pa. has over 1300 gas wells on 500 gas pads with 47 gas compressor stations processing the gas and hundreds of miles of new, gas pipelines making a web throughout our county….
    and this is only about 25% of the development that can be done in my county…
    would you like the hundreds of trucks going up and down your country roads and through your towns and the influx of hundreds of workers from out-of-state in your communities and your rents going up double and triple to accommodate the higher paid workers…
    Do you want this for dozens of your rural counties in NY?
    You have plenty of gas coming in from the sacrificed States of Pa. and West Viriginia…
    Do you actually need more ?
    When will this “Bridge Fuel” be ready for transition to renewables?
    it’s been 9 years in my county and Pa. …
    how much longer do we wait for the Bridge Fuel to not be necessary?
    Oil and Gas are subsidized yearly ;
    Are you focusing on renewables and alternatives for the past 10 years to make this transition?
    What are you doing to focus on the transition and help it along?
    I thank your Gov. Cuomo for protecting your beautiful State from being polluted and sacrificed like my poor Pa….
    I lived in NY for 20 years ; my three children and two grandchildren are born in NY.
    I don’t want to see your beautiful State sacrificed for the profits of the few in these billionaire Corporations.
    Do you want to have folks in your county like in mine, who now live like the pre-industrial age and have to haul in their water or get deliveries because their water wells got polluted by the gas drilling and doing this for years now?
    You can meet these people and see what they are going through and see their water and paperwork and DEP have verified dozens of cases in my county alone.
    Do you want to see how the gas industry has scammed them and had their reps come in and told them they would get thousands a month for their acres and it never happened. Those with hundreds of acres got thousands a month in the beginning but they are in the minority.
    You can come and see their royalty checks where it shows $100. a month for 20 acres or less than $100 a month for 10 acres
    or nothing a month and they are surrounded by gas wells…
    Do you want to go through the industrialization of your rural towns and villages for this kind of industrial invasion?
    Come and see for yourselves and I can give you a private tour and show you the land, the people and the paperwork….
    Wouldn’t you expose harm and damage to your communities if you saw it ?
    Wouldn’t you warn people if there was harm and deception going on?
    That is what I and others have been doing for years.
    We live here and are experiencing it first hand .
    Thank your Gov. and other Governors who have had people come here and seen the evidence and taken seriously the warnings….
    You have enough gas coming in, now work seriously on the transition and don’t worry about making a few bucks off the shady Oil and Gas Industry…

    now see if you can respond nicely and not get emotionally wrought in your responses…

    • I guess that’s why thousands go happy people attended the last Cabot Picnic and you and Craig Stevens were the only malcontents, Vera.

        • It’s very entertaining and people like you do such a great job dispensing with the nonsense. Vera is an incredible asset to our side.

      • Glad you brought this up, Tom.
        The last Cabot Picnic happened about three years ago.
        Cabot gave away an array of free food, free displays,
        entertainment and gifts..Free can attract a lot of people on a Summer’s Day;
        Good excuse for families and especially poor families in my county to get out and have some fun.
        Craig Stevens and I are not the only ones there who are concerned and upset with Cabot and the Gas Industry.
        We’re one of the few willing to speak out and be concerned citizens despite all the verbal abuse we get over these several years.
        We will still speak out and show the world what our friends and neighbors are dealing with and their harm and abuse by the Gas Industry.
        Since the Gas Industry invasion, we have more food banks in my county than ever, several of them; we have
        similar amounts of poor, needy people on Assistance;
        we have similar amounts of children on food assistance in the schools – up to 40% of the students;
        we have epidemic drug use and overdoses and more suicides than ever since the Gas Industry appearance…
        We have State Budget issues and serious cut-backs in the State since fracking.
        Fracking/Gas Drilling is way down on the list of industries and employers in my county, not the first.
        According to the “State of the Region Report” for our County ,published 2015….the main employers and industries in my county are Education, Health and Social
        Services, then Manufacturing, then Retail Trade, then Construction, and then comes gas drilling which is lumped in with Agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting and makes up less than 7.2% of total labor force…– page 23…!

  2. I live In NY a on the Border and travel to Montrose and Hallstead several times a month for farm supplies. Montrose has never looked as good and prosperous as it does now. in 2009 and 10 It was beginning to look like a Ghost town, vacant buildings and store fronts. I remember that the last new car dealer in town had just a handful of cars on the lot. Now they have new streets a new traffic light, new medical center, a chain pharmacy, new gas station, and stores and restaurants bustling with activity. They still have that great small town feel. I wonder what could have changed between then and now?

    • Please re-read what you just wrote, Stan, vis-a-vis months and years and check out your own link which says this:

      “While the governor and the PSC have portrayed the financial impact on ratepayers as minimal, the Clean Energy Standard is likely to add nearly $3.4 billion to New York utility bills in just the next five years.”

    • Folks;

      My ditto means, sorry I should have spelled it out, that:

      1. My comment that the cost of NY’s “50 by 30” plan also known as the “NY Clean Energy Standard” is somewhere in the vicinity of the cost of one cup of coffee per month.

      2. Mr. Shepstone’s implication that I am nutso was wrong and inappropriate. Apology gratefully accepted.

      3. That Mr. Downey was either confused or deliberately confusing when he implied that solar electricity might cost as much as ten times the current average wholesale cost of NY electricity.

      4. And that, as Mr. Downey says:”The alchemy to achieve “50 by 30” can’t be done with current technology.” is not supported by any coherent analyses.


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