Monday, October 16, 2017

Three paths to stronger NY energy and climate response

To cope with climate change, we must aim for transition to 100% renewable energy as soon as possible


The Solutions Project and scientists at Stanford University have come up with plans for all 50 US states and 138 countries to transition to 100% renewable energy. founder Bill McKibben calls for politicians to commit to converting to100% renewable energy while working to keep remaining fossil fuels in the ground.

Senators Jeff Merkley, Bernie Sanders and Ed Markey have introduced the “100 by’50 Act” to completely phase out fossil fuel use and replace them with renewable power by 2050, while supporting workers and prioritizing low-income communities.

Legislation has also been introduced at the federal level to transition to 100% clean electricity by 2035

The Climate Mobilization calls for a government-coordinated emergency effort to move from fossil fuels to renewable energy as soon as possible, modeled after the US mobilization at the outset of World War II.   

Changing New York State’s Climate and Energy Policy

The Solutions Project’s New York State plan outlines how by 2030 electricity, transportation, heating/cooling, and industry energy infrastructure could be converted to run entirely from wind, water, andsunlight, provided by: 10% onshore wind (4,020 5- megawatt / MW turbines), 40% offshore wind (12,700 5-MW turbines), 10% concentrated solar (387 100-MW plants), 10% solar-PV plants (828 50-MW plants), 6% residential rooftop PV (5 million 5-kW systems), 12% commercial/ government rooftop PV (500,000 100-kW systems), with smaller numbers of geothermal, wave, tidal and hydroelectric systems.

New York can switch to 100% clean renewable energy by 2030.

New York needs to commit to this goal, and can make it by investing in energy conservation, energy reduction, wind, solar and geothermal (e.g., heat pumps) not oil, gas, coal, fossil fuel infrastructure, or nukes. We must immediately halt investments in fossil fuels and related infrastructure.

Legislationto require this has been introduced by Assemblymember Colton (A5105) and Senator Hoylman (S5908). NYSERDA is working on a study on how fast NYS can move to 100% clean energy. A draft is expected by the end of 2017.

NY must speed up its transition to renewable energy. Cuomo unfortunately is giving more money ($7.6 billion over 12 years) to bail out old upstate nuclear power plants than he is giving to renewable energy. We also need increased efforts by local governments to move to 100% clean energy (see GELF’s A Local ClimateAction Agenda).

We need stronger commitments by NYS and NYC re off shore wind (e.g., a commitment for New York State to purchase 5,000 megawatts (MW) of wind power by 2025, and 10,000 MW by 2030.

Mandate that Buildings Stop Wasting Energy

With around 1 million buildings in NYC, most of them older, only making new buildings more efficient is not enough. Large private buildings over 25,000 square feet account for just 5% of all the City’s buildings, but use more than half of the City’s total energy. Many are very inefficient. It’s crazy for apartments to be so hot in the winter than tenants have to open a window to stay comfortable – but very common. Many energy efficiency upgrades will pay for themselves in a short period of time, but building owners tend to ignore upgrades unless they are legally required, such as the City’s successful switch from dirty #6 heating oil to cleaner heating fuels.

The Climate Works for All plan would require comprehensive mandatory energy use performance targets in existing buildings, instead of prescribing individual requirements via cumbersome building code. Decision-making on specific efficiency upgrades would be left to owners. By 2025, large buildings should be required to cut energy use by 10%, and then by another 10% by 2030. Requirements for rent-regulated housing should be deferred until state law is changed to prevent landlords from raising tenant’s rents using the Major Capital Improvements (MCI) loophole.

Mayor di Blasio’s building retrofit proposal doesn’t hit the pace needed to reach even just the Paris agreement 80x50 cuts. It doesn’t require enough of large building owners, it lacks local hiring standards, and it will lead to rent increases on low-income tenants.


NY State Climate and Community Protection Act

The NY State Energy Plan sets positive goals for 2030. While an important roadmap, there’s a serious problem - its goals are only aspirational. NYS government agencies and officials are not legally required to put them into practice.

The Climate and Community Protection Act (CCPA) is needed to fix this. The CCPA was drafted by climate law experts at the Sabin Center for Environmental Law at Columbia University, and is backed by NY Renews, a coalition of 110 labor, community and environmental groups.

The CCPA would legally require NY State government to enforce its climate commitments, set new labor standards and worker protections for those in the renewable energy industries. It would allocate 40% of the budgets for community resilience and green jobs training projects in the State’s Clean Energy Fund to disadvantaged communities.

The New York State Assembly voted to write the CCPA into law in both in 2016 and 2017, but the Senate won’t even bring the CCPA up for consideration.

Senator Tony Avella of Queens and all 8 members of the Independent Democratic Conference – the group of 8 Senators elected as Democrats who now vote with the Republicans – signed on as co-sponsors of the bill. They introduced it into the Senate near the end of the 2017 session. Instead of pushing the Senate’s Republican leadership to bring the bill up for an immediate vote, Sen. Avella suddenly took a 180 degree turn, claiming profound misgivings about the bill and deciding to shelve it until further study.

It looks like the IDC’s last minute endorsement of the CCPA was a cynical scam to allow them to claim they support climate action, while actually helping Senate Republicans to block climate action. The IDC can disprove this theory by passing the legislation as soon as possible, by including it in their next conference budget proposal.

Here's a more detailed review of the CCPA and what happened in the NY State Senate.

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