New York's Latest Energy Bill Better for the Environment and the Economy
Aug 4, 2011 - Nathanael Baker - energyboom.com
The bill, entitled the "Power NY Act of 2011," will affect energy production and consumption in two major ways. First, it will streamline the siting and regulatory process for utility-scale energy projects larger than 25-megawatts. Second, it will allow New York businesses and residents to finance energy efficiency upgrades through a unique funding method.
For nearly a decade New York has been without a siting law for large power plants. Since 2003, the state has operated without standardized siting rules and regulations for utility-scale power plants. As a result, the permitting process has been cumbersome. The new law requires energy developers to submit a detailed analysis of potential health and environmental impacts of their project, including the cumulative impacts of the facility's carbon emissions within a 5-mile radius, to a state-based siting board.
The Power NY Act of 2011 also seeks to incorporate the voice of communities which will be housing the new projects in the development phase. Therefore, any environmental justice concerns regarding proposed energy facilities will not only be evaluated by the siting board but also by local leaders. The leaders will be selected by the State Assembly, Senate, and municipal elected officials.
The state, home to New York City, one of the largest consumers of energy in the country, has a growing concern regarding its emissions. In an effort to address these concerns, the Act forces new power facilities to abide by stringent federal and state emissions regulations. To this end, low carbon projects as well as initiatives aimed at reducing power plants' current carbon emissions will be fast-tracked through the approval process. The measure also directs the New York Department of Environmental Conservation to set targets to limit the amount of emissions power plants will be able to produce.
Buildings currently produce 60% of New York's carbon emissions. The state took a huge leap forward in addressing this issue with its inclusion of "on-bill recovery," in the Power NY Act. On-bill recovery will allow more businesses and residents to invest in energy efficiency technologies by allowing them to pay off state loans for energy efficiency upgrades on their utility bill. The monthly loan payment is expected to be less than the energy savings; so it will not drive the consumer's energy bill up.
On-bill recovery is particularly aimed at allowing moderate and middle income households, which fall outside of the current energy efficiency programs and have too large of an income to qualify for weatherization, to invest in energy saving technologies.
Implementing on-bill recovery is not only expected to reduce energy consumption, but also spur the economy and job growth. A supporter of the legislation, New York's Contractor's Association states [pdf]: "On-Bill Recovery will allow tens of thousands more homeowners to afford energy retrofits, creating more work for contractors, more jobs for New Yorkers, and $1 billion in annual cost savings for homeowners."
Emelia Gelman, Green Economies Strategist for the Center for Working Families, a New York-based public policy organization, says thousands of jobs could be created as a result of this bill. "If we can get to our goal of retrofitting a million units of housing in the next couple of years, then we will be putting to work over 14,000 people in permanent jobs."
Power NY Act 2011 is expected to work congruently with the Green Jobs/Green NY Act, passed in 2009, which aims to retrofit one million homes, create 14,250 jobs, and reduce the state's greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Center for Working Families the Green Jobs/Green NY Act did not establish a financing mechanism to finance these goals; that mechanism is now in place.