Powering New York's Future Is A Promise Kept

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Today the Legislature is announcing a series of open regional hearings and rountables seeking a long term approach to using low cost power to create and sustain jobs across the Empire State. These joint bipartisan events of both the Senate and the Assembly are the result of a promise by the Legislature to reform the state’s energy policy, its authorities, and our economy.

Senators and members of the Assembly will conduct these hearings and hold more roundtable discussions to collect input from businesses, trade groups and the public that will help shape legislation and policy to best use the resources of the New York Power Authority. The goal is to keep hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers employed and provide much needed new jobs.

“Today we are kicking off a statewide conversation about the future of economic development here in New York State and the best way to use low cost power to create and sustain good paying jobs for hard working New Yorkers,” said Sen. Darrel J. Aubertine, D-Cape Vincent, chair of the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee. “When we put together the extension on Power for Jobs, we promised to include business leaders in the discussion and create a long term plan for not only this program, but all economic development tools that use low cost power to preserve and create jobs. We need to build on the success we’ve had with these programs. The ideas, concerns and opinions we collect will help power New York’s future to rebuild our economy.”

The legislators will listen to business leaders, including from companies in the programs and others not receiving benefits at this time, trade groups, advocates and the general public to better understand the value of these programs and consider new ideas to improve and reform these programs to retain existing jobs, attract new investment from new employers, and build new careers in New York. Input received in the hearings will be used along with legislative analysis of NYPA’s performance, to craft a new long term low-cost power economic development program.

“With the input we collect, we will be able to better suit these programs to attract vital new industries and retain jobs both Upstate and throughout New York’s communities,” Sen. Aubertine said. “Businesses need the certainty of a long term solution and we intend to provide that peace of mind along with an open process where we will hear all points of view and power our state’s economic future.”

The first hearing will be held 10 a.m. Wednesday in the Niagara Falls Town Hall, Room 116, 745 Main St. For those not able to attend these hearings in person, they will be streamed and archived at NYSenate.gov/media.

Developing a long term approach to these issues is a significant undertaking and we want to hear from all New Yorkers as we move forward. We hope you will be able to attend these hearings or follow them online. We want to know your thoughts and we encourage you to chime in here as well.

What do you think? We're listening.

Your Comments

Powering New York's Future

In my blog, I call for more transparancy in this initiative.

COMMENT: Senator Johnson on the State Energy Committees’ Review of NY Power Authority Programs http://wp.me/pvx8R-pi

It is important, in looking at how to best plan NYS's energy future, that we avoid certain path-dependent courses of development. For instance, the logo used in this post implies that NYS's energy future will be: 1) electrical 2) distributed over above-ground high-kw power lines across great distances on an electric grid.

That is not the only option out there, and may not be the best starting point.  This kind of path-dependent thinking, where the future is assumed to closely resemble the past, is how we found ourselves using massive amounts of federal subsidy to develop a corn-ethanol industry that did not really move us ahead in a meaningful way on issues of energy conservation or global climate change prevention. Or even prove cost-effective.  Might have been cheaper to just burn the subsidies, in that case...

Of course, existing ways of doing things and existing institutions will always exert a tremendous amount of sway on future planning.  It is the role of the discipline of planning to push policymakers beyond existing constituencies, past what is good for particular current institutions and interests, to what could be good for all in future.  One serious problem is that NYSERDA-- which does tremendous work, in general-- is limited somewhat in the scope of its mission to focus on electrical power generation and conservation.  And, electricity is just a part of the picture, and distributed electricity is just a part of that part of the picture.

I challenge you to look at energy in a more inclusive way in these hearings.  For instance: at a recent meeting at a USDA facility in Corning, Congressman Massa and House Agriculture Chair Congressman Peterson heard from many farmers, forest-owners, educators and business-owners interested in developing sustainable biomass utilization industries in rural NY around direct combustion of biomass for heat and/or combined heat and power.  Congressman Massa has promised us Congressional hearings on this, and Congressman Arcuri has a Congressional earmark for a fairly large-scale demonstration project in his district. 

Perhaps these hearings by NYS are just intended to be a fig leaf to cover moves to make the least politically powerful parts of the State "sacrifice areas" where huge electric transmission lines, and rapacious natural gas drilling and associated power plants, industrialize the landscape against the will of the local people, to feed an ever-increasing downstate appetite for electric power.  But, it need not be that way.  We could, if we worked at it, prioritize energy conservation, more sustainable and green technologies, and a less distributed, more generated-in-place approach to maintaining our creature comforts while reducing our carbon footprint.

Good place to start, if you are serious about looking at all options: start over on the NYS Biofuels Roadmap.  Its focus was wrong (liquid biofuels only-- like Cheney's national energy policy, you start by defining "interested parties" as only the big oil companies).  Outsourcing the work to Pace University was an error, too: face it, there is some regional animosity in this state, and nobody upstate is going to be completely comfortable with a product that is entirely under the control of a NYC contractor, no matter how otherwise "reputable" their work is-- it is not about malfeasance, it is about culture, understanding and worldview.

A Strategic Plan

It is crucially important for the Senate to craft a strategic plan.  I advocate for a research triangle plan that mirrors North Carolina's successful use of educational institutions.  Such a strategic plan would utilize the plethora of high quality educational institutions throughout New York State and create specialized research plants at each of the major urban centers of the upstate cooridor.  Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Binghamton should be major sources of research on different efficient energy technology and innovation.  Public-private partnerships can also be utilized, especially with RIT, Syracuse University, and Cornell.  SUNY should also be a major player in this push. 

A research triangle plan provides economic growth, job opportunities, and captivates our students.  We know that many college graduates leave the area after they graduate because of the lack of jobs.  We can retain college graduates who grow to love upstate New York if we create jobs at their institutions in their fields. 

I urge policy makers to read my suggestion of specialization and linked growth at institutions here: