New York State Energy Plan: Credible or Wishful?

New York state's new governor David A. Paterson, who took office just weeks ago, replacing disgraced governor Eliot Spitzer, deserves great credit for moving fast to address the region's long-term energy needs. In a plan issued yesterday, April 10, Paterson re-established a state energy planning board, told the state's two largest power authorities to aggressively pursue conservation, and said Long Island would build some kind of large solar facility.

The major immediate news in Governor Paterson's announcement was his decision to firmly oppose construction of a large liquefied natural gas terminal, Broadwater, in Long Island Sound. "Shame on us if we cant develop a responsible energy policy without sacrificing one of our greatest natural and economic resources," the governor said, referring to the stretch of water separating Long Island from southern Connecticut.

Broadwater has attracted sensible criticism from many city and regional opinion leaders, including The New York Times. But those leaders have not always coupled that opposition with realistic ideas about how to meet the region's long-term energy needs without aggravating pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Paterson takes an important step in the right direction by re-establishing an energy planning board, which he said will consider other proposals for LNG terminals, among other things.

Possibilities for conservation may be limited in energy-efficient New York City, but on Long Island and upstate, where automobile use is heavy and population sprawled, much more will be achievable. Paterson said that the Long Island Power Authority is preparing a $1 billion, 10-year conservation plan, and that the New York Power authority has promised to double conservation spending to $1,.4 billion through 2015.

Paterson announced that LIPA will be issuing a request for proposal for a major solar facility on Long Island. It will be interesting to see what the RFP looks like. Central solar generation has not so far proved cost-effective, and where it's been tried--cloudy Barvaria, for example--it's been a boondoggle. But perhaps LIPA will come up with something that at least points the way to a brighter solar future, perhaps a decade or two down the road.

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