More than two dozen activists and officials lined up largely in support of a state energy plan that proposes competitive, green-power alternatives to costly utility upgrades, but Long Islanders urged planners to customize the strategy to address the region’s challenges.
The state Department of Public Service’s Long Island office held hearings on the latest track of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Reforming the Energy Vision on Tuesday in Riverhead and Mineola. The hearings made it clear that LIPA and PSEG, while not formally regulated by the state, will get behind a plan that seeks to use cleaner green energy, such as wind and solar, and advanced power technologies to displace traditional sources such as fossil fuel plants and costly transmission lines.
PSEG has worked for two years on an early version of the program called Utility 2.0, and LIPA trustees last year formed a REV committee to ensure the plan is enacted. State officials signaled the changes are already underway.
“Business as usual isn’t an option,” said Julia Bovey, director of the Long Island Department of Public Service office. “The misconception is that we can keep things the same.”
Long Island won’t be excluded because of the regulatory structure, she said. “The goal is to create one state market ... There can’t be two sets of rules.”
People who attended the Riverhead hearing said they welcomed the changes and offered suggestions for making the changes permanent and more effective.
“What you do is legislate it,” said Maryann Johnston, president of the Affiliated Brookhaven Civic Organizations, adding the changes were so important that they needed to be codified in legislation and local building codes to make sure they aren’t circumvented. Requiring big-box retailers such as Home Depot and Lowe’s to produce at least 40 percent of their own power on site would be a start, she said.
ABCO treasurer Jeff Kagan implored the state to emphasize projects that encourage consumers and businesses to use the energy they generate locally, rather than supporting large, commercial solar arrays on large tracts of land that funnel profits to faraway developers. “I think it’s great,” he said of the state plan, “but it should not mean any alternative energy, or alternative energy at any cost.”
Billii Roberti, an energy expert at Green Choices Consulting in Huntington, urged the state to give more weight to geothermal systems, which use the Earth’s constant underground temperature for use in systems that heat and cool homes and buildings without burning fuel. “It effectively addresses another, and greater, source of greenhouse gases than generating electricity,” namely heating and cooling systems, she said, urging government to “step in and support in a big way.”
Gordian Raacke, director of Renewable Energy Long Island, applauded the state’s vision, but expressed concern that many of the directives won’t be incorporated into a forthcoming broad review of Long Island’s energy sources by PSEG. “It would be a futile exercise without it,” he said.
Longtime energy activist Peter Maniscalco, who led opposition to the Shoreham nuclear power plant, told officials he supported the plan, but opposed a proposed large natural gas plant called Caithness II. “We have spent the past 40 years saying no,” to projects such as Shoreham and Caithness II, he said. “After 40 years we’re here to say yes” to the state’s vision.
Lynn Arthur, a member of Southampton Town’s sustainability committee, expressed support for the state plan, and noted the town was moving ahead with initiatives to address climate change and a 63-megawatt peak-demand growth forecast on the South Fork that is already the subject of a PSEG request for proposals. “There are already thousands of thermostats installed,” in Southampton that will help reduce summertime energy demand, she said. “We expect to offset a significant portion of that 63 megawatts.”