PSEG Long Island's energy reduction plan not enough, critics say

A PSEG Long Island truck on Montauk Highway A PSEG Long Island truck on Montauk Highway in West Islip on July 10, 2014. Photo Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

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PSEG Long Island's $200 million plan to reduce energy consumption and curtail costly new power projects marks a necessary first step but won't bring meaningful reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, environmentalists said Thursday.

Others at a public hearing at Stony Brook University called for significantly more spending to reach goals of the plan, including customer savings, more quickly.

The 10-year, $200 million plan calls for spending $60 million to install devices in homes and businesses that let the utility remotely adjust air conditioners and pool pumps to reduce electric use; $45 million to install large commercial solar-power systems; $8 million to educate home users on reducing energy, and $30 million each for hospitals and lower-income customers for energy efficiency measures.

PSEG will recover its $200 million investment and earn an expected $122 million in profit through "modest" rate hikes starting in 2016, officials said.

Environmentalists generally applauded the utility's demand-reduction initiative known as Utility 2.0. But some noted the program's need for a clear long-term vision focused on more green energy sources and called for more spending to accelerate reductions in energy use and plant emissions.

"The plan ignores climate change and the need to dramatically reduce greenhouse gases," said Gordian Raacke, executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island, a green energy group in East Hampton. He criticized the plan for failing to plot a large-scale transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy sources.

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Peter Gollon, energy chairman of the Sierra Club's Long Island chapter, noted Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's promise of an "improved 21st century utility" when LIPA was shrunk and the reins handed to PSEG.

Despite some "promising proposals," Gollon said, the plan "misses a major opportunity to go big with renewable energy, to set out a vision for a new direction, and to provide a true long-range plan to address climate change."

Stuart Fisher, director of engineering at Mather Hospital in Port Jefferson, called for PSEG to increase the $30 million for efficiency programs at hospitals.

David Daly, president of PSEG Long Island, said he welcomed the comments, critical or otherwise.

"We know this is a first step toward a vision," he said, adding that the utility was "very much aligned with them [environmentalists] on the long-term vision."

Julia Bovey, the newly named director of the Department of Public Service's Long Island office, said she believed Long Islanders were "ready" to adopt the conservation measures."The cheapest energy you can get is the energy you don't use," Bovey said.

LIPA had a similar thermostat-control technology for more than a decade and rarely used it, but Bovey said the state agency will closely watch and make sure PSEG takes advantage of it.

"It's crazy to spend the money and not get the benefit for customers," she said. "If we see a heat wave and see they didn't use demand response, we will be right there asking, 'Why?' "

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