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Cuomo unveils goals for energy management

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's administration Monday released a blueprint for the state's energy system that calls for private investment of up to $2 billion to overhaul antiquated power plants on Long Island -- part of $5.7 billion the state expects in private and public sector funding for energy projects over the next decade.

The blueprint also calls for "wind characterization" studies, to be completed by 2014, for a wind farm off the coast of Long Island. The wind studies, to be administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, will cost $2 million to $5 million.

Recommendations in the state blueprint are not state-funded mandates -- there's no plan, for instance, to actually build an offshore wind farm. Instead, entities such as the Long Island Power Authority must study the prospects with private developers before deciding whether to complete them under contract.

The blueprint does "require" LIPA to evaluate repowering old, inefficient plants, when those plants are needed for reliability. LIPA has already begun that process with the recent awarding of a 15-year contract to National Grid that includes repowering options and feasibility studies. The state foresees up to 750 megawatts of power coming from overhauled plants on Long Island.

The state task force "recommends that LIPA proceed expeditiously working in a public-private partnership with National Grid to issue [bid requests] to initiate the repowering process for aging power plants on Long Island," the report says.

If LIPA and its trustees move forward, the blueprint says, the E.F. Barrett plant in Island Park could be overhauled by 2019 and the Port Jefferson plant in 2020. Overhauling the Port Jefferson one would require a new plant elsewhere to temporarily replace its capacity while the demolition of the old plant is under way, the study says. LIPA trustees are to vote Thursday to approve contract negotiations for two new power sources. "LIPA should proceed with plans to add additional new generating capacity to its system in support of this longer-term energy strategy," the report says.

Matthew Cordaro, an energy expert who in 2002 wrote a blueprint on how the old plants could be repowered, said the governor's blueprint could "set the stage for two plants to be repowered." But he noted that much depends on the conclusion of feasibility studies.

"Until that happens, this is all just a wish list," Cordaro said of the blueprint.

Jeffrey Grybowski, chief administrative officer at Deepwater Wind, which proposes a $4 billion to $5 billion wind farm for LIPA, said the wind studies called for in blueprint aren't needed.

"We've already done the studies, we know that our project is very energetic," he said. We have a project that's ready to go. We don't need to do more studies." He said the Deepwater project, which would be around 30 miles east of Montauk Point, can be as cost-effective with a new gas-fired plant.

The state blueprint also calls for increasing the capacity of transmission lines from upstate to downstate by 1,000 megawatts, allowing for excess generation capacity upstate to feed a power-starved downstate. A megawatt of power can power around 800 homes.Separately Monday, the Cuomo administration also announced a new Center for Recruitment and Public Service to replace the governor's prior "appointments" office to oversee the hiring of 5,000 volunteers and 2,000 paid government workers. It will bring private-sector hiring techniques to the public sector.

Asked about the two-year-plus vacancies at the helm of LIPA and LIPA trustee posts, Cuomo deferred to Howard Glazer, director of state operations, who said appointments and reforms at LIPA were coming "very soon."

In another development, Cuomo Wednesday will kick off a wine and beer summit in Albany aimed at finding ways to help wineries, breweries and distilleries expand in the state and suggesting "ways the state can ease regulations and address tax issues to make doing business more profitable and less burdensome," according to the New York Farm Bureau. Long Island's wineries and breweries have said they will attend.

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