Green-energy advocates dominated public hearings Wednesday in support of a LIPA power plan calling for renewable energy to displace fossil fuel sources over the next two decades.
With few exceptions the dozen or so speakers at hearings in Smithtown offered high praise for the LIPA plan, which calls for procuring 800 megawatts of new offshore wind, solar and other green power sources to shift the balance away from antiquated National Grid-owned plants, which LIPA says should not be overhauled, as previously planned.
“Hallelujah,” howled activist Peter Maniscalco of Manorville, of the shift to renewables, praising officials from LIPA and PSEG Long Island while speculating about the political deal making that brought them to their conclusion
Only one speaker at the first hearing in Smithtown raised any concern about the undisclosed cost of renewable energy plans that have not been released, despite PSEG’s taking months of extra time to formulate cost impacts of offshore wind and the state’s clean energy standard.
“While I applaud Gov. (Andrew M.) Cuomo’s ambitious initiative of providing 50 percent clean energy by 2030, I ask that you consider the current cost of what it takes to reach that goal,” said Suffolk Leg. Sarah Anker, noting LIPA’s rates are already among the nation’s highest.
LIPA chief Tom Falcone said the utility couldn’t speculate on the costs because it hasn’t yet put any of the green energy projects out to bid. And while noting the state and other entities have some projections on future green energy costs, he said LIPA’s “crystal ball is no better than anybody else’s.”
PSEG Vice President Paul Napoli, who oversaw the resource review for LIPA, didn’t outline any renewable costs but had extensive figures to explain why overhauling the old plants wasn’t feasible.
Discussing the $1.2 billion it would cost to repower an old plant in Island Park, he said: “If you were to invest in this plant you would not get a return as a consumer.” The same was true of the cost to repower a Port Jefferson plant and build a big new plant in Yaphank--all told, $5 billion, he said.
Earlier in the day, Falcone sparred with John Cameron, the chairman of the Long Island Regional Planning Council at a meeting of that group in Brentwood.
Cameron argued repowering the plants would lower their emissions on the days the plants are used, and the work would keep them as vital engines of the local economy. He said the LIPA plan “turns a blind eye” to environmental impacts of the outdated plants, which LIPA plans to use primarily as summer peak-power generators into the foreseeable future.
Falcone asserted the renewable sources would effectively function as plant repowerings by displacing obsolete technology, and power, with clean plants free of emissions. LIPA’s recommendation to go with green sources, for now, precludes spending on the old.
“If you put money into plants you don’t need you can’t put money into plants you do need,” he said.
Speakers at the Smithtown hearing overwhelmingly agreed with him.
Sammy Chu, chairman of the Long Island chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, called the prospect of overhauling the old plants “the laziest solution” and he applauded energy efficiency efforts by groups like his for effectively “flatlining” the region’s history of rising energy use.
Adrienne Esposito, director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, called plant repowering “not sensible and absurd” and applauded LIPA for its shift away from the former plan to overhaul them.