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LIPA, PSEG urged to disclose costs of green-energy program

A newly installed turbine Aug. 4, 2016, off

A newly installed turbine Aug. 4, 2016, off Rhode Island. Credit: Deepwater Wind

A cross-section of ratepayers, lawmakers and industry groups are calling for LIPA and PSEG Long Island to disclose the cost of green-energy plans central to LIPA’s release of a three-year study of future energy options.

Missing from an exhaustive three-year study by PSEG were the costs to develop hundreds of megawatts of new offshore wind arrays and solar power needed to comply with state clean-energy mandates. LIPA summarized the study and has been selectively releasing it this month.

When PSEG began the review in 2014, its president, David Daly, vowed both full disclosure and a clear look at how each of the scenarios would affect customers. The PSEG review would have a “very strong focus on transparency,” Daly said, promising to report how each new power source would affect the system, including its impact on customer rates.

But the summary released by LIPA last month leaves out the cost of implementing Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Clean Energy Standard. The plan calls for LIPA to incorporate some 800 megawatts of new green-energy sources over the next 20 years, despite finding that LIPA won’t need any new energy sources until 2030.

Most of the 800 megawatts of new green energy would be offshore wind power, LIPA said. Newsday has reported a recently approved contract for a 90-megawatt wind farm off the Rhode Island coast will cost ratepayers $1.62 billion over 20 years.

LIPA repeatedly declined Newsday requests to outline the future costs.

“Renewable energy continues to rapidly decline in cost with technological innovation, greater efficiency and economies of scale,” LIPA chief Tom Falcone said in an interview Friday, explaining why cost figures for the clean-energy standard weren’t available. “Specific projects and technologies to meet the state’s goal (of 50 percent renewables by 2030) will be selected over the next decade based on the best value to customers at that time.”

Some Long Island ratepayers aren’t buying it.

“Why would they propose something without knowing what the cost is going to be?” said Carole Leonard, president of the Leisure Village Association, an all-electric community in Ridge where winter bills skyrocket. “They have to know what the cost is, they just don’t want to let the general public know . . . probably because it’s going to be too costly.”

Leisure Village recently formed a coalition with several other all-electric communities across Long Island, all of them seniors, asking LIPA to consider their plight as it examines future energy options. Leonard said she worries the governor’s Clean Energy Standard and the 2,400-megawatt wind mandate will mean higher bills.

“I think it’s going to add to our cost of electric,” she said. “They’re going to put a surcharge of some kind on our electric if they keep doing this.”

Customers are already paying to foot some of the bill for the clean-energy standard. LIPA last month began collecting around $2 a month from customers to subsidize upstate nuclear plants. It’s only the first phase.

State Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), weighed in early against the plan’s recommendation that LIPA not overhaul the Port Jefferson power plant in his district. But he also raised questions about the lack of detail about the costs for green energy, saying customers can’t afford higher rates to pay for wind.

“Of course they’re not going to give the numbers,” said Bonnie Brady, director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, which has joined a lawsuit to stop a wind farm off the South Shore. “I think the governor needs to rethink his mandate. He’s destroying fishing jobs for pie-in-the-sky [wind-energy construction] jobs that are not going to last.”

Greg Matzat, a senior adviser to Cuomo’s New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, which is overseeing the state’s efforts in offshore wind, said the state would specifically work to protect the interests of commercial fishing as it works to establish a set of standards for offshore wind. “We’re trying to find areas where offshore wind and fishing can work together,” Matzat said at a symposium on offshore wind energy Friday.

An outside analysis of the PSEG plan by the Brattle Group noted that Cuomo has called for 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind energy to be built, much or all of it off Long Island’s South Shore. While calling the impact of wind energy “hard to estimate,” the analysis found that adding more wind to the grid “will likely result in excess capacity being available to Long Island,” putting more pressure on gas-fired power plants.

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