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New utility charge to boost green energy discussed at hearing

Long Island ratepayers would see around a $1 monthly increase in their electric bills to help Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo meet a goal of deriving 50 percent of the state’s energy from green sources by 2030.

The new Clean Energy Standard, currently being proposed by the state Public Service Commission, would mandate utilities in the state meet increasing milestones for renewable energy through new programs. The Clean Energy Standard was the subject of a public hearing by the Long Island office of the Department of Public Service in Riverhead on Tuesday.

More than a dozen Long Islanders spoke largely in favor of the program, saying it was needed to help confront the threat of climate change, although several spoke in opposition to a part of the plan that would offer new incentives for upstate nuclear plants.

“There have been a lot of forces against” renewables on Long Island, said Jeff Kagan, treasurer of the Associated Brookhaven Civic Organization, who supported the standard. “We have to knock down those forces.”

Among other things, the plan would establish a state market for renewable energy credits to pay green-energy developers and producers for each megawatt hour of green power they add to the grid. Utilities would be required to buy the credits to meet the state objectives.

John Garvey, supervisor for the DPS office of clean energy, said the state will recommend that the Long Island Power Authority, which is not subject to PSC jurisdiction, adopt the Clean Energy Standard and participate in markets and other mandates. LIPA and other utilities also could meet the goals by entering into direct contracts for renewables, and by using credits it already owns from existing projects.

Julia Bovey, director of the DPS office, said Long Island was on the frontline of regions that need relief from the impacts of climate change, noting predictions that “21 percent of Long Island could be underwater by the end of the century.”

A LIPA official said the agency will review the proposals and perhaps offer it for LIPA trustee approval later this year.

While average customers would pay around $1 or less monthly, the new standard could open a market for customers who have rooftop solar and other green-energy programs to sell their energy credits, Garvey said. Currently, LIPA owns the credits from most rooftop systems on Long Island.

LIPA customers already pay a renewable energy and efficiency charge on their bills. The new Clean Energy Standard costs would likely be folded into the power supply charge, which fluctuates month to month based on fuel costs and other factors. The charge has been at all-time lows recently.

Still, the clean energy cost would be among a series of new potential charges customers have been asked to pay since the passage of the LIPA Reform Act in 2013. Earlier this year, ratepayers were hit with a new charge to help the utility make up for lost sales when green energy and other factors lower its revenue. And ratepayers are slated to see basic rates go up for each of the next three years, starting this year, because of a cumulative 7.3 percent rate hike approved by the state.

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