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PSEG LI seeks green energy project information

A PSEG Long Island crew performs work on

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

PSEG Long Island Monday issued a request for information for a large block of green energy projects promised under a former LIPA plan.

But some environmental activists said the effort was too little, too late.

LIPA trustees in 2012 authorized PSEG to issue a request for bids for 400 megawatts of green energy, enough to power about 62,000 homes.

So far, LIPA and PSEG have committed to about 134 megawatts: 124 from large solar projects, and 10 from fuel-based green energy sources. The rest either were not awarded or the bidders dropped out when told of the costs to connect their projects to the electric grid.

For instance, LIPA originally planned to develop 280 megawatts of renewables. But contracts for 160 megawatts of the total never were awarded. Of the remaining 120 megawatts, proposals for only 96 remain active.

PSEG's new request for information is designed to help shape a future request for proposals for renewable power generation. About 266 megawatts would be available for that future request.

A sample document released with this request indicates that new green power sources would not be required to be producing power until 2021 -- three years later than in the original plan.

Consequently, many of the projects would not be eligible for a 30 percent investment tax credit for commercial solar projects offered by the federal government. The credit expires at the end of 2016.

PSEG spokesman Jeff Weir said the projects still would be eligible for a 10 percent incentive tax credit available beyond January 2017. He said PSEG plans to help smooth local approvals so projects can be expedited.

PSEG in its request also is seeking information about fuel-based energy sources that can be considered renewables.

Weir said the request is intended to "make the next procurement as successful as possible to meet our commitment to the LIPA board of trustees to procure 400 megawatts of renewable energy."

Environmental activists said Monday's request for information simply delays the awarding of green energy projects, and doesn't go far enough toward meeting a state goal of deriving 50 percent of energy from renewables by 2030.

"It's very disappointing if this turns out to be another way of saying 'no' to real renewables," said Gordian Raacke, executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island, a nonprofit environmental group.

Raacke, a member of PSEG's environmental advisory committee, said the panel had been told at its last meeting that an actual bid request was to be released. Raacke said a request for information would only delay the plans.

"They are starting to water this down and asking developers to think about what other resources should be considered," in addition to traditional green resources that produce no carbon emissions, he said.

Former LIPA trustee Neal Lewis, head of Molloy College's Sustainability Institute, called the PSEG efforts to fulfill prior LIPA commitments in renewables "one of the first big tests of the state energy plan. How can we on Long Island say we're not going to follow those goals?"


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