New York’s ambitious plan to rely on windmills, hydropower and other renewable energy sources for a quarter of its electricity by 2013 is a bit behind schedule and short on funds.
The money consumers pay through their electric bills to help support projects like wind farms is simply not enough to meet the goals set out in 2004, according to Spitzer administration officials. They say they want to see the program fully funded _ a move that would likely cost consumers slightly more.
New York State Energy and Research Development Authority head Paul Tonko stressed that money spent on developing a clean and diverse energy supply in New York is an investment in the state’s security and economy.
“It strengthens our energy security,” said Tonko. “To rely on fossil-based fuels, which oftentimes are imported from the most trouble-prone spots in the world, is not an energy-secure place to be.”
Then-Gov. George Pataki announced in 2004 that New York would try to rely on renewable resources for 25 percent of its electricity by 2013 under a so-called renewable portfolio standard, or RPS. The state at that time already received about 19 percent of its energy mix from renewables, most of it from two massive hydro projects at Niagara Falls and on the St. Lawrence River.
Under the plan, NYSERDA was charged with contracting for renewable energy. Money is raised through a consumer surcharge that costs residential customers from 26 to 44 cents a month, depending on which utility serves their area, according to the Public Service Commission.
A renewable energy task force headed by Lt. Gov. David Paterson noted in a report this week that the $782 million raised by the surcharge “will not be sufficient to meet New York’s targeted 2013 goal.” Money for the program was too little to begin with and became even more inadequate when prices for wind turbines and raw materials increased, according to the report.
The task force said state regulators should consider boosting funding for the program. Tonko, a member of the task force, said his agency is working on forecasts to determine how much money the program will need.
While the state lags in meeting its incremental year-by-year goals, Tonko said the state is more than a third of the way there, once pending contracts are considered. He said with proper resources “I think we can get very close” to the 2013 goal, if not achieve it.
“But funding will definitely be required in order for us to keep climbing,” he said.
Gavin Donohue, executive director of the Independent Power Producers of New York, said that though any increase in customers’ bill is likely to be modest, it would be added to other charges at a time when energy costs are rising.
Donohue, reflecting the views of many in the energy business, said New York needs more generation and transmission to keep supplies adequate and prices down. He said Gov. Eliot Spitzer is left trying to meet an aggressive target set by his predecessor that is both complicated and expensive.
“I don’t think we should give up striving for it,” he said. “But I don’t think we’re as far along as some would paint the picture.”
To reach the 25-percent threshold, state energy officials are counting on 1 percent of electricity customers to choose so-called green energy by 2013. Public Service Commission spokesman James Denn said the state is “on track” to reach the goal by 2013.
On the Net:
By Michael Hill
Associated Press Writer
1 March 2008
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