According to an analysis by the Empire Center, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s scheme to force New York to generate 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030 will increase electricity bills by $3.4 billion in just the first five years.
The benefits go overwhelmingly to nuclear subsidies for Exelon, an Illinois corporation – which could explain why Cuomo had the plan adopted by the Public Service Commission (PSC) without a vote of the State Legislature. But the study’s most devastating findings are on basic feasibility questions.
The study found that hydroelectric, which provides nearly all of the state’s current renewable power, has almost no growth potential.
Under the best-case scenario, therefore, the number of wind turbines in the state would more than triple, with new wind farms taking up 428 square miles. Solar would need to expand by a factor of 200, taking up an additional 38 square miles.
Under the more realistic “high load” demand scenario, total land use for generating wind and solar power would reach 1,377 square miles – nearly the size of Erie and Niagara counties combined.
Even if siting challenges could be met, the plan would also require a huge additional investment in expensive, controversial new high-voltage power lines – despite the fact that local opposition has long prevented such lines from being built.
In addition, the state’s current excess capacity margin of about 15 to 18 percent would need to jump dramatically to the 40 to 45 percent range to avoid brownouts and blackouts when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining. But Cuomo’s plan has no provisions to add backup capacity or analysis of its cost.
Adding such capacity would require a whole fleet of new natural gas plants, and if the state builds such a fleet, it would make more economic sense to just skip the wind and solar investments.
Therefore, given the huge practical problems involved, the lofty renewable mandate appears to be little more than green window dressing for the centerpiece of the plan, which is a large cash transfer from New York ratepayers to nuclear plants owned by Exelon – despite the fact that its home state, Illinois, already rejected a similar scheme.
Taxpayer groups, consumer watchdogs and even some environmental groups have seen through the governor’s scheme and are opposing it as a large, hidden tax hike.
This is truly a watershed moment when advocates across the political spectrum are coming together to oppose a bad idea.
The people’s elected representatives in Albany should therefore get off the sidelines and stop Cuomo’s PSC from implementing this ill-conceived plan that is unlikely to accomplish its lofty renewable energy goals, but is certain to cost ratepayers billions.
Phil Kerpen is president of American Commitment, a conservative not-for-profit organization.
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