By now you may have heard that New York State adopted a “Clean Energy Standard” last Monday, one that finally puts a requirement on utilities to buy renewable energy, but one that also requires that we all pay to subsidize unprofitable nuclear power plants. The nuclear portion of the policy will cost New Yorkers over $7 billion, and it locks in these escalating nuclear subsidies for 12 years. The policy is designed to ensure that nuclear plants on the brink of closure will not close, and that they will be insulated from competition from energy efficiency and renewables.
It was a bittersweet day for us at Alliance for a Green Economy (AGREE) because we have fought hard over the last two years for that renewable energy mandate on utilities, and we also fought tooth and nail against that nuclear bailout. We are glad to see New York joining other states in an enforceable renewable energy policy, but we are outraged that our “Clean Energy Standard” got hijacked by nuclear corporations and that our Governor and the New York Public Service Commission rammed through the nuclear bailout over the objections of environmentalists, consumer advocates, elected officials and the business community.
We were also disappointed that the Commission did not heed the strong demands coming from all over the state for enforceable energy efficiency targets, nor did it commit to a certain amount of offshore wind development. Instead, they kicked those decisions down the road to another time.
For more details on our reaction, check out our press release from last week. And for the policy-wonks among you, you can read the entire “Clean Energy Standard” Order from the Public Service Commission here.
But our purpose for writing today is that we wanted to let you know that even in our disappointment with the outcome, we are so proud of the people, organizations, and communities in New York that are standing up in so many ways to support true sustainable energy. We are so grateful to be part of this movement.
More than 15,000 people submitted comments calling on the Public Service Commission to set aggressive renewable energy policy and to reject the request by the nuclear industry for the expensive bailout. Over 100 organizations joined us in opposing the nuclear subsidies and calling for a plan to replace nuclear power with energy efficiency and renewables. Dozens of elected officials also weighed in raising concerns and trying to protect the public process and the public interest.
The Public Service Commission may have approved the ill-conceived nuclear policy, but you all worked with us to let them know in no uncertain terms that they were doing so over the objections of thousands of constituents and stakeholders. Because of you, the lack of energy democracy in the outcome of this case was palpable and apparent, and the corporate influence over New York’s energy decisions was laid bare for all to see. That is the first step to accountability. And you can count on us to help lead additional steps to hold the decision-makers accountable for this controversial decision.
We applaud your sustained efforts that did not start and will not end with this case. You have spoken up at so many public hearings, written comments to the Public Service Commission, called Governor Cuomo, sent letters to the editor, and enlisted friends to join the cause. Together, we have called for a Renewable, Equitable, Accountable, Local (R.E.A.L.) energy system for New York, pushed for increased investment in rooftop and community solar and onshore and offshore wind, and demanded improved and enforceable energy efficiency targets, and much more.
And we will not stop.
We have come away from this fight smarter, stronger, and more unified. Our network of allies has expanded. Upstate anti-nuclear groups worked more closely than ever with downstate anti-nuclear groups on this case. Organizations opposing fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) and nuclear energy closed ranks during this fight, and we will continue to work together to move New York toward the carbon-free and nuclear-free future we all want to see. We are not falling for false solutions that try to keep us apart by claiming one dirty fuel is better than others. These new networks and alliances will help us in future battles and as we implement future renewable energy projects.
What can we do now?
Monday’s PSC Clean Energy Standard session contained a small sliver of hope: PSC Chair Zibelman announced that the Public Service Commission and their staff will be working on creating an option for customers who do not want to buy nuclear energy or contribute to the nuclear subsidies. She said they are looking into developing an option for customers to purchase 100% New York-based new renewable energy instead. This is a direct result of our collective efforts, and if enacted, it could provide a pathway for New Yorkers who want to buy neither fossil nor nuclear powered electricity.
Today, we are launching a petition to start the process of making sure that the Public Service Commission and the Cuomo administration follow through on creating that option for people. Please join us in calling for them to honor this commitment. Click here to sign the petition.
In the coming weeks and months, we will be asking you again to participate in New York’s big energy decisions and in the work to implement on-the-ground local renewable energy projects. We still have strong energy efficiency policy and energy affordability to push for. We still have shared solar projects to get moving and offshore wind to win (#WinWindNY). We are still in the fight for energy democracy in New York with our partners in the New York Energy Democracy Alliance. And we will also soon be launching a campaign to reverse New York’s dependence on fossil fuels for heating our buildings, a key piece of the struggle against expanding natural gas infrastructure and meeting our climate goals.
We hope you will join us in these efforts. Please stay tuned.
Jessica Azulay and Andra Leimanis
Copyright © 2016 Alliance for a Green Economy, All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.