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Clean Energy Advocate: NY Bills Grant Utilities too Much Authority


Friday, May 27, 2022   

New York state lawmakers are weighing two bills which would grant utilities more vertical market power, a move proponents argued will help the state meet its clean energy goals. But one advocacy group said it would grant utilities too much control.

Essentially, the measures would let private utility companies and the New York Power Authority construct and own clean energy projects.

Anne Reynolds, executive director of the Alliance For Clean Energy New York, contended it is unwise to let utilities, which already own the wires delivering the electricity, develop wind and solar projects.

Reynolds pointed out it would put independent power projects like the ones they represent at a real disadvantage.

"They would then sell the power to themselves and decide for themselves what price they're going to pay for it," Reynolds noted. "We have a lot of pressure to keep the price as low as possible, and the utilities wouldn't have that pressure."

Costs for the utilities are automatically passed on to ratepayers, but independent projects cannot do the same. The bill's authors said the proposals would streamline clean energy production, although Reynolds countered most of the holdup is in the permitting and planning process, not construction.

New York aims to reach net-zero emissions by 2040, with a midrange goal of 70% renewable energy by 2030. The state's Public Service Commission has previously advised against permitting utility-owned clean energy projects, agreeing with Reynolds' argument.

She added the biggest barrier to new clean energy production is often connecting to the power grid, which is largely up to utility companies and grid operators.

"So our worry is that the utilities building wind and solar projects, they will give themselves a break when deciding which interconnection request to process first or how much to charge for an interconnection request," Reynolds explained.

The Public Service Commission has reopened public comment on the issue until August 10, but those comments will be moot if the bills pass before then.

Neither bill has been voted on by either house. The legislative session is set to end June 2.

Disclosure: The Alliance for Clean Energy New York contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Climate Change/Air Quality, Energy Policy, Environment. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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