Power industry lauds renewable goals, doubts feasibility
New York’s private generators and utilities are routinely at odds when it comes to renewable energy and who should own it, but one thing they both agree on is that the state’s goals are going to be hard, if not impossible, to meet.
In a recently announced state energy plan, New York called for 50 percent of its energy use to be derived from renewable energy by 2030, a goal popularly known in the industry as 50 by 30. The people responsible for generating and delivering that energy applaud the goal but at the same time say it is likely unreachable in the time frame set out by the state.
Currently, 25 percent of the state’s energy is drawn from renewable sources, but 20 percent is hydropower generated upstate — that renewable energy is about a hundred years old. Only 5 percent is derived from newer wind and solar technology, meaning the state will have to quintuple that capacity within the next 15 years.
“We have to be reasonable about the expectations and what we’re putting into the mix and actually have a public discussion on what that goal is because every time you turn around another state puts out another goal and another goal and we don’t ever seem to meet it,” said Gavin Donohue, head of the Independent Power Producers of New York, during an Assembly energy committee hearing on Wednesday. “It’s not because people aren’t trying hard or don’t want to meet it. It’s because there are realities of the economics that are going to prevent it.”
Con Edison’s senior vice president of electric operations, calls the goal “challenging” and estimates that the wind generation alone needed to meet the goal would cost $40 billion if built by the utilities and $60 billion if built by the private sector.
Clean energy advocates contend that the goal is lofty but the state has little choice if New York is going to do its part to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
Conor Bambrick, air and energy director for Environmental Advocates of New York, said the industry was coming from “an approach and a business model that is essentially rooted around fossil fuel generation and moving that generation from one place to another.”
He said the 50 by 30 goal is “a challenge certainly, but it’s a challenge that we absolutely have to meet. Instead of pushing back, the industry has to come up with how best to respond to that challenge.”