3630982_orig-e1475858482381-224x300-3736509Governor Andrew Cuomo’s energy czar isn’t letting facts get in the way of attacking the growing number of dissenters who challenge Cuomo’s new Clean Energy Standard.

On Wednesday, a coalition of liberal and environmental groups condemned the standard’s subsidies for three money-losing upstate nuclear power plants. Blair Horner, executive director of New York Public Interest Group (NYPIRG), described the standard (correctly) as “a tax to keep aging nuclear power plants on line.”

The coalition has labelled the standard “the Cuomo tax” because the subsidies, created at Cuomo’s behest, will come out of electricity ratepayer bills, with residential, commercial and industrial users paying higher rates. Horner called it “one of the biggest transfers of wealth in New York state history.”

Richard Kauffman, whose official Cuomo administration title is Chairman of Energy and Finance, fired back with a letter to Horner condemning the groups for their “cheap stunt” and saying they were “wrong on substance, wrong on costs, and wrong on history.”

But Kauffman himself made a number of dubious assertions:

  • He claimed the subsidies will provide the “bare minimum” of support needed to keep the plants running. That’s not correct, however. The plants will receive subsidizes reflecting the perceived societal benefits of avoided carbon emissions, not the plants’ actual financial needs—even though state regulators examined confidential financial documents for at least two of the nuclear plants and know exactly how much money the operator was losing.  
  • Cuomo’s “aggressive” pursuit of renewables, as Kauffman describes it, hasn’t necessarily generated results. For example, the state added effectively zero new wind turbines during 2015, despite the availability of considerable state and federal subsidies. And a proposed offshore wind project that was poised for approval by the Cuomo-controlled Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) in July was inexplicably delayed—and hasn’t been taken up since.
  • Kauffman writes that the closure of the nuclear plants would increase reliance on “more expensive” electricity from other sources—which flies in the face of the economic reality. For close to two decades, electricity in New York has been sold on a competitive wholesale basis, and electricity sells in different parts of the state at the market rate. The nuclear plants begged the state for a bailout because their operating costs exceeded what money they could make selling power at the going rate. While the loss of all three upstate nuclear plants (an unlikely scenario) would have reduced electricity supply, the same less expensive generators that have driven down wholesale prices would have been the ones who stepped in to meet demand.
  • While the energy czar asserts that “New York must use all of its existing carbon free power sources … to continue our progress on climate change,” the Cuomo administration has been pushing to shut down one of those sources, the Indian Point nuclear plant in Westchester County. Kauffman rationalizes the nuclear subsidies by saying they prevent 31 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in a two-year period—which is only about three-quarters of the estimated 44 million metric tons that Indian Point’s owner calculated are prevented by that plant.

The nuclear subsidies are the most costly part of the standard, at least in the near term: in August, the Empire Center estimated that the entire standard will cost New Yorkers $3.4 billion over the first five years, with the nuclear bailout costing $2.6 billion.

But environmental groups have other reasons to take issue with the standard as a whole, which is supposed to lead to the state getting 50 percent of its power from renewables by 2030.

Ostensibly enacted to reduce the state’s carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation, the standard doesn’t actually regulate carbon dioxide—the way California did years ago. That type of regulatory scheme would have the advantage of encouraging generators to move from oil to cleaner-burning natural gas, and to encourage conservation across the board. It would not, however, specifically force the construction of new renewables—on which Kauffman appears to be more focused than he is on any environmental objectives.

As we explained in our recent analysis of the standard, the overall likelihood of reaching the 50 percent goal by 2030 is scant, given that the state Public Service Commission, which developed the standard, didn’t address fundamental issues such as capacity, siting, energy storage or transmission.

The program’s ambiguity, which has complicated Kauffman’s efforts to defend it, resulted from Cuomo’s decision to end-run the Legislature and distort the PSC’s statutory authority beyond the Legislature’s intent.

State lawmakers, with few exceptions, remain oddly silent about what amounts to a major (and costly) power grab by the governor that will allow him to tax, and spend, billions of dollars without permission from the people’s representatives.

Tags:

You may also like

What’s Keeping the Heat On?

As another Arctic blast hits the Northeast and temperatures plunge, more energy is needed to keep New Yorkers warm.  Where is that energy coming from?  Read More

Summary of Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act’s Scoping Plan

The Scoping Plan makes the following recommendations to guide CLCPA implementation. Read More

LIPA Commission Blows Past Another Deadline

The continues to flout its statutory deadlines. After public hearings more than two months late, it has now blown past its December 31 deadline f Read More

Hochul’s Call on Crypto Bill Puts Climate Agenda over Upstate Economy

After remaining for months on the fate of the proposed two-year moratorium on crypto-mining, Governor Kathy Hochul has now the bill into law, as her administr Read More

Municipalized LIPA Won’t Solve Long Islanders’ Power Woes

If the power goes out under a fully municipalized LIPA, you can bet neither the Legislature nor public power advocates will accept the blame. Read More

Can New York Afford the “Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act of 2022”?

On November 8, New Yorkers will be voting on Proposal 1, the $4.2 billion “Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond.” Read More

A “fab-ulous” deal for New York State? 

Micron says it intends to invest $20 billion by 2030 in a single “Mega-fab” and up to $100 billion in total over the next 20 years Read More

NYISO Predicts Troubled Energy Future

The future is not bright for the Empire State’s electrical power grid, according to the newly released 2021 - 2040 System & Resource Outlook Read More

Empire Center Logo Enjoying our work? Sign up for email alerts on our latest news and research.
Together, we can make New York a better place to live and work!