ALBANY — The executive in charge of New York's electrical grid has pledged to work with green energy producers to help achieve a goal of drawing half of the state's energy from green sources by 2030.
The remarks last week by Brad Jones, president of the New York Independent System Operator, came four months after Gov. Andrew Cuomo's top energy adviser, Richard Kauffman, prodded the grid operator to get on board with the state's clean energy goal and accused it of advocating for "fossil fuel interests"
While the power producers the grid works with include those that burn gas and coal, Jones made no arguments on their behalf Nov. 3 at a conference staged by the Alliance for Clean Energy New York.
Instead, he said, "We need to develop our transmission system with an eye towards where renewables will be built."
He later added: "Can we implement 50 percent renewables in New York State? Without a doubt we can do that."
The Independent System Operator coordinates the wholesale power market and sets energy prices.
Whether Kaufman's slap at the grid manager influenced Jones' green-friendly message is not clear.
But Jones' commitment to the green bandwagon was hailed by Anne Reynolds, director of the Alliance for Clean Energy, who lobbies at the Capitol for companies that promote wind power, solar energy and other renewable sources.
Reynolds' alliance urged state utility regulators to quicken a review of "cost effective" transmission projects, making it easier for renewable energy, including hydro-power produced in western New York, to flow across the state.
The Public Service Commission said last month there is "a greater need" for new and upgraded transmission lines in western New York. It also said it is seeking to "un-bottle" energy resources to help the state meet its goal for renewables.
The state's largest producer of electricity is the Niagara Power Station, operated by the state-controlled New York Power Authority. The hydro-facility generates 2.4 million kilowatts of power.
Reynolds said green-power proponents have no interest in fighting transmission projects that are linked to renewable energy sources.
"If we need more transmission to get there, we want to make sure we get it," she said in an interview.
As part of its push to promote renewables, the Cuomo administration has blessed plans to build a massive off-shore wind farm several miles from Long Island. The project is estimated to produce enough electricity to power 15 million homes.
The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is planning a Dec. 15 auction for leasing rights to an almost 80,000-acre "wind energy area" in federal waters 11 miles offshore.
Jones said at the conference that New York is becoming a leader in the production of power from renewables and upgrading its grid.
Among those attending the conference was Renee Vogelsang, director of New Yorkers for Clean Energy, who said the state has reached "a tipping point."
She suggested local governments and businesses now take advantage of incentives to foster growth of geo-thermal, wind and solar power.
"There is a lot of money out there now, and that money should be going to implementing clean and renewable energy and sustainable, safe jobs," she said.
Another participant, state Sen. Kevin Parker of Brooklyn, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Energy Committee, said he is sponsoring legislation to hasten transmission projects and plans to support incentives for companies and institutions that invest in energy efficiency.
Cuomo says the state can reduce the threat of climate change by cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent — a key piece of his renewable energy target.
That date, Reynolds noted, is not so far away.
"Fourteen years may seem like a long time. But it's really not," she said.
Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites. Reach him at email@example.com.