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New York's clean energy plan could cost public $3.4B, think tank says

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New York's clean energy plan could cost public $3.4B, think tank says

New York's ambitious strategy to boost renewable energycould have little to no impact on emissions while costing ratepayers nearly$3.4 billion in its first five years, a new study claims.

The Empire Center for Public Policy, an Albany-based thinktank that promotes free-market principles, released its "Green Overload"analysis of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's recently approved renewable mandate and subsidyof nuclear power plants, collectively known as the clean energy standard.

The initiative, which sets a goal of procuring 50% of thestate's electricity from renewables and cutting greenhouse gas emissions 40%from 1990s levels, is "a massive unlegislated tax increase, imposedthrough utility charges," Ken Girardin, a co-author of the report and anEmpire Center policy analyst, said in a statement.

By focusing on supporting renewable energy and certainnuclear plants, instead of more directly targeting carbon emissions, the reportargued that the policy fails to consider energy efficiency, transmissionupgrades and other alternatives that might be more effective means of loweringemissions.

It is also more expensive than policymakers have suggested,according to the think tank. The analysis concluded that the initiative wouldcost ratepayers $3.4 billion under the assumption that New York's renewableenergy credits will match the prices of those in nearby Connecticut,Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Such prices would increase costs for theaverage residential user in the state by $3.40 per month by 2020, well abovethe Cuomo administration's estimates of less than $2 a month, the report said.

The report also criticized the feasibility of the plan,pointing to a need to massively expand renewable energy generation in the statewithout needed transmission improvements.

According to the state's grid operator, the , the state would need1,000 miles of newtransmission lines to integrate an expected 34,000 GWh a year of new renewablegeneration through 2030.

The report also took issue with the initiative's efforts tosupport the state's upstate nuclear power plants. If the clean energy standardwas purely motivated in lowering emissions, it would have "unambiguouslyincluded" other struggling nuclear plants — such as 's nuclear plant inConnecticut — that are closer to New York City and Long Island than just theupstate reactors, the report argued.

Expounding on this, the think tank said the nuclear subsidypayments in the first six years of the standard far exceed the cost of majorupgrades that are required to transmit upstate nuclear and renewable generationto downstate consumers. According to PSC staff, New York's three upstatenuclear power plants avoid more than 31million metric tons of emissions annually.

"If the standard is not repealed or at leastsignificantly revised within the next few years, it could wreak havoc onelectricity markets in New York while making the state's energy costs evenhigher and less competitive in comparison with national norms," theanalysis said.

Jon Sorensen, a spokesman for the New York State Departmentof Public Service, defended the clean energy standard in a statement. "Ratherthan support bold national leadership to combat the very real threat of climatechange, the Empire Center denies reality and relies on bogus cost assumptionsto argue for inaction," he said. "The benefits of the clean energystandard far exceed the costs as we take the steps necessary to reduce severeenvironmental threats and public health costs associated with greenhouse gasemissions."