Governor Andrew Cuomo has set out an ambitious agenda for energy in New York state and he needs to.
Extreme weather events such as Superstorm Sandy have exposed the fragility of the state’s aging energy grid, new EPA regulations on greenhouse gases are driving fast-track conversions of former coal-fired plants, over 40 percent of New York’s power stations are more than four decades old and the Governor is caught in a major political vice over fracking.
Cuomo’s 2013-14 budget proposal also outlines some major investments in the renewable energy sector.
The Innovation Trail will focus its reporting on the state's energy planning and investment in the week of March 18-22. All the reports will be posted here.
New York's Energy Highway Blueprint - Monday, March 18
The New York Energy Highway Blueprint is a glossy document that spells out immediate future plans for energy in the state. While the Cuomo administration’s plan has energy workforce development as a major goal, other observers are concerned that the Cuomo plan is too reliant on imported power and there’s a danger of losing local skills associated with the Blueprint. Environmental watchdogs are cautiously optimistic about the role for renewables. Matt Richmond looks at what the Cuomo plan means for the state's energy future.
Green Bank: Underpinning plans for ‘greener’ energy in New York - Tuesday, March 19
The $1 billion fund is intended to support the ongoing development of renewable energy solutions and energy efficiency technologies. Cuomo’s poached a top advisor from the federal energy secretary to head up the initiative. The NYGB will only be the second ‘green bank’ of its kind after the pilot established in Connecticut in 2011 and the measure has been broadly welcomed. Ryan Delaney of WRVO reports on what the role of this ‘green bank’ will have under the direction of the state's newly appointed energy 'czar' Richard Kauffman and whether New York’s uptake of the 'green bank model' could also resonate nationally.
Converting coal-burning power stations to natural gas - Wednesday, March 20
NRG Energy’s Dunkirk power station on Lake Erie is typical of many of the state’s coal-burning power stations. It can't afford to keep all four of its coal-burning units operating, and instead the station is scoping the details of massive retro-fit for the station to run on a mix of coal or gas, and eventual replacement with a new plant utilizing combined-cycle technology. The retrofit has become a major community cause in Western New York where job creation is important, and energy independence is a push-button political issue. Kate O’Connell from WXXI reports on what it’s going to take to complete the conversion of this plant and what the economic implications will be.
The CHPE or Champlain Hudson Power Express is a $2.2 billion transmission project that’s going to bring 1,000 megawatts of power to the New York metro area. The developers claim that the project, which is expected to take 3 and half years, will result in 300 jobs. The power that the cable will carry starts life in Canada and while studies show that the project, when it’s fired up in 2017, will probably result in lower energy costs for consumers downstate it may have the opposite effect on customers in the north country. Sarah Harris of NCPR looks at how the project is likely to play out, and why New York looks set to remain at least partially reliant on imported energy in the long term.
Solar: set to deliver on the Big Talk? - Saturday, March 22
The USA was the developing ground for solar technology, but somehow the conversations around the technology continue to center around the 'potential' of solar. It's true that there is enormous potential but Germany remains the current world solar leader. It may be that the technology's real promise relies on developments in storage and smart grid technologies that enable solar energy to be scaled. A very recent report sets out a plan that would see New York basing nearly 40% of its energy needs on solar power by 2030. Ashley Hassett of WBFO looks at what’s ahead.
A live program on WXXI's 1370connection will air between noon and 2 p.m. on Friday March 22, hosted by Bob Smith and featuring a recap of the series, reporter roundtables, live guests and listener call-in. The program will stream online at wxxi.org