Time’s Up, Change Course

(#278) – With some people still without electric power from the largest storm to hit the Northeast, we have some idea of its cost. The bill for repairs is estimated to be $33,000,000,000 for New York State.  The loss in revenue is more than twice that figure.  This storm was 1000 miles wide and another 1000 miles long.  It killed more than 100 people and ruined the lives of 100,000s.  Experts predict we shall have more storms like this on a more frequent basis and they will be more extreme.

However, there is much that we can do to limit the damage, loss of life and livelihood from weather chaos.  It appears that our local leadership is clear that the utility companies need to answer a lot of questions about their business model, maintenance of infrastructure and response in times of natural disasters.

Steps for local utility companies include:

1)   Bury the electric lines. There are many profitable systems that do so.

2)   Phase in renewable energy systems organized on clustered high demand centers so that the grid is not so brittle and the delivery charge (which is greater than the actual cost of the power) can be significantly lowered or eliminated ( and lower the demand charge as well).

3)   Create a SREC – solar renewable energy credit system, or FIT – feed in tariff, that gives market driven incentives to local producers of renewable energy.

4)   Substantially tighten up utility programs for energy efficiency.

Utilities have special responsibilities.  They also receive special benefits that other private corporations do not.  There is a substantial asymmetry between their benefits and their performance of responsibilities.

There is also a large role for local municipalities in filling the huge gap in providing affordable, reliable energy and limiting the loss from the weather chaos that is now a regular cost item in municipal, commercial and residential budgets.

One way to become aware of the opportunities for making major shifts in our energy and climate planning is to attend the next meeting of the Mid-Hudson Regional Sustainability Plan public informational session which will take place Thursday, November 29th at 6:30pm at the Westchester County Center. Doors open at 6 pm.

This meeting will introduce the draft of the regional sustainability plan that proposes to empower the creation of more sustainable communities by funding smart development practices related to land use, infrastructure, energy, transportation and environmental practices.  It will also identify and discuss project ideas that will significantly improve the economic and environmental health of our region.

Several Sullivan County individuals have contributed to this plan and to project design.  The Community Net Zero Energy District project for the Health Care Complex in Liberty is just one of several that is being submitted for integration into a regional application for funding.  Local municipal solar power authorities is another project under design. To review the Plan, obtain ideas for your town and business, and give your comment on the dozens of projects listed, visit the fully interactive public outreach website, www.EngageMidHudson.com. The first funding round will begin in March, 2013.

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