(#293) – The true and confidence-building title of this column needs slight amendment and then completion. Take out the “s” in ours and add “ responsibility.” Unlike neighboring areas where the built environment already deeply compromises sustainable economic development, we still have the opportunity to safeguard our fabulous natural wealth and develop large-scale, local investment in a sustainable economy. The essential next step is forming new partnerships and reassigning responsibilities and roles.
This effort must start with understanding that our very carbon-based local economy must be radically changed and all consideration of hydro-fracking for natural gas stopped. We have been given the fabulous wealth of a water system that is unmatched anywhere else on planet earth. It must be kept safe. It is essential for life. There is no substitute.
Shifting to non-carbon based energy is very possible, much less expensive, and more profitable. Financing for energy audit and building retrofit for households and every other building is available at no or minimal cost. Financing for building retrofit with savings of 30-50% is also available. Hundreds of millions of local dollars are freed up.
Some of this windfall should be invested in further reducing the carbon burden we place on our health and natural environment by investing in nearly carbon-free renewable energy generation as the predominant source of county energy.
A solar electric system can be leased at no cost. Ownership of such a system is also available to everyone because it pays for itself in a few years and provides much higher rates of savings. Just a small 5kw solar system will offset the same carbon as planting of 13,500 trees or not driving 875,000 miles.
Municipal and/or municipal-private solar projects are very smart investments. A recent measurement of the roofs and suitable land owned by our towns and villages in Sullivan County indicates solar capacity for 35mw of solar energy. That’s thousands of times bigger than a 5kw solar system. Adding 1000s of MWs of solar energy by formation of municipal-private partnerships that issue common and preferred stock certificates with low ($50 and up value) would provide universal public participation, create investment funds of hundreds of millions of dollars, generate a majority of the entire local economy electrical power, yield a higher rate of return on investment than bank accounts, many new good jobs, better personal and environmental health as well as the opportunity to redesign the way energy is distributed. Smart meters and burying wires are among the many afford- able and cost effective measures that can be achieved when local control is secured.
Contrast these opportunities with current proposals such as Super Sandy Storm public subsidies in the billions of dollars going to oligarchic utilities and utility applications to the Public Service Commission for substantial electric rate increases who will construct the same weather-vulnerable energy distribution infrastructure that caused billions in private unreimbursed losses.
The future is ours and it can be a marvelous future if we take responsibility for getting it right. Formation of local public and private energy saving and renewable energy enterprises is the best next step for our future.