By Don Matheson, East Hampton
Mark Harrington reported in Newsday, on May 7, 2017, about the demands from “ratepayers, lawmakers, and industry groups,” to know the exact cost of the green energy program announced by Governor Cuomo and LIPA. This is analogous to demanding to know the final score of an upcoming Yankee game before deciding to buy a ticket. Obviously, like any procurement program on this scale and spread over numerous years, the exact cost will not be known until the Requests for Proposals are issued and answered.
But there are strong indications that claims that the sky is falling are misguided. LIPA did evaluate, in the case of the 90-megawatt offshore wind program off Montauk, the proposed cost, in competition with proposals for fossil fuel options, and the wind proposal was the winning bidder. LIPA/PSEG’s Integrated Resource Plan, on page 14, has shown a cost comparison based on previous price quotes of between 12 and 16 cents per kw for both large scale renewable power and large-scale fossil power plants. They are now at virtual parity.
Further, technological innovation in fossil plants is mature, so costs are not expected to drop on that side, in contrast to renewables. Within the last month, bids of 6 to 7 cents/KW have been seen for renewables in places where the industry is advanced.
Further, nobody could possibly answer these long-range cost questions for fossil fuels, as the cost of fuels varies on a daily basis, so LIPA would need to guarantee purchasing power from a fossil plant for many years without knowing the cost. Wind and sun are free, so costs for renewable technology can be known on the front end, when RFP’s are issued.
Finally, the whole reason this transition to renewables is happening is that we now know that continuing to burn fossil fuels will exact devastating costs on society in the form of rising seas, storms, droughts, acidification of the ocean, and catastrophes too numerous to list here. What has changed is that the price for renewable energy has dropped precipitously as economies of scale and technological innovation have kicked in,
Long Islanders, who are already making choices about land that must be surrendered to eroding shores, should buckle their seat belts. The most heavily subsidized and most profitable business in the world, the fossil fuel industry, will fund numerous PR campaigns, armies of lawyers, and wholly-owned politicians to defend their profits from clean energy in the years ahead.