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Source: Legislative Gazette

Green initiatives part of Cuomo's economic plan

BY JUSTIN SARJEANT
STAFF WRITER

Posted: January 10, 2012
Originally Published: January 9, 2012

In his second State of the State address, Gov. Andrew Cuomo touched on plans to deal with New York's growing need for energy in clean and cost efficient ways, including upgrading state facilities, creating an "energy highway" and investing in solar power.

According to Cuomo, the state has developed a master plan designed to save millions of dollars through new energy efficient measures. These would cost the state nothing because investments in the equipment and upgrades would be made back from the energy savings, according to Cuomo.

"Beyond the financial benefit, this program will also create thousands of highly skilled jobs across the state, including energy auditors, planners, engineers, electricians and construction workers, and it will reduce lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions by 8.1 million metric tons," said Cuomo. That's "roughly equivalent to removing 1.4 million passenger vehicles from the road for one year."

The state facilities aren't the only places receiving upgrades. Cuomo announced a statewide program that allows consumers to re-fit their homes with energy efficient upgrades and pay for the cost on their monthly energy bill. The program is called On-Bill Financing and will be offered to homeowners beginning early this year.

On-Bill financing was originally scheduled to start in June, but a deal between the state and utilities expedited the program. This allows for new jobs to be created immediately as well as deliver benefits to 40,000 homes across the state.

The governor has also announced a plan to build a $2 billion "energy highway" system. Funded by private sector companies, the system will tap into the energy produced in the power plants and wind farms of upstate and Western New York and Canada to meet the energy needs of New York City and its suburbs.

Cuomo ensured Western New Yorkers that low-cost allocation of hydropower will remain in Western New York and that the energy needs of the state will be met for the next half-century. The system also calls for upgrading outdated plants in urban neighborhoods to reduce pollution.

"Not only will it fast-track much needed energy generation projects, but it will also be a model for including some of the strongest environmental protection regulations in the nation," said Cuomo

The governor's administration also plans to expand solar energy production in the state while keeping costs under control to protect the ratepayer. The NY-Sun initiative will help increase competitive obtainment of large solar projects and increase discount programs for home owners and businesses that use solar power. They believe the program will strengthen the state's energy sector and quadruple New York's solar capacity by 2013.

Gov. Cuomo has received praise for his green energy announcements and the amount of jobs they will produce. The New York Solar Jobs Coalitions;,a collaboration of organized labor, the solar industry and environmental organizations, approves of the governor's plan. A statement supporting Cuomo's proposal was signed by 14 different associations including the Alliance for Clean Energy New York and the NYS Building and Construction Trades Council.

"We're hopeful that with the continuing support of Governor Cuomo and key legislators in the Senate and Assembly, New York can create good jobs in the solar industry," said Ed Malloy, President of the New York City and New York State Building and Construction Trade Councils. "These are jobs that can't leave New York and will be critical for helping our economy recover."

"Solar installations nationwide grew by 140 percent in 2011, making solar the fastest growing industry in the country," said Ron Kamen, president of NY Solar Energy Industries Association. "Governor Cuomo's support for stronger residential and commercial solar markets will enable New York solar markets to take advantage of the plummeting price of solar panels and position the state to again be a national leader as solar rapidly becomes the least-cost delivered energy source."

"Governor Cuomo can make 2012 a transformative year for solar power throughout New York. His leadership can turn the dream of a solar future into today's reality," said Adrienne Esposito, executive director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment. "We know solar technology works, now we need policies that work for solar."