By Bob Ciesielski
Chapter urges retirement funds to divest from fossil fuels
The Chapter recently forwarded a resolution to the New York State and local retirement systems, including the teachers’ retirement system, requesting that they divest their pension funds from stock and bond investments in fossil fuels within the next five years.
The national Sierra Club Foundation, among a number of other public foundations, colleges and universities, has adopted this resolution in an effort to counter the use of fossil fuels, the major contributor to climate change.
An argument being used against divestment is that the divested fossil fuel company shares will only be purchased by other buyers. Recognizing this claim, the Chapter’s Energy Committee has approved the encouragement of pension funds to reinvest in businesses that are working on a sustainable economy, green infrastructure, renewable energy and/or energy efficiency.
‘Power capacity zone’ plan would boost electric rates, hinder renewables
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), with input from the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) and independent power producers, has recommended a new NYISO power capacity zone in the Lower Hudson. The zone would allow substantial increases (up to 10% for homeowners) in electric rates to consumers and businesses from the Lower Hudson through New York City. These publicly subsidized profits would then encourage the building of fracked-gas turbines and the retention of older coal-fired power plants.
This new capacity zone would also undermine efforts to reduce energy usage through the upgraded transmission lines in the area, and severely hinder the development of renewable energy resources in the State to alleviate climate change. The Chapter filed a letter of formal opposition to the power capacity zone with FERC.
State energy plan should strengthen commitment to renewables
The New York Department of Public Service (DPS) and the Public Service Commission (PSC) have recently proposed a program entitled “Reforming the Energy Vision.” An 85-page DPS staff report on the website www.dps.ny.gov appears to emphasize a private market development plan for renewable energy. The report brings with it both opportunities and danger for the development for renewable energy.
New York needs to maintain a goal for the development of renewables, now provided through the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), which calls for 30% of the state’s energy to be provided from renewables by 2015. At present, only about 2% of the state’s electricity is provided by wind energy, and less than 1% by solar power, while hydropower and other sources bring renewables to approximately 25% of the state’s electricity requirements.
The Sierra Club has requested in its comments about the NYS Energy Plan that 50% of electricity be provided by renewables in 2025. Besides keeping and expanding RPS goals, however, an enforceable mechanism to mandate the fulfillment of these goals appears necessary.
Chapter promoting wind and solar energy
Efforts to develop solar and wind energy are ongoing on many fronts. Upstate, several forums are being developed with experts on wind power economics and speakers who have seen the benefits of wind power on farms, in municipalities, in the growth of union jobs and in industrial development.
The forums will supplement the Wind 100 Run to promote offshore wind, scheduled for Long Island on June 14, with major organizational contributions by the Long Island Group and the Beyond Coal Campaign.
The Chapter maintains its residential solar homes project with Sungevity and its local installers. Contact your local Group for details or a presentation by solar installers. A list of certified New York solar installers is on our Chapter website in the “Switch to Renewable Energy” brochure.
Bob Ciesielski, a member of the Niagara Group, chairs the Chapter’s Energy Committee.