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Author: The BCW

Conference Discusses Changing Energy Landscape and Challenges of Meeting Clean Power Goals

From left, Mike Richter, President, Brightcore Energy; BCW President & CEO Masha Gordon; Raghu Sudhakara, Vice President of Distributed Resource Integration, Con Edison; Daniella Piper, Executive Vice President & Chief Innovation Officer, New York Power Authority, Dan Singer, CEO & President, Robison, Christina Armentano, COO & Executive Vice President, Paraco and BCW Executive Vice President and COO John Ravitz.

From left, BCW President & CEO Marsha Gordon; Luke Falk, Senior Vice President, Clean Path NY;  Bridget Gibbons, Westchester County Director of Economic Development; Kevin Hale, Director of Economic Development and Strategic Partners, NYSERDA, and BCW Executive Vice President and COO John Ravitz

New York State’s changing energy landscape and challenges of meeting clean power goals was the topic of an insightful and timely Energy Conference recently held by the Business Council Westchester.

Dubbed “Powershift: Today’s Changing Energy Landscape,” the conference hosted speakers who discussed the state’s network of new power infrastructure completed or under construction, sustainable energy options for consumers and businesses, and the work that remains to be done as society increasingly electrifies housing and transportation. All the participating businesses and organizations in the conference are BCW members.

“If we are going to recruit businesses to come to Westchester County and the region, we need to demonstrate that we have a solid energy grid,” said John Ravitz, the BCW’s Executive Vice President & COO. “The single most important thing we can do now is engage in honest conversations about the timing for implementing the many steps required to become fully renewable. And that is what we strive for at this annual conference,” said Ravitz who served as moderator of the program.

New York’s clean-power transition is guided by the Climate Leadership & Community Protection Act, a 2019 law that commits New York to 100% zero-emissions electricity by 2040, among other provisions. Ravitz and the BCW have repeatedly cited studies proving that the law is unrealistic. The BCW has urged state leaders to change the law’s implementation dates to give New Yorkers time to build the necessary renewable infrastructure. The BCW has also asked for legislation that prevents communities from blocking battery storage and solar farm applications so that the infrastructure can be built.

Raghu Sudhakara, Vice President of Distributed Resource Integration at Con Edison, described his company’s efforts to meet the growing demand for more electricity from cleaner sources. He noted that Westchester County is the top solar power generator in Con Edison’s service area, producing about 27 percent of the utility’s service-area total.

“Con Ed is firmly supportive of our customers’ desires to make this transition through 2040,” said Sudhakara. “We will be uncompromising on the safety and reliability aspects of the energy system, even as we enable the transition (to renewable energy).”

Daniella Piper, Executive Vice President & Chief Innovation Officer at the New York Power Authority, noted the urgency of reducing fossil fuel use because of extreme weather events like this week’s fires in Texas. “According to the World Economic Forum, the global cost of climate change damage is estimated to be between $1.7 and $3.1 trillion per year by 2050. So, there is cost to the transition and there is cost to doing nothing,” said Piper.

Dan Singer, CEO and President of Robison, said his company views the state’s renewable energy goals as an opportunity to innovate and deliver new services. Singer said that he welcomes a debate about how to implement renewable energy.

“As everybody comes to the table with honest intentions to help our society get to the goals in a way that is not pushing one particular agenda over another, but rather what’s going to be in the best interest of our constituencies, this is the part of the debate we like,” said Singer.

Mike Richter, President of Brightcore Energy, said that while New York has made great strides in transitioning to renewable power, he noted that the state is not keeping up with the scale of future electricity demand. “People fail to realize just how large this problem is and how far we need to go. That idea of taking small bites of the elephant is exactly right. Unfortunately, we haven’t started eating until a little bit late, and so now we have to have a big meal because we’re running up against real problems.”

Kevin Hale, Director of Economic Development and Strategic Partners, NYSERDA, did a presentation on New York’s Clean Energy Future in which he provided an update on the Climate Act, the economic impact of clean energy on jobs and the economy, as well as programs for businesses. He noted that since 2019, there have been 40 clean energy supply chain project announcements totaling over 8,000 jobs and $4.9 billion in investment. He also said that projects that demonstrate carbon emissions reductions can qualify for awards ranging from $500,000 to $5 million.

Bridget Gibbons, Westchester County Director of Economic Development, discussed the county’s active role in supporting a broad range of climate and energy-related action programs. A specific initiative shifting into high gear this spring is a focus on encouraging young people to learn about the numerous job opportunities being created in the burgeoning alternate energy field.

She explained that the county program will offer job training designed to benefit both workers and employers in this emerging high growth field. It is designed to “demystify” the wide-ranging job opportunities. She noted that many the positions, while involving technical skills, do not require a college degree. The program’s goal is to open doors for high-paying jobs with long-term futures.

Christina Armentano, COO and Executive Vice President at Paraco Gas Corporation based in Rye Brook, outlined the wide range of services the company provides. From its founding in Westchester in 1968, Paraco has grown to be the 13th largest propane company in the nation. With 120,000 residential customers and 27 distribution locations in eight northeastern states, Paraco is a leading supplier of propane.

Armentano pointed out that residential customers consume 54 percent of propane. It is used for everything from cooking to heating homes and buildings. Propane has a drastically lower carbon footprint than other fossil fuels, adding to its viability as a fuel source. “Propane is a portable, reliable, and cost-efficient catalyst for positive change. As a bridge fuel, propane complements a variety of alternative energy solutions, driving the transition towards a sustainable future,” she said. 

Luke Falk, Senior Vice President at Clean Path NY, spoke about the ongoing efforts of the pubic-private collaboration between the NY Power Authority, energyRE, and Invenergy. Clean Path is a nation leading renewable generation, transmission and energy storage project.

Clean Path has more than 20 wind and solar generation projects in New York and a new 175-mile underground transmission line that will deliver more than 7.5 million megawatts of emission-free power annually. Falk pointed out that this will be enough to power more than 1.5 million households. He added that Clean Path’s efforts will reduce fossil fuel-fired generation from New York’s grid by 20% annually. The BCW supported the Clean Path plan and has testified at hearings in support of the plan.

The half-day program, which attracted more than 100 attendees, was held on March 1 at the Sonesta Hotel in downtown White Plains.

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