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Energy Conference Addresses Carbon Fuels Transition, Reliability and Decarbonization Options

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The BCW’s 2023 Energy Conference—Planning for Westchester’s New Energy Landscape—brought together nine speakers from the private sector and government to discuss on-going measures to ensure that New York meets its green energy targets.

Attendees at the half-day conference heard presentations from New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos; Con Edison’s Vice President of Westchester Electric Operations Patrick Burke; Westchester County Executive George Latimer; Robison President Dan Singer; EarthKind Energy Consulting CEO Ron Kamen; Paraco Senior Director of Sales Strategy and National Accounts Charles Buonincontri; Sustainable Westchester Program Director Rachel Carpitella; NYPA Economic Development Program Manager Shawn Harrison; Green Business Bureau New York Development Director Maria Genovesi; and Green Business Bureau CEO Tom Permatteo.

“Westchester’s changing energy landscape continues to be one of our top priorities,” said BCW Executive Vice President and COO John Ravitz, who moderated the event. “We understand in order to be able to recruit and retain businesses, we need to be able to show that Westchester has an energy grid that is strong, that we are not going to have reliability issues, and that we’re dealing with cost issues.”

Keynote speaker Seggos opened the virtual conference with a discussion of his agency’s work last year gathering public comment as part of the state’s Climate Leadership & Community Protection Act, which requires the state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by targeted dates.

“We’re thinking about this and we’re trying to do it in a really deliberative way that keeps the state competitive, keeps our communities healthy and really gives us a chance to lead nationally,” said Seggos.

Burke described Con Edison’s work to build the electricity grid of the future. The utility is a longtime BCW member.

“We were among the first utilities to adopt and publish a clean energy commitment as a way of holding ourselves accountable for the changes that we want to see both on our system and in our industry’” he explained. “We will be investing in our infrastructure so that our system can reliably deliver clean energy to all of our customers.”

Latimer summarized the many efforts his administration has underway to shrink Westchester’s carbon footprint, from eliminating diesel-powered Bee-Line busses to electrifying the county’s fleet of vehicles and installing electric vehicle charging stations for the public in county parks.

“We’re trying to do those things that are within our lane,” said Latimer. “We don’t really set policies as much as we perform certain functions, and in those functions what we are trying to do is to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.”

Singer of Robison, a longtime BCW member, noted the difficulty of achieving the state’s clean energy targets because of fossil fuels’ dominance in the energy market. Still, Singer said many of his consumers would prefer an alternative to oil because of its price and availability are so volatile.

“Oil as a primary fuel source to keep people comfortable in their homes…will continue to present challenges and consumers will be looking for alternatives regardless of their motivation to reduce their carbon footprint,” said Singer, who pointed to biofuels and renewable diesel as components of the state’s transition to carbon-free energy.

Buonincontri of Paraco, a longtime BCW member, said that the propane his company supplies will be part of the clean energy transition because propane has a lower carbon content than other fossil fuels like home heating oil and diesel. For example, propane is now used to power electric vehicle charging stations in areas without electricity.

“I have not seen this industry advance as quickly as it has in probably the past seven years,” said Buonincontri. “Propane still has a purpose. There still has to be a combination…to bring us to a zero-carbon footprint.”

A video of the conference is posted on the BCW’s Facebook page.

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