On Tuesday June 6, 2017, Governor Cuomo’s nominee to lead the Public Service Commission (PSC) was questioned extensively by State Senators at a confirmation hearing that lasted for more than two hours. The nominee, John Rhodes, is the current president and CEO of NYSERDA. He remained adamant in his support for the state’s energy agenda and the advancement of clean energy, highlighting the administration’s commitment to achieve its 80×50 goals. Rhodes also focused on subjects like affordability, transparency, and distribution which are vital components of ensuring access to public utilities.
Over the course of his lengthy hearing, questions were posed to the nominee on an array of topics ranging from nuclear subsidies to energy reliability in low-income communities. Senators representing a variety of districts probed Rhodes for answers to local issues, which he promised would be a priority for the commission, while noting that the shift towards clean energy would not be without challenges. The two lead-off senators Senator Peralta and Senator Parker, representing Queens and Brooklyn neighborhoods respectively, focused on future plans to ensure that low-income communities will have access to clean energy. Rhodes responded by citing a $234 million project to support low and moderate household participation in renewable energy that he is particularly excited about, and eased their concerns about clean energy access under his leadership at the Public Service Commission.
Although senators sought to complicate Rhodes’ role as chairman by insisting that his biases may impact his position at the PSC, he affirmed that “integrity is everything to me” and referenced difficult decisions he had to make in his role at NYSERDA, evidence that his integrity will remain strong at the Public Service Commission. Despite the interrogative manner of his hearing, largely the commission acknowledged Rhodes’ extensive knowledge and experience in the energy industry and confirmed his dedication to solving problems in their districts.
Throughout the hearing, Rhodes demonstrated his unwavering support for the spread of carbon neutral energy, including solar, wind, small-scale hydro, and nuclear. His testimony is a hopeful indication that the Public Service Commission will continue to support New York State’s aggressive clean energy goals as it oversees the smooth integration of clean energy into public utilities across the state.