As oil and gas prices soar to record highs for everyday consumers to bear the brunt of the burden while big oil companies profit, it is becoming more evident with each growing day that energy security and independence should be of utmost concern. Therefore, ending the dependence on oil will not only create distance between families and small businesses from the volatile nature of global markets but also take business out of subsidizing aggression from petro states like Russia and combat climate change. One of the best ways to achieve true energy independence and energy security is to invest in clean energy.
Amidst the growing energy demand and the increasing greenhouse gas emissions, a recent Pew Research Center survey finds that around 7 out of 10 U.S adults believe that the country should prioritize the development of alternative energy sources, such as solar and hydropower, over expanding the production of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas.
A similar sentiment is shared by lawmakers, from the president to state governors, who understand that clean energy is the key to energy security and independence. In a recent statement from President Biden announcing the U.S ban on Russian oil imports, he stated that “loosening environmental regulations or pulling back clean energy investments … will not lower energy prices for families. But transforming our economy to run on electric vehicles powered by clean energy with tax credits to help American families winterize their homes and use less energy, that will — that will help”. This comes at a time when the House of Representatives has passed President Biden’s plan to invest $555 billion into clean energy over the next ten years that will not only create more jobs but also save families around $500 a year in energy costs.
A federal plan of investing into clean energy, however, will only work best through concerted state-level action. For the New York League of Conservation Voters, clean energy is on the top of the state policy agenda. The ability to speed up energy independence and mitigate climate change largely relies on the efforts to decarbonize New York’s energy grid in the next decade and to cut down on pollution from dirty fossil fuel power plants that are often located in disadvantaged communities. Thus, NYLCV seeks to continue supporting the Public Service Commission’s goal towards reaching 70% renewable energy by 2030 and 100% clean energy by 2040.
Through the implementation of the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefits Act, New York is predicted to reach its targets, particularly 70% renewable energy by 2030. Passed on 3 April 2020, the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefits Act was a direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for a clean energy transition. According to Basil Seggos, the Commissioner of New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation, “No state was hit as hard by COVID-19 as New York State and no state had to work harder to defeat the virus and get it under control. We learned some important lessons in the context of addressing the pandemic that I believe will only bolster our resolve on climate action”.
The Act is designed to facilitate and improve the introduction of environmentally-friendly and economically-sound renewable energy projects across New York, thereby making it easier to create change at a local level. The Act will also create new jobs in clean energy and provide access to clean energy for all New Yorkers. Undergoing pandemic recovery while simultaneously experiencing signs demonstrating the importance of energy independence shows that the creation of jobs from the swift transition to clean energy is crucial to supporting long-term environmental, economic, security, and social benefits.
In order to streamline the process of introducing new clean energy projects, the Act also creates an Office of Renewable Energy Siting to facilitate the siting of widespread clean energy projects in an environmentally and economically friendly manner. To make clean energy more economically-sound, the Act also creates plans to expand and accelerate investment into New York’s renewable grid. In addition, NYLCV also supports the advancement of clean energy by the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority to secure New York’s state energy security. This includes support for the newly-announced 10 gigawatts of distributed solar by 2030.
With regard to the global climate crisis, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its latest report on the rising dangers and costs of climate change earlier this year. According to the report, unless carbon pollution is decreased by 45 percent by 2030 and net-zero carbon emissions are met by 2050, the world could warm by 2.4 degrees celsius by the mid-century with devastating impacts on all but more so those who have historically contributed to climate change the least such as women and low-income communities.
From both a climate change and security standpoint, it is evident that a clean energy transition is needed and NYLCV is here to help. Amidst Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, bodies like the European Union are accelerating their shift towards smarter and cleaner ways to power the future. It is imperative that New York do the same.
By Jessica Cheng