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by Dee Fowler
Just back from the Alliance for Clean Energy New York’s annual conference, Eric Walker was encouraged by progress toward legislating sustainable, clean energy policy. Eric, Open Buffalo’s Climate and Clean Energy Strategist, was invited to join the conference’s opening panel: Including all New Yorkers in the Clean Energy Transition. Discussion during the mid-September panel explored how New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) could serve as a vehicle to include all New Yorkers in the coming energy transition outlined in the legislation.
Eric noted that the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLPCA) is “the single most ambitious thing New York State has done toward outlining an energy agenda.” Among his key takeaways: “the entire renewable energy sector is focused on an economy-wide shift towards meeting CLPCA’s goals.” Once enacted, the legislation’s overarching goal is to put “New York on a path to reaching net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.”
Eric offers both optimism and caution. “The law is sweeping but leaves a lot to be defined and done once the law is actually enacted. That means everyone with a stake in the outcomes of the law will be continuing to advocate for how things play out,” he noted.
According to Miles Farmer and Jackson Morris of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Act brings industry actors together with community partners and government entities to set targets for reaching greenhouse gas emissions and “scaling up clean energy that will transform and strengthen New York’s economy.” Significantly, the pending law includes provisions to redress historic environmental justice inequities; including a requirement to direct at least 35-40% of the program’s benefits to historically disadvantaged communities. (For more detailed information about CLPCA’s goals, read Farmer and Morris’ Unpacking New York’s Big New Climate Bill: A Primer.)
To achieve the scale needed to make good on the goals of the CLPCA, Eric advocates a dynamic approach to achieving energy sustainability, security and affordability at scale: community choice aggregation. He explained, “The power behind community choice energy is you get the opportunity to shift a whole community’s consumption all at once. Shifting, let’s say, Erie County’s entire residential electric supply from the traditional fuel mix to 100% renewables could potentially be done for a cheaper price than you pay now. It could also create extra money for other programs like, including appliance rebates, adopting residential energy retrofits and renewable heating and cooling technology. This helps accelerate the need for energy efficiency and clean energy workforce. [Progress] happens much more quickly when you shift an entire community’s consumption all at once.” As climate justice activists continue to have a seat at the table with industry and government, Eric anticipates significant progress toward achieving CLPCA’s goals of clean, sustainable New York energy policy, but we should manage our expectations.
Eric Walker contributed to this article
Follow Eric on Twitter at: @EricWalker97