Developing the Next State Energy Plan

by David Alicea, Sierra Club NY Lead Organizing Representative, Rochester

As I sit here writing, the country is just beginning to unthaw from the polar vortex. Living in Rochester, I begrudgingly accept that there will be some very cold days, but the more frequent and intense record-breaking weather events continue to surprise me. Although it shouldn’t be that surprising to someone who spends as much time thinking about climate change as I do. The science is clear — unless we ratchet down climate pollution, we should only expect more extreme weather.

Luckily, I get to wake up every day and work with passionate people (both volunteers and staff) who are doing their best to ensure that, at least here in New York, we’re working hard to tackle the climate crisis. Atlantic Chapter volunteers have rallied, marched and lobbied for our state to ban fracking, create an enforceable 50% renewable energy target, establish a robust offshore wind program and stop more pipelines than I can even name.

Despite this progress, there is still a long way to go. While Governor Cuomo’s recent Green New Deal proposal is a step in the right direction, it’s up to us to make sure that his bold rhetoric is put into action in a way that truly creates a just and equitable future powered by 100% clean, renewable energy. We need to ensure that New York follows through and expands its pledge to transition our electric sector to renewable energy. We also need to make sure that New York gets serious about tackling pollution from other sectors, like transportation, which is now the largest source of climate pollution in the state. Importantly, we have opportunities to ensure that all communities and workers benefit from this transition.

There are many ways we can push and elevate these concerns. One key strategic tool we have is the upcoming State Energy Plan. I’ll admit, the State Energy Plan may not sound like the most exciting prospect. However, it affords a key opportunity to raise our demands directly with Governor Cuomo and other key decision-makers in state government.

That’s why the Sierra Club is working with allies across the state, supporting efforts to develop a shared Energy Plan Platform. Over the coming months, we’ll host a set of surveys, community dialogues and other activities through which we’ll work to solicit feedback from communities across New York on what they want to see in the new State Energy Plan. 

While we expect a draft State Energy Plan to be released either late this year or early 2020, our goal is to release the platform before that date to set a clear baseline that the climate movement in New York believes is critical for any plan. 

How can you help? First, let us know what your energy priorities are by taking this survey at http://bit.ly/2019energysurvey. Once you fill out the survey, we can keep you in the loop on local listening sessions in your community, opportunities to send formal comments and to attend public hearings in your area.

Editor’s note: A 2009 state law established the NYS Energy Planning Board, chaired by the President and CEO of NYSERDA. The law calls on the Board to launch an energy planning process and complete a State Energy Plan, updated every two years. Comments on the Plan and its updates are sought throughout the process from stakeholders and the public through public comment on NYSERDA’s Plan website and at public hearings. You can find Plan updates on the NYSERDA website.