This post was co-authored by Raya Salter and Mr. Cecil D. Corbin-Mark, Deputy Director/Director of Policy Initiatives with WE ACT for Environmental Justice. It has been cross-posed from the NRDC's Switchboard blog. The original post is available online here.
New York State is revolutionizing its electric system - a move NRDC has praised as positive and precedent-setting. The initiative, called "Reforming the Energy Vision" or "REV" will mean big changes for how communities, particularly low- income communities, interact with both energy and utilities. Among the initiative's core principles, described by my colleague Jackson Morris as the "commandments of REV," are addressing high energy bills and reducing carbon emissions.
New Yorkers Face a High Energy Burden
This is critical because according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, New Yorkers pay the nation's second-highest energy prices. This leads to a crushing energy burden for low-income New Yorkers. According to a 2013 New York State Energy Research and Development Authority home energy costs threaten not only the ability of New York low-income households to retain access to energy services, but also threaten access to housing, food, medical care and other necessities of life. This is true across New York State, in both rural and urban areas. Further, many low income communities, particularly communities of color, need immediate relief from the impacts of dangerous carbon emissions that impact them the most. For these "environmental justice" communities, action on energy prices and clean and renewable power is of primary importance.
New York Utilities Should Be Increasing Engagement with Low- to Moderate-Income Communities on Clean and Renewable Energy Projects
In a landmark February 26 order, regulators outlined a policy framework and implantation plan for the state's energy revolution. New York's new vision means that utilities will build a new platform in cities, neighborhoods and towns across the state to facilitate clean and renewable distributed energy resources. Because the state wants to make sure that customers and private markets invest in distributed energy, utilities won't be allowed, for the most part, to own these distributed resources. Utilities will, however, be able to own distributed energy resources where a project will enable low or moderate income residential customers to benefit from clean distributed power the private market is unlikely to meet the need. Utilities will also be able to own distributed energy resources like solar, batteries and wind (DER) in areas of system need, in new demonstration projects and in projects that involve energy storage. This may start happening soon. In the February 26 order, utilities were directed to file demonstration project plans on July 1.