Cutting Energy Costs Critical to Job Outlook

By Sen. Darrel J. Aubertine (D-Cape Vincent)

Energy rates are a major issue as we work to improve our economy and create jobs here in Central New York and the North Country. Our region really is the state’s energy backyard from the nuclear plants in Oswego to the Moses Saunders Hydro Dam in Massena. We pay too much for energy because of decisions made over the past two decades, but I am working to bring those costs down.

In doing so, we can create jobs, both by implementing the very things needed to bring energy costs down and by finding creative solutions to reduce energy use and rates. As our Senator, I passed Green Jobs/Green New York legislation which will create thousands of jobs Upstate by making low or zero interest loans available to homeowners and small businesses to improve energy efficiency and pay them back over time from the savings on their energy bills. This will create demand for construction and create new jobs, while also helping keep costs down.

I’ve also worked to pass net metering legislation, which enables farms and other businesses, as well as homeowners, to see the benefits of generating electricity on their own property, be it through methane digesters, solar panels or other means. This allows the power generated on site to be deducted from the person’s bill creating huge savings and spurring demand for new technologies including perhaps personal fuel cells that could generate enough electricity for a home with minimal amounts of natural gas.

One of the things that often causes spikes in the cost of energy is fluctuations on the energy grid and that’s why companies like Beacon Power are looking for opportunities to implement flywheel technology to take excess power produced in off peak times and make it available during peak demand. I passed legislation to enable companies producing these types of technology to receive tax incentives the same as those offered to green energy producers. This too will create jobs in the manufacturing, production and installation of this technology along with reduced power rates.

Additionally, I have worked with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to promote green energy solutions, including solar panels. This past week I had the opportunity to join NYSERDA in announcing $340,000 to Christopher Community Center and its St. Luke’s apartments in Oswego to put up solar panels and make energy efficiency improvements that will save thousands of dollars per year in energy costs—saving money for residents and enabling the organization to reinvest in its facilities. This is something we can do to spur interest for more non-profits and schools, as well as businesses to create jobs.

Of course I’ve written many times in these columns about Power for Jobs, which is another solution to help employers with high energy demands to maintain levels of employment, invest in our communities and create new jobs. The Energize New York legislation I sponsored is the future of this program and an opportunity to make it even better, while protecting benefits for use upstate and in our region.

With energy costs so critical to our economic future, this is why I have also met with National Grid officials and urged them to back off their recent request to increase rates. We are moving forward with key initiatives to reduce energy costs and now is not the time for rate increases, especially in light of accounting mishaps and extravagant spending. I look forward to continuing to work to reduce energy costs, working with utilities and producers, working with businesses and homeowners, to spur economic growth and create jobs.