by Beth Young
Long Island’s projected peak energy use is plummeting, thanks to rooftop solar and energy efficiency measures, according to a report issued by the Long Island Power Authority and PSEG-Long Island in late April.
Environmentalists called the draft 2017 Long Island Integrated Resource Plan and Repowering Studies, three years in the making, a “bombshell report.”
“What we are witnessing here is a historic game changer on how Long Island produces its electricity,” said Gordian Raacke, Executive Director of Renewable Energy Long Island. “LIPA’s latest electric forecast proves that energy efficiency and renewable energy have successfully stabilized the unrelenting growth in electricity usage of the last decades. The analysis shows that solar and offshore wind can supply the bulk of our power needs more economically and without polluting our air, and that clean renewable energy technologies will replace polluting fossil fuel sources over the coming decades.”
The study estimates the need for power plants in 2030 has been reduced by 1,700 megawatts since the amount estimated in 2013, “the equivalent of three to five large baseload central station power plants,” according to the report.
New York State’s goal of producing 50 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2030 also requires LIPA to add 800 megawatts of new renewable generation, enough to power 350,000 more homes, while “load is expected to be reduced by 950 megawatts through 2030 as a result of energy efficiency, rooftop solar, and other ‘behind the meter initiatives,’” according to the report.
“What’s really good news is that they are now finding that they don’t need conventional fossil fuel power plants going forward,” said Mr. Raacke. “There’s no need to invest in those plants anymore. We can do it better with renewables.”
Mr. Raacke said there are currently 40,000 rooftop solar installations on Long Island, where 5 percent of the electricity is currently generated from renewable sources. With 1.1 million customers on the LIPA grid, “there’s a lot of room for growth with rooftop solar, and room for and need for larger scale renewable energy projects,” he said.
This news may come as a surprise to East Enders, because peak demand is still increasing on the South Fork.
“It’s something we have to address here. It’s like our traffic in the summer,” said Mr. Raacke. “It’s a peak problem for only a handful of days and hours in the summer.”
Last summer, Southampton Town began an initiative called Peak Power Hour, in which people who sign up receive an alert of increased energy demand on hot summer afternoons, and are sent a text message asking them to turn up their thermostat at home and join in a community event at a local beach.
To sign up for Peak Power Hour, text ‘South Fork’ to 646.267.5370.
East Hampton is planning to institute a similar program this summer.
Greater efficiency is also a big part of the equation, said Mr. Raacke. The average household has 80 light bulbs in it, he said, and switching over from incandescent to LED lighting can produce dramatic savings.
He added that more stringent building codes for new construction have also made new homes much more efficient.
The report also points out that power production at Long Island’s legacy fossil fuel-powered plants has declined since 1999 from about 50 percent runtime to as little as 11 percent and is projected to decline even further by 2030, and it would now cost less to make up the energy loss by using renewable sources than by repowering old plants or building new fossil fuel-powered plants.
“The Sierra Club applauds the Long Island Power Authority and PSEG-Long Island’s bold progress in transforming Long Island’s utility into a model for the nation,” said Lisa Dix, Sierra Club’s New York Senior Representative. “Aggressive investments in energy efficiency, job-creating renewable energy such as offshore wind and solar, and modern technologies like battery storage and electric vehicle charging infrastructure will not only slash costs for bill payers, but clean up Long Island’s air and water, and protect our communities from the devastating impacts of climate disruption.”
“This is precisely the plan environmentalists have been advocating for over the last 15 years,” said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “This is a bombshell report, which establishes the foundation for Long Island’s transition from antiquated fossil fuel power plants to clean, renewable energy generation…. This analysis shows that renewable energy is not only the most environmentally responsible choice going forward, but also the most economic. Advances in technology and economies of scale continue to drive down the cost of wind and solar, making them better long-term choices than building new fossil fuel power plants or repowering existing ones. Advances in battery storage technology could further increase the usefulness and effectiveness of wind and solar.”