Energy Roundtable: Amy Paulin
Chair, New York State Assembly Energy Committee
Q: What did you think of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s energy proposals in his executive budget?
AP: The centerpiece of the governor’s budget as it relates to energy is the Public Service Commission’s Reforming the Energy Vision proceeding, commonly known as the “REV.” Many of the legislative initiatives in the area of energy reflect the same themes: ensuring that New York’s power supply will be safe, reliable and resilient in the face of extreme weather, as well as affordable, while also mitigating climate change. In response to the challenge of an aging infrastructure, New York has decided to take the opportunity to put the state at the forefront of energy policy by creating a modern grid that will give consumers greater ability to make decisions about their own energy use.
Q: How will this initiative be implemented?
AP: The governor proposes to commit $5 billion over 10 years to a Clean Energy Fund. This will allow for full capitalization of the New York Green Bank and the New York-Sun initiative, among other programs that are intended to increase the use of energy efficiency strategies and renewables. These strategies will encourage private investment as technologies mature and provide government support for low-income customers or others who cannot easily purchase efficiency upgrades or renewable generation, such as residents of multi-family housing.
Q: What key energy issues or initiatives would you like to confront during this year’s legislative session?
AP: In order to support those strategies, I have introduced a bill that creates opportunities for customers, especially those in multi-family housing, to join in shared renewable energy facilities. By investing together with others, customers would be able to receive credit against their usage for the energy produced by the facility. This would open the door to the renewable energy sphere for individuals and families who are currently prevented from doing so due to where they live.
Q: Have you already proposed any legislation?
AP: Last session, I introduced a bill on community choice aggregation, which would allow municipalities to enter into contracts with suppliers of energy in order to get the best possible price for all customers in those municipalities. The Public Service Commission recognized this important work in December when it instituted a proceeding to investigate community choice aggregation. I have also introduced bills to expand the use of net metering, which permits customers to generate solar, wind or other renewable energy and sell what they cannot use back into the grid. This effort fits well with the recent decision by the Public Service Commission to increase the cap on net metering in order to allow even more customers to participate, which will help to reduce the need to build additional generating plants, transmission lines and other expensive infrastructure. Innovative financing techniques will enable residential and commercial customers to take advantage of opportunities to make their energy usage more efficient and clean. I have introduced bills to permit customers to repay loans for efficiency or renewable energy projects as part of their utility bills. Another bill I introduced would provide that installation of renewable energy would not lead to an increased tax assessment on the property where it is located.
C&S: What are your thoughts on the proposed gas pipelines—the Constitution and Algonquin—that would run through the state? Does the recent decision to ban hydrofracking alter the equation?
AP: With respect to natural gas, the governor, the PSC and I have focused on safety issues in the wake of the tragic explosion in Harlem. Utilities will be required to accelerate the replacement of leak-prone pipes, and to identify and make public the locations of gas leaks.