After just six months, a bipartisan consensus within New York has emerged that Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Clean Energy Standard (CES) plan is a policy and political disaster. It’s all a tawdry tale of crony capitalism, bureaucratic overreach, unilateral taxation and wasteful subsidies.
Now, the focus shifts to appropriate solutions going forward.
Last August, the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) appointed entirely by Governor Cuomo passed the CES, which would require half of all New York energy by the year 2030 to derive from carbon-neutral sources.
Pursuant to that mandate, the CES aimed to subsidize financially unsound upstate New York nuclear power plants using something called Zero-Emission Credits (ZECs). Other non-struggling utilities throughout the state would be required to buy those ZECs from a government clearinghouse, which had first obtained them from the upstate nuclear plants, which do not emit carbon in generating power. Thus, solvent power plants would be forced to prop up the failing plants to make the carbon-free energy requirement work.
Making matters worse, those mandatory subsidies would benefit a single company named Exelon. It controls the struggling nuclear power plants that would receive CES subsidies, and that crony capitalist angle helps explain the broad bipartisan opposition that has emerged against this entire CES scheme.
But worst of all is the fact that the cost of this entire scheme would ultimately fall upon New York consumers and businesses, some of them located far from the plants to be subsidized. That’s because the CES plan guarantees approximately $1 billion in subsidies to the struggling plants in the first two years alone, with costs reaching $8 billion through the year 2030.
On that basis, environmentalists like Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group observed that, “These charges are essentially a tax to keep aging nuclear power plants online.”
Then, just four months into the plan, the PSC was forced to acknowledge failure by reducing the amount of renewable energy credits that utilities must purchase in 2017 by an astounding 94 percent after determining that few renewables would actually qualify to issue those required credits.
With the CES failure now clear, where do we go from here? What are the solutions going forward?
In the immediate term, Governor Cuomo’s CES energy mandate plan should be repealed via legislation. That simple step will relieve New York consumers and employers of the prospect of burdensome new energy costs, and relieve other utilities of the needless burden of subsidizing other failing utilities for the benefit of a single beneficiary company. Citizens should demand that their elected representatives support such a legislative solution.
—Timothy H. Lee is Senior Vice President of Legal and Public Affairs at the Center for Individual Freedom (CFIF)