Long Island is at a critical juncture in determining its energy future. The Long Island Clean Electricity Vision began at a Long Island Energy Roundtable meeting, a gathering of environmental professionals, with a simple but bold question which challenges conventional thinking:
Could Long Island meet 100 percent of its electricity needs with energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies which are available today?
With funding from the Rauch Foundation and the Long Island Community Foundation, and support from partner organizations, Renewable Energy Long Island hired a consulting firm to help answer this critical question.
Synapse Energy Economics, a highly respected and experienced firm analyzing utility and energy issues nationwide, produced the study “A Long Island Clean Electricity Vision – Supplying 100% of Long Island’s Electricity Needs from Renewable Power”, finding that by the end this decade, we could meet 100% of residential electricity needs from clean, renewable power sources. By 2030, all of Long Island’s electricity could be carbon emission free, and 100% from renewable sources. (see the Study Summary below).
There is broad scientific consensus that in order to avoid irreversible effects from climate change, carbon concentrations in the atmosphere must be lowered significantly. Many leading climate scientist now recommend a limit of 350 parts per million by the year 2050, which would require a rapid switch to carbon free energy sources. Numerous governments, including New York State, have already established goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, not just in the electricity but all sectors of their economies, 80% by 2050.
The move to a clean energy future at the beginning of the 21st century can be seen historically as a major paradigm shift and rapid retooling of infrastructure similar to the transition to the space age in the 1960s and widespread personal communication technology in the late 1990s.
Long Island Clean Electricity Vision
Can Long Island meet 100 percent of its electricity needs from renewable energy? In short: Yes.
The surprising answer comes from the Long Island Clean Electricity Vision (CEV) — a bold, visionary study commissioned by Renewable Energy Long Island (reLI) and member organizations of the Long Island Clean Energy Roundtable. The 2012 analysis, performed by Synapse Energy Economics, using cautious and often conservative assumptions, concludes that a clean energy transition could take place within two decades, at relatively modest cost and with significant benefits.
The major conclusions of the CEV study are:
- By 2020, it appears technically feasible to meet 100 percent of residential electricity needs from renewables, and by 2030 to have a 100 percent renewable and zero-carbon electricity supply.
- Aggressive energy efficiency efforts are required to reduce wasteful consumption practices. Large amounts of wind, solar and other renewable energy sources need to be built to replace old, inefficient fossil-fueled power sources. During certain times, e.g. when not enough renewable energy is available to meet electricity demand, some existing fossil-fueled generation would be used to meet demand. Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) would be purchased to offset these emissions.
- The additional cost of switching to a 100 percent renewable electricity supply is modest: average customer bills are expected to increase by roughly 8–12 percent.4 The indirect costs of current practices to individuals and society (i.e. environmental and health-related costs), are not accounted for in this comparison.
- These costs are relative to a business-as-usual scenario and assume a carbon policy in the U.S. sometime between 2015 and 2020, resulting in an average carbon price for the period 2013–2020 of $5.70 per ton, and an average price between 2021 and 2030 of $35 per ton. Depending on carbon and fossil fuel prices, the CEV could provide savings relative to business-as-usual in the later years of the study period.
- A transition to 100 percent renewable electricity significantly reduces the need to buy and burn fossil fuels for power generation and dramatically lowers carbon emissions and other pollution. It also fosters local economic development, offers insurance against fluctuations in fuel prices and minimizes harmful environmental and health impacts of power generation.