The New York Public Service Commission has approved an agreement that will allow electric customers of Niagara Mohawk to buy electric power from wind, solar, and biomass generators through their electric bills. The agreement between renewable energy companies, environmental groups, and Niagara Mohawk resulted from the Commission’s recent approval of the merger of Niagara Mohawk and National Grid.
Independent “green power marketers” will start offering brand-name renewable energy products to Niagara Mohawk customers beginning in August or September of 2002. At least two such companies, Green Mountain Energy and Community Energy, Inc., are planning to enter the market.
Brent Alderfer, President of Community Energy, Inc., explained that linking renewable energy providers with the utility is the strength of the program.
"Now Niagara Mohawk customers will be able to purchase wind-generated electricity from newly-built wind projects in the state without losing the reliability and security of their local utility supply," said Alderfer. "This innovative program is the leading edge of electric customer choice in the post-deregulated markets. Niagara Mohawk and the Public Service Commission are to be commended on their leadership.”
Green Mountain Energy Company, the nation’s largest retail provider of cleaner electricity, expects the program will help foster the development of a market for green power.
“We applaud Niagara Mohawk’s program, and the Commission’s leadership. This represents an important opportunity for Niagara Mohawk customers, renewable energy, and the environment,” said A. Clifton Payne, President of Green Mountain Energy Company’s Eastern Region. “Green Mountain Energy Company is optimistic that a green power market will develop and provide meaningful choices to Niagara Mohawk consumers.”
David Wooley of the American Wind Energy Association who negotiated the agreement on behalf of AWEA, green marketers, and environmental groups, stated: “The Commission Order gives Niagara Mohawk customers a convenient way to buy clean, renewable energy. This is good for the environment and the economy since NY has abundant wind, solar, and biomass energy potential. This action will stimulate investment in development of renewable energy resources in NY.”
According to Wooley, electric consumers in New York currently lack a convenient opportunity to purchase renewable energy products. That will change in parts of upstate New York this summer when Niagara Mohawk implements the agreement. Independent “green power marketers” will be able to sell renewable energy products directly to Niagara Mohawk customers through the utility's billing system.
James Tripp of Environmental Defense, an environmental organization that supported the agreement, stated: “Electric power generation is one of the largest sources of acid rain, climate change, and respiratory illness. We need more renewable energy to protect public health and the future of our economy and environment. We know that consumer demand for renewables is strong, but until now there has been no way to express the preference for green power. We hope this will result in large numbers of customers choosing green power, and that this will increase investment and jobs in New York’s renewable energy industries.”
AWEA Executive Director Randall Swisher stated: "the agreement will also make it easy for large industrial consumers and state agencies to purchase renewable energy."
"Wind energy purchases serve as a hedge against volatile natural gas prices, and help fulfill corporate environmental policies and Governor Pataki’s renewable energy procurement order," added Swisher. “This decision should increase demand for energy from wind energy systems. We applaud the PSC for approving the agreement.”
Swisher noted that the NYPSC order is part of a broader set of policies adopted by New York to encourage renewable energy, including Governor Pataki’s 2001 decision to require state agencies to purchase 20% of their electric power from renewable energy resources by 2010 and the establishment of various programs run by the NY State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to encourage development renewable generation and marketing of electric power from those facilities.
AWEA, formed in 1974, is the national trade association of the U.S. wind energy industry. The association’s membership includes turbine manufacturers, wind project developers, utilities, academicians, and interested individuals. More information on wind energy is available at the AWEA web site: www.awea.org