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Energy Crossroads

Posted on 17 June 2013

By Karl Grossman

Long Island, New York State and the United States, indeed the world, are at an energy crossroads. With the great advances in recent years in clean, renewable energy technologies—led by solar and wind—study after study have now determined that they could provide all the power we need.

The key issue: will it happen?

Gordian Raacke, executive director of East Hampton-based Renewable Energy Long Island, went to San Francisco last month for a “Pathways To 100% Renewable Energy Conference.” What particularly impressed him, said Mr. Raacke, were the success stories told about “how communities moved ahead and did it—not waiting for officials.” Communities led their leaders in implementing renewable energy technologies.

At the event, what an announcement described as a “global alliance” was formed to “build political will among a critical mass of decision makers and set a required goal of 100% renewable energies.”

“It’s clear we could switch to a 100% renewable energy supply,” said Mr. Raacke last week, “The question is whether there is the political will to make it happen.”

There’s also the not-so-small matter of the special interests pushing their energy products — oil, gas, coal and nuclear power — and manipulating governments through political contributions and other means.

This March a group of scientists and energy analysts laid out a plan under which New York State could be powered by 100% renewable energy by 2050. “Examining the Feasibility of Converting New York State’s All-Purpose Energy Infrastructure to One Using Wind, Water and Sunlight,” was published in the journal Energy Policy. The researchers were from institutions including Stanford University, Cornell University and the University of California.

It says: “In brief the plan requires or results in the following changes: (1) Replace fossil fuel electric power generators with wind turbines, solar photovoltaic plants and rooftop systems, concentrated solar power plants, solar hot water heater systems, geothermal power plants, a few additional hydro-electric power plants, and a small number of wave and tidal devices (2) Replace all fossil-fuel combustion for transportation, heating and cooling, and industrial processes with electricity, hydrogen fuel cells, and a limited amount of hydrogen combustion. 3) Reduce energy demand…through energy efficiency measures.”

Involved now in seeking New York State government action on this plan is the Alliance for a Green Economy (http://allianceforagreeneconomy.org) which includes the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club, New York Chapter of Citizens Awareness Network and Citizens Environmental Coalition.

It followed issuance last year of “A Clean Electricity Vision for Long Island.”  This study was commissioned by Renewable Energy Long Island (www.reli.org) and done by Synapse Energy Economics, a consulting firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts long been involved in energy research for utilities, governments and others. It concluded that it is “technically feasible for Long Island to have a 100-percent renewable and zero-carbon electricity supply by 2030.” The energy would come from technologies all “now commercially available,” it stressed—especially solar and wind with an emphasis on offshore wind turbines.

Reports on how safe, clean, renewable energy can provide all the power needed in the world have become numerous. The Renewables 100 Policy Institute, which organized last month’s conference, on its website (www.go100percent.org) presents many of them. They include “A Plan to Power 100% of the Planet With Renewables” featured as the cover story in 2009 of Scientific American, regarded as a conservative and most careful publication.

But how to convert this understanding into action?

“I think it has to come from the grassroots ,” says Mr. Raacke. “Our leaders will follow when the citizens put on their thinking caps, roll up their sleeves and take action…We must do everything we can to put solar and wind energy to work. Use must use solar on every suitable rooftop and cover parking lots with solar arrays. We need to retrofit our buildings to make them as energy efficient as possible. Long Island can and should be a leader on this…. We’re sending almost a billion-and- a-half  dollars a year off the island to buy fossil fuel—oil and gas—to generate electricity.” Instead, “we can generate our own power with renewables.”

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