What the NYS Budget Means for State's Energy Policy

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- When it comes to New York State's energy policy Phillips Lytle consultant Dennis Elsenbeck said 2017 has been a mixed bag.

"From the point of view of alignment, it's a step in the right direction, but we have more steps to take," he said.

Elsenbeck said he advocates for regulatory and legislative items that meet both market and industry needs. Phillips Lytle has a diverse client list.

"They're involved with renewable energy," he said. "They're involved with microgrids, smart grids, involved with looking at developing areas like Brownfield sites."

One major step forward the state took this year, Elsenbeck said was setting aside more than $15 million for energy storage projects. That compliments a Public Service Commission order that each utility come up with two new systems to collect and store energy within their grids.

"Renewable energy, whether it's wind or solar, there's some intermittency issues. A storage system allows us to ride through that," he said.

But moving forward Elsenbeck believes the state needs to better utilize the funding in its budget to help energy companies meet new regulatory standards.

"There's great funding out there and what we don't want to create is additional subsidies," he said. "What we want to do is leverage the funding that is put in place that is budgeted."

As an example, the consultant points to the dairy industry. New York is the third largest dairy producer in the country.

"Part of that carbon footprint from an energy point of view is saying, is there a technology out there that fits the regulatory challenge of reforming the energy vision and yes there is, they're called dairy digesters," he said. "They convert manure into electricity."

Elsenbeck says the technology also improves air and water quality, but right now it's not economically viable for many farmers because it's too expensive to connect that power to the grid. He said the legislature should consider using the $51 million dollars for agricultural projects or the $2.5 billion for clean water infrastructure.

"Why can I not leverage the funding that is put in place in the legislative process and solve issues on the energy side in agriculture, because if I do that, I actually meet the objective of the legislative bills," Elsenbeck said.

And while Elsenbeck, acknowledged he's advocating for his client's best interests, he noted that taxpayers and utility ratepayers are often one in the same.

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