NYC Being Shortchanged on Little-Known Green Energy Fee, Pol Says

By Nicole Bode | April 17, 2011 3:22pm | Updated on April 18, 2011 7:41am
Clean-energy windmills, like those pictured here, are among the projects being funded by New Yorkers through a surcharge on their ConEd bills.
Clean-energy windmills, like those pictured here, are among the projects being funded by New Yorkers through a surcharge on their ConEd bills.
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By Nicole Bode

DNAinfo Senior Editor

MANHATTAN — New York City residents have forked over hundreds of millions of dollars in surcharges for clean energy projects since 2004, but have watched the majority of the projects and jobs head elsewhere, according to Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.

NYC customers have paid more than $342 million toward clean energy projects through surcharges on their ConEd bills — 40 percent of the total $901 million collected from around the state — but have only received $8 million back in the form of projects and jobs, Stringer said.

"New Yorkers want clean energy — but they also know when they’re being taken to the cleaners," Stringer said in a statement.

The majority of the money — collected from customers' bills under a charge entitled, "Systems Benefits Charge/Renewable Portfolio Standard" — has been awarded by the state to projects outside the city, and in some cases even outside the country, Stringer said. The state has awarded funds to a wind farm in Pennsylvania and a hydroelectric plant in Quebec, Stringer said.

While the city doesn't have any obvious space for windmills or dams, Stringer said it is ripe for other green energy measures including solar power, recycling wastewater, and catching spilloff heat from large commercial buildings.

"We are a city of roofs. The state should be doing much more to make solar power a reality for residential and commercial customers alike," Stringer said in a statement.

A ConEd spokesman said the agency has been pushing to bring more green energy jobs to the downstate region, including NYC. ConEd representatives have been in touch with officials from New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the state's Public Service Commission, which decides which projects to fund, to make that a reality, the spokesman said.

"We've been an advocate of more of that money coming to our service territory," said ConEd spokesman Allan Drury, "We appreciate Borough President Stringer's support on it."

A NYSERDA spokeswoman said the agency has not invested in more NYC projects because not enough city-based projects have applied for the funding, and because those that do are often cheaper to build outside of the city.

"Projects in New York City are, and have always been, eligible for clean energy project funding. Unfortunately, many New York City projects have not sought this funding and those that have often lost to less costly projects outside the five boroughs," spokeswoman Dayle Zatlin wrote in an email.

Zatlin said the state recently allotted $150 million to a project specifically located in NYC and the surrounding areas, the only area in the state to be singled out that way.

"The goal of NYSERDA’s renewable energy program is to reduce the use of dirtier fuels while producing electricity in New York State at the lowest price. All New Yorkers benefit from lower wholesale prices and a cleaner environment from the use of renewable energy," Zatlin added.