Cuomo names “Energy Czar,” pushes green energy development

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Jan. 9 that he has appointed a new “Energy Czar” to guide the state’s new clean energy initiatives and also in his annual State of the State address outlined several new proposals in the energy area.

Richard Kauffman will lead the state’s energy policy and energy finance efforts, joining Cuomo’s Cabinet as the Chair of a newly formed Energy Policy and Finance Sub-Cabinet.

“Today I laid out an ambitious agenda of investments in energy infrastructure, solar power, and an electric vehicle network,” said Cuomo. “Richard Kauffman’s extensive private and public sector experience in energy and finance matters will improve coordination of the state’s energy policy and further the establishment of New York as the national leader in the clean energy economy.”

Among his top priorities as Chair of the Energy Sub-Cabinet will be the establishment of the state’s first “green bank” within the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. The bank will offer loans and grants to further clean energy deployment, coordinate and leverage the state’s clean energy spending and alleviate financial market barriers that currently impede the flow of private capital to clean energy projects.

Kauffman has worked in energy and finance at the highest levels in both the public and private sector. A senior advisor to U.S. Secretary of Energy, Kauffman is one of the country’s leading experts in private sector investment in clean energy. Prior to the U.S. Department of Energy, Kauffman was Chief Executive Officer of Good Energies Inc., a leading investor in renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. He was also a partner of Goldman Sachs where he chaired the Global Financing Group. Before joining Goldman Sachs, he served as vice chairman of Morgan Stanley’s Institutional Securities Business and co-head of its Banking Department.

In his State of the State address, Cuomo outlined several steps to establish New York as a national leader in building a clean tech economy program:

  • NY Green Bank: The $1bn Green Bank will leverage public dollars with a private sector match to spur the clean economy.
  • Extend NY-Sun Solar Jobs: The program will be expanded at $150m annually for 10 years to increase solar panel installations for homes and businesses.
  • Charge NY Program: The Charge NY Program will invest in an electric car network to reduce reliance on fossil fuels by installing a statewide network of charging stations and providing charging infrastructure tax credits.

In just two years, New Yorkers have witnessed firsthand the destructive force of three powerful storms that have crippled the state: Irene, Lee and most recently Sandy, the governor noted. He outlined a series of proposals for the state to fortify and upgrade the systems that can paralyze the state when they fail during an emergency, as well as act to tackle the reality of a changing climate. These proposals draw from the work of four commissions that the governor announced in November 2012: NYS Respond, NYS Ready, NYS 2100 and the Moreland Commission on utility storm preparedness and response.

  • Lower the Regional Greenhouse Gas Emissions Cap: Nine states including New York participate in the CO2 cap and trade program. The current cap is 165 million tons of CO2 and is well above the current emissions level of 91 million tons of CO2. As CO2 emissions have declined over 30% since the cap was established, the governor proposed lowering the cap on CO2 emissions to a level that guarantees the participating parties will reduce emissions below current levels. A major reason for the recent CO2 cut is a widespread shutdown of old coal plants in New York.
  • Increase Alternative Local Renewable Power Sources: To reduce dependence on centralized power plants and avoid outages, the governor proposed increasing the use of alternative local power (distributed generation of electricity) using renewable sources, natural gas, and energy storage.
  • Redesign Our Power System: The electrical power grid and the structures that control it must undergo a fundamental redesign that improves performances and protects ratepayers.
  • Strengthen Public Service Commission’s Regulatory and Enforcement Oversight: Based on the Moreland Commission’s recommendations, the governor proposed giving the state Public Service Commission the regulatory and enforcement teeth it needs to improve oversight and regulation of the state’s utilities.
  • Abolish the Long Island Power Authority: Hurricane Sandy revealed systemic flaws and weaknesses in LIPA’s structure. As recommended by the Moreland Commission, the governor proposed privatizing Long Island service which will be overseen by a newly empowered PSC.
About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.