New York Gov. Giving Green Companies That Donated To His Campaign $360 Million

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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New York will give $360 million to a handful of wind and solar power companies, one of which donated money to the Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s re-election campaign.

Roughly 80 percent of the cash from New York state will go to a pair of green energy companies, Florida-based NextEra Energy Inc. and Illinois-based Invenergy. Next EraEnergy made a campaign contribution of $3,000 to Cuomo’s 2014 re-election campaign.

In 2015, Next Era spent $80,000 lobbying state officials. Invenergy spent $22,500 on lobbying that year, according to New York’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics.

Cuomo’s spending will help pay for 11 solar and wind energy projects, including a 101.2 megawatt wind farm by Next Era and a 105.8 megawatt wind farm by Invenergy. The amounts given to either company have not been disclosed.

“[T]he two companies will likely collect about $286 million from the state over the next two decades,” Robert Bryce, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, wrote in The New York Post. “And remember, NextEra and Invenergy will collect those subsidies in addition to the cash they get for actually selling their product. I’ve heard of sweetheart deals, but this one deserves a medal.”

Cuomo committed the state of New York to using huge amounts of wind power 2030 in a State of the State speech in January, focusing especially on offshore wind.

“New York’s unparalleled commitment to offshore wind power will create new, high-paying jobs, reduce our carbon footprint, establish a new, reliable source of energy for millions of New Yorkers, and solidify New York’s status as a national clean energy leader,” Cuomo said in the speech.

These green state subsidies both companies will collect are worth more than double the amount of taxpayer cash than existing federal subsidies. Federal green energy tax credits are worth $23 per megawatt-hour of power, while these subsidies are valued at up to $47.24 per megawatt-hour.

New York Independent System Operator (NYISO), the state’s power grid regulator, sharply criticized Cuomo’s plan to boost state green energy use, saying that it could cause blackouts and would make it hard to ensure reliable electricity. NYISO also noted Cuomo’s plan would require the state to triple its installed wind-energy capacity and add more solar panels than the combined capacity of Spain and Australia, in just 14 years.

Cuomo’s green energy czar responded by saying that NYISO was being “held captive” by special interests and lacks “understanding into the imperative to address climate change.” Cuomo has repeatedly pledged to reduce New York’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions with the goal of slowing global warming. The governor created a $5 billion dollar fund to spend money on wind and solar power.

Solar and wind power get 326 and 69 times more in subsidies than coal, oil and natural gas for the comparative amount of energy generated, according to 2013 Department of Energy data collected by Forbes. Green energy in the U.S. got $13 billion in subsidies during 2013, compared to $3.4 billion in subsidies for conventional sources and $1.7 billion for nuclear energy according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA.)

New York state currently gets less than 5 percent of its electricity from wind and solar, according to EIA.

Cuomo has repeatedly attempted to shut down low-CO2 competition for wind and solar power.

In 2014, Cuomo banned hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for natural gas after a years-long moratorium.   Last month, he finalized a deal that will prematurely shut down the Indian Point nuclear power plant which generates a quarter of New York City’s electricity. Allowing the Indian Point plant to shut down will increase carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 29 percent, according to a report by Environmental Progress.

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