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New York’s REV Initiative Puts State on Cusp of Climate Change Innovation

Nothing is changing the corporate climate more than climate change. And what state is putting the topic on the front burner? New York, which is motivated by a progressive governor in combination with a dastardly 2012 superstorm.

At issue here is the New York Reforming Energy Vision (REV), which is extremely complex but which at its core tries to incorporate more renewable energies that are generated on site and deliver electrons via localized microgrids. It’s a direct reaction to Superstorm Sandy that left the region in tatters but it is also one made possible because of the development of new technologies.

“In the case of climate change, denial is not a survival strategy,” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo at Columbia University in October, as reported by the Earth Institute and the New York Times. “Climate change is a reality, and not to address it is gross negligence by government and irresponsible as citizens.”

Since 2005, New York has been on a mission to cut its carbon releases. According to the Earth Institute, New York City has cut its greenhouse gases by 19 percent since then and has an aim to halve them by 20250. The state, meanwhile, has a goal of increasing its use of renewables to 50 percent by 2030.

The REV initiative became an official effort after Superstorm Sandy. The region lost power for days on end, prompting policymakers there to devise strategies to become less dependent on the centralized grid and to reduce demand during peak demand. The goal now is to coordinate multiple distributed, or onsite power sources, and to link them together.

Consider peak periods during the summer: consumers are now forced to pay for grid upgrades to allow the network to handle the highest possible demand. The more prudent approach, REV’s advocates say, is to reduce peak demand. How? Smart appliances that share information with the utility, they say. Or, Smart thermostats that can accept signals from the power company, allowing them to remotely adjusted. And, rooftop solar panels that could feed excess power into batteries, which release power when demand is highest.

That would then avoid the buildout of new power plants and transmission lines, the rationale continues. The next step is ensure that utilities, which get paid by how much electricity they sell, are financially motivated to get on board.

“New York is moving to a more market-based, decentralized approach with how it shapes energy policy,” says Richard Kauffman, chair of Energy and Finance for the state of New York.

“This new approach will help protect the environment, lower energy costs and create opportunities for economic growth,” he continues in a release. “By developing innovative market solutions, Governor Cuomo is changing the energy industry into a clean, cost-effective and dynamic system that is more resilient to the impacts of climate change.”

To be sure, Governor Cuomo has taken heat because of the positions he is taking on the nuclear power plant located within a stone’s throw of Manhattan: Indian Point, which he wants to shut down for what he calls security reasons. He holds a similar view on other nuclear power plants around the state, which produce no carbon emissions.

Likewise, he has been criticized for not permitting shale gas fracking or rejecting proposed natural gas pipelines that run through the state, especially when his state has a big appetite for natural gas. The risk of closing nuclear plants or making it difficult to burn natural gas is endangering reliability — the thing he hopes to improve.

For corporate users, energy costs are among its biggest expenses. But power outages could potentially be an even greater expense. The verdict is still out New York’s energy policies. As for the REV initiative, the governor thinks the state can clean the environment and reduce energy usage, which if successful, could make New York a forerunner for the rest of the nation.

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