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Karl Rabago | PACE UNIVERSITY

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"Newsweek" featured Professor of Law Karl R. Rabago piece "America's Problems with Renewable Energy Can Be Solved by Building Way More Solar and Wind than We Need"

10/10/2019

"Newsweek" featured Professor of Law Karl R. Rabago piece "America's Problems with Renewable Energy Can Be Solved by Building Way More Solar and Wind than We Need"

The famous inventor Edwin Land said, "It's not that we need new ideas, but we need to stop having old ideas." He seemed to be telling us that solutions lie just beyond our old habits of thinking.

Cities, states and countries around the world are committing to clean energy economies that run on very high levels—even 100 percent—of renewable energy. In New York state alone, four competing bills target 50 percent to 100 percent renewables by or before 2040.

 

Realistically, only two renewable energy resources are large enough to meet these very high-penetration objectives on the supply side in the U.S.—solar (by far) and wind.

Both, however, are variable resources, driven by weather as well as daily and seasonal cycles. Therefore, they must be "firmed"—that is, capable of delivery power on demand—in order to replace fossil resources which can be dispatched as needed. Based on our research, we contend that this firm power transformation is not only possible, it is also affordable—if we stop having old ideas.

One entrenched, and very prevalent, idea—likely a result of historically high renewable energy prices—is that all the power generated by renewable resources must be sold as it is generated. The idea of discarding available wind or solar output is anathema, imposed on power producers when production from these sources exceeds what the grid can accept.

This old idea ignores a fundamental proposition: oversizing and proactively curtailing wind and solar. However counterintuitive, a study our colleagues and we conducted shows that these steps are the key to the least expensive path to an electric grid powered largely by solar and wind.

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"Register Citizen" featured Pace University's Elisabeth Haub School of Law's executive director of the Energy and Climate Center Karl Rabago in "CT shared solar plan nears approval as debate remains heated"

08/12/2019

"Register Citizen" featured Pace University's Elisabeth Haub School of Law's executive director of the Energy and Climate Center Karl Rabago in "CT shared solar plan nears approval as debate remains heated"

...“This is a government program, over-embroidered, highly brocaded and not necessarily ever able to free stand,” said Karl Rabago, a former utility regulator and executive who is now executive director of the Energy and Climate Center at Pace University Law Center. Rabago has also consulted for various groups in the state and was a member of the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering (CASE) team that studied the need for a pilot shared clean energy project and advised going ahead with a full program, not a pilot.

Katie Dykes, who ran the DEEP energy division at the time and now is the department’s commissioner, said she has heard the complaints and proposed changes after the draft rules were published in May. Some were accepted, others not.

“Some of those requirements are put there to protect ratepayers, to protect consumers, to assure that the customers this program was designed to benefit are actually going to obtain the benefits,” she said. “The whole purpose of this program is to address climate change. That’s the primary driver here.”

Rabago worries that the many requirements could cause the effort to backfire, however.

“I believe the administrative burdens might outweigh the consumer protection benefits,” he said.

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"Times Union" featured the executive director of the Pace University Law School Energy and Climate Center, Karl R. Rábago's piece "Commentary: Remove state barrier to clean energy"

05/29/2019

"Times Union" featured the executive director of the Pace University Law School Energy and Climate Center, Karl R. Rábago's piece "Commentary: Remove state barrier to clean energy"

Recently, the U.S. reached an earth-shattering milestone when the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rose above any previously recorded level in human history — and it's still climbing. This frightening reality means the battle against climate change and fight to save our planet has never been more urgent.

The problem? New York's broken Article 10 permitting and certification process by which renewable projects are supposed to be approved is jeopardizing the state's clean energy future.

Enacted in 2011, Article 10 was intended to create an expedited and unified process to move renewable energy facilities through the Department of Public Service's (DPS) siting board process. Article 10 was supposed to be an improvement on requiring project developers to apply for numerous state and local permits. By placing project licensing in the hands of a state body appointed by the governor, the statute acknowledged that these decisions are of statewide importance.

But instead of streamlining the process, Article 10 has become a roadblock mired in red tape, bureaucracy and NIMBY politics.

Forty-two wind and solar projects have initiated the Article 10 process since 2012. Only one has received a conditional approval and it still has yet to break ground. For any state — and certainly one that claims to be a national leader in clean energy — that's abysmal performance.

The major delays in the Article 10 process pose grave risks to New York's clean energy goals because the federal solar investment tax credit and the production tax credit will begin to sunset in 2020 under President Donald Trump. If projects can't clear the Article 10 gauntlet in time, they will leave money on the table or not go on at all.

Together, these licensing delays and financial risks are major blows to New York's clean energy agenda. And the only way the state can stay on track to achieve its ambitious commitments is to take immediate regulatory action to fix Article 10. We don't need to rewrite the whole law but it's past time to make sure it gets the job done.

Here are a few ways the state can step in:

First and most critically, the DPS must mandate that the required timelines under Article 10 are met. Every time. Too often, state agencies and developers get caught up in a back and forth paper shuffle that repeatedly delays projects by months and even years. This is despite the urgent need to deliver renewable electricity to our grid. Timelines set forth in the law should be followed, period.

Second, the DPS needs to conduct a thorough audit of the siting board regulations and propose amendments to reduce the complexity of Article 10. Local communities are not provided a framework to untangle the participation process, while renewable developers working to invest in the state are repeatedly confounded by the overly burdensome nature of the law. This is killing development.

Third, New York should spearhead a public awareness campaign on the economic benefits of renewable energy for rural communities. Wind and solar projects have the potential to create thousands of good-paying jobs and inject tens of millions of dollars into local communities to improve schools, roads and bridges and health care. There is no quick fix for rural communities hit hard by the recession, but there are new opportunities on the horizon. This one deserves a hard look.

Bottom line: The growing threat of climate change demands big investments in renewable energy to protect our planet and safeguard our future. But under the current Article 10 timelines and existing processes, Cuomo's Green New Deal will not reach its goal of 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2040. We can't afford to compromise our clean energy future. New York must seize the moment — and the power of wind and solar — and fix Article 10 now.

Karl R. Rábago is the executive director of the Pace Energy and Climate Center at Pace University's Elisabeth Haub School of Law in White Plains.

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"NBC Connecticut" featured Karl Rabago, the executive director of the Pace University Law School Energy and Climate Center in "Activists Push Back Against Utilities to Brighten Solar Energy's Prospects"

05/29/2019

"NBC Connecticut" featured Karl Rabago, the executive director of the Pace University Law School Energy and Climate Center in "Activists Push Back Against Utilities to Brighten Solar Energy's Prospects"

A New Utility Model
Across the world, solar and wind power are growing rapidly and are expected to become the dominant source of electricity, according to a report released last November by the International Energy Agency. The annual “World Energy Outlook” found that renewable energy could supply 40% of the world’s electricity by 2040, as the electricity sector goes through the most dramatic transformation since its creation more than a century ago. It will require grid investments, improved smart meters and battery storage technologies and new rules for how electricity markets work.

The traditional utility business model needs to be replaced by one that encourages more distributed generation such as that produced by rooftop solar, promotes less energy use and takes into account the costs of climate change, said Karl Rabago, the executive director of the Pace University Law School Energy and Climate Center in White Plains, New York. Utility companies could continue to maintain the wires and grid stability, but customers who are producing solar energy and using energy efficiently are just as effective in meeting demand and at a lower cost, he said.

“We have to confront the question of the fundamental utility architecture,” Rabago said. “Is it capable of embracing this stuff? And what we find is that it’s not very adept at doing that.”

In Connecticut, Pelton of EcoSmart Home Services says it will become harder to sell solar panels if net metering is discontinued. Federal income tax credits are already scheduled to drop and then expire over the next three years and adding solar energy systems will become less attractive to homeowners, he said.

"All of sudden that conversation at the kitchen table doesn't go so well," he said. "We would like to have a little stability."

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"Daily News" featured the director of the Pace Energy and Climate Center Karl R. Rábago's piece "Getting out of the gas fix we’re in: We need more energy but we can’t just keep burning fossil fuels"

05/17/2019

"Daily News" featured the director of the Pace Energy and Climate Center Karl R. Rábago's piece "Getting out of the gas fix we’re in: We need more energy but we can’t just keep burning fossil fuels"

Con Edison’s moratorium on serving most new gas customers in Westchester took effect on March 15; Con Ed recently advised New York’s Public Service Commission that it may have found a way out of the moratorium — by squeezing even more gas through an existing pipeline. Some in the real estate development community may see that as good news. But it’s bad news for Mayor de Blasio and state officials who have committed to cleaning up our energy mix, and it is bad news for the climate and our health.

Several competing forces are aligned against a rational response to the challenges arising from our increasing gas use. Gas utilities make more money by building more infrastructure and selling more gas. Local officials and the real estate industry associate growth with goodness, especially growth of infrastructure that consumes gas — housing and other buildings. Reliable and affordable heating services are essential to life. But the climate is rapidly changing due to fossil emissions, with increasingly catastrophic effects.

We are in the realm of the first rule of holes: “When you are in a hole and want out, first you must stop digging.” New York won’t stop using all gas for some time. But we can’t just keep irresponsibly adding to the amount of gas we use. New York is the largest residential and commercial consumer of gas in the nation. We have to start using less gas and use it in smarter, more efficient ways.

Not yet on the table is something we can do right now that builds to a full transition away from dependence on gas.

So now is the time for public officials at the state and local level to support and adopt a formal policy of Zero Net Gas. A ZNG policy should be built on comprehensive and full life-cycle evaluation of the benefits and costs of gas use and all the alternatives.

First, a ZNG policy would require that real estate developers and Con Ed start talking about possible gas use early in the development process — whether for new projects or renovations, and explore every reasonable opportunity to avoid using gas at all.

Second, if new gas use is unavoidable, the developer and Con Ed must look to the entire range of technologies for making that use super-efficient. Modern boiler technologies and combined heat and power systems (which get energy value from both the burning of the gas and the heat remaining in the exhausts) offer substantial efficiency benefits and make living and working in the building more affordable.

Finally, any new net gas use must be more than offset by reductions in gas use elsewhere on the system. Preferably, those offsets will come from low-income and environmental justice communities where the impacts of inefficient gas use cause health and economic stress. Focus should be on gas-burning stoves, boilers and building heating equipment.

A Zero Net Gas policy will eliminate the driver for new pipelines and the need for a moratorium, while allowing economic development and progress toward climate and environmental goals — like the managed transformation of our energy systems away from fossil fuels. It is a healthier approach — environmentally, socially,and economically.

Some may see what’s going on with gas as a crisis; others will see it as opportunity. It is, of course, both. Shame on us all if we don’t immediately adopt policies like a Zero Net Gas strategy to address it.

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"CleanTechnica" featured Pace University's executive director of the Pace Energy and Climate Center Karl Rábago in "Renewable Energy Projects Power New England Away From Fossil Fuel Dependence"

02/21/2019

"CleanTechnica" featured Pace University's executive director of the Pace Energy and Climate Center Karl Rábago in "Renewable Energy Projects Power New England Away From Fossil Fuel Dependence"

New England is joining the frontrunners in the renewable energy movement, with a little help from the results of November’s elections. With shared power sources and relationships that depend on interconnected infrastructures, the 6 New England states are poised to surge ahead to reduce carbon emissions. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the nation’s first and sole multi-state cap-and-invest program covering power plants, is celebrating its 10 year anniversary. Maine’s new Democratic Governor, Janet Mills, is putting solar panels on the governor’s residence. Massachusetts is trying to get Canadian hydropower to the region.

“New England could be a powerful leader and one hell of a big market,” said Karl Rábago, executive director of the Pace Energy and Climate Center at Pace University. “There’s never been a better chance for them to coordinate to share a vision to put down some of the silly competition that’s existed in the past and retool the region for a carbon-free future.”

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