LIPA's Integrated Resource Plan lays out the blueprint for Long Island's shift to clean energy


The Long Island Power Authority recently unveiled its comprehensive Integrated Resource Plan, outlining how it will achieve the state’s goals of creating a zero-carbon power grid in the next six years.

New York state’s Climate Act of 2019 established several ambitious goals to combat climate change. The state plans to move away from fossil fuels, generating 70 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030 and 100 percent by 2040 — with an overall goal of reducing greenhouse emissions by 85 percent by 2050.

LIPA’s Integrated Resource Plan shows how it will make the shift from fossil fuels, which account for almost half of Long Island’s electricity production, with “imports” from other regional energy markets, such as coal and oil, responsible for 34 percent. Meanwhile, clean, renewable sources, such as solar, account for just 5 percent.

But by 2030, LIPA, which is headquartered in Uniondale, plans to repurpose its existing power plants and cut fossil fuel use to just 14 percent, while slicing import use in half, to 15 percent. According to LIPA, this could be accomplished by increasing the production of offshore wind energy.

“Everybody thinks this is something we’re doing in the future,” Thomas Falcone, chief executive officer of LIPA, said at the recent public information session on Monday in Uniondale, in which he presented LIPA’s plan and invited comments and questions from residents. “We’re doing these things right now.”

But one key factor the plan fails to address is how LIPA’s proposed overhaul of its infrastructure and a shift in power sources will financially impact ratepayers.

LIPA is a public authority that contracts with private companies, like PSEG and National Grid, which provide the electricity and operate the systems that LIPA oversees. According to LIPA, they are the third-largest “not-for-profit” public utility in the United States. However, despite this not-for-profit categorization, LIPA’s rates are the fourth-highest in the nation compared with utilities of similar size, according to the latest U.S. Energy Administration report.

“I read the (Integrated Resource Plan) and saw a lot of great things in there,” said Fred Harrison, a retired teacher who attended a public information in Uniondale. “They address that we’re going to need more electric vehicle charging stations and more rooftop solar and offshore wind — but it doesn’t explain or look at how we’re going to do this in an affordable manner.”

Harrison, who is an advocate for the Reimagine LIPA campaign — a movement on Long Island to transform LIPA into a nonprofit electric utility — spoke at the public session and pointed out that under LIPA’s plan, solar energy use would only rise from the current 5 percent to just 7 percent by 2030.

He also questioned why LIPA wouldn’t aim to utilize more accessible and cheaper solar power, instead of contracting with private offshore wind companies.

“Not only should the feasibility of publicly owned offshore wind be examined, but the possibility of utility-scale publicly owned solar,” Harrison said.

He asked the LIPA’s board members to look into whether “the rapid expansion of rooftop solar and storage could provide us with power we need and be cheaper than offshore wind power purchase agreements.”

“I think the different factor for offshore wind, compared to storage for solar, is for offshore wind there is a set number of federal leases,” Falcone said. “We are still in the early days of offshore wind, so maybe when it is a more mature industry 10 years from now, we’ll look at it differently than we do today — but I think all you need to do is look at Orsted, Eversource, and a variety of other (energy companies’) stock prices, and that is all you really need to know about wind development in the United States right now.”

Harrison said that in communities like Freeport, which have their own publicly owned power systems, residents pay roughly 40 percent less than LIPA customers, and that for-profit utilities have “made lots of money off of Long Island ratepayers.”

“Electric power works best when not run by private interests,” Harrison said, adding that he and other customers share concerns about “huge corporations taking control of the wind and sun for their own gain.”