HUDSON VALLEY—Following rave reviews—from the public and press—at a recent presentation in Columbia County, an independent research geophysicist came to Dutchess County to showcase his findings that existing power lines can meet our region’s peak electricity-demand needs well into the future. The presentation was hosted by members of the Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition, a broad-based collaboration of community groups and officials partnered with Scenic Hudson in working to protect Hudson Valley communities from potential negative impacts of new high-voltage power lines. The coalition is interested in innovative energy systems that don’t damage community assets. The state’s Public Service Commission (PSC) is seeking to expand 150 miles of transmission lines that would pass through 7 counties and 25 towns in the valley, ultimately reaching their destination in Dutchess County.
A crowd of over 250 people attended the presentation Saturday afternoon in the Bertelsmann Campus Center at Bard College to hear from Bard College Research Professor of Environmental Science and Physics Gidon Eshel, Ph.D. Dr. Eshel told the group that existing electricity infrastructure can handle downstate peak power loads until at least 2040. Dr. Eshel devoted over 350 hours this summer to conduct the research, analyzing data on mean and peak energy usage, electricity congestion, climate trends and regional demographics. His preliminary analyses have led Dr. Eshel to three key variables determining downstate peak loads: total downstate population, annual maximum temperatures and age distribution of the population.
“There’s simply no need for the proposed power lines at any time between now and 2040. The population rise in New York is not continuing at the pace that it has historically exhibited. In addition, the ratio of those ages 25 to 45 to those ages 45 to 70 has been steadily declining in recent decades, but this is expected to reverse in coming decades,” said Dr. Eshel, “which is important because the young use less energy per capita than the middle aged. Even assuming no energy efficiency gains or renewable energy proliferation, you still see no need for this project.”
A geophysicist with expertise in data analysis and efficiency metrics, Dr. Eshel did not take on the research project as part of a university, agency or even for the Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition, but as an independent researcher. His property could be impacted by the proposed power lines, and he was motivated as a credentialed, professional researcher to prepare a scientific analysis of the consumer-demand issue. While Dr. Eshel is not a member of the Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition, members of the coalition were at the presentation to provide information about the proposed high-voltage power lines and how citizens can be involved in the regulatory review process being managed by the PSC.
People attended the event to learn about the only independent model to date created to assess electricity-demand need before potentially locking ratepayers into a long-term obligation. Citizens also learned about potential impacts the proposed power lines could have on the scenic, historic, farming and general economic assets of the region.
“The Energy Highway threatens the Hudson Valley’s beauty and farmland with towering new transmission lines,” said Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan. “Governor Cuomo has launched another initiative to reform New York’s power grid through innovation and conservation. Gidon Eshel’s compelling presentation shows new transmission lines are not needed. As a result we can immediately begin the transition to a 21st-century energy system, putting New York in the national vanguard and saving the beauty and economy of the Hudson Valley.”
Town of Milan Town Board Member Marion Mathison stated, “Dr. Eshel and the coalition seek scientific review and discussion with the PSC, NYISO, state energy officials, FERC and any and all responsible agencies and scientists. The time to discuss and debate need is now.”
Welcoming remarks at the presentation were offered by Bard College President Dr. Leon Botstein. In addressing the crowd, Dr. Botstein said, “Dr. Eshel is a rigorous man. Environmental policy is often emotional and driven by love of where we live and the desire to preserve it, but he is a stickler for evidence and a stickler for science.”
Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro in making introductory remarks said, “The State of New York needs to prove its case…don’t play politics with the environment, don’t play politics with people’s homes. Our County believes that if there is a problem to be solved and a sacrifice to be made, that it is not going to be done in a way that destroys our natural resources.”
Town of Livingston Deputy Supervisor and fourth-generation farmer Will Yandik said in introducing Dr. Eshel, “The state has not done this work yet, and so we must do it for them.”
Other public officials attending the event included New York State Assembly Member Didi Barrett and Dutchess County Legislators Gregg Pulver and Sue Serino. Representatives from the office of New York State Senator Terry Gipson also were in attendance.
Other members of the Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition who were on hand for the presentation offered their thoughts.
“Dr. Eshel’s analysis is a game changer. Anyone living in, and concerned about, the Hudson River Valley needs to become aware of this issue. People also need to get active through a no-cost membership with the Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition,” said Pam Kline of Farmers and Families for Livingston.
Ian Solomon, with Farmers and Families for Claverack, said, “Before entering into a potentially billion-dollar project, we as ratepayers and communities deserve a hard look at whether it’s necessary. We are fortunate to have such an accomplished scientist willing to take on a study such as this, and it will be good to let people know the issue hasn’t gone away, but has perhaps become even more urgent.”
The Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition includes municipal officials; environmental, historic and land preservation organizations; businesses; and residents who support creation of a modern, comprehensive energy plan for the Hudson Valley and New York State. More information available at www.hvsec.org