SolarCity and Hunt Country Vineyards Show that Protecting the Climate has Big Benefits for New York

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Heather Leibowitz

Environment New York

New York, NY — Curbing dangerous carbon pollution can reduce the risk of global warming and benefit local communities at the same time, according to a report released today by Environment New York Research & Policy Center. The group notes that New York stands to benefit even more if a current pollution reduction program is strengthened.

“We can cut carbon pollution and build a clean energy economy —which is a win­win for New York,” said Anna­­, Environment New York’s Campaign Organizer. “We’re proving it every day.”

The report, Carbon­ Cutting Success Stories, details how businesses and organizations of all types and sizes are embracing clean energy as a way to create new opportunities and to save money. At the same time, they are helping states to achieve their goals for reducing dangerous carbon pollution. New York has a goal of reducing warming pollution across the economy by at least 40% percent below 1990 levels by 2030. The report comes as New York officials discuss how to deliver on this promise.

“The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is the single­most successful tool in our arsenal to combat climate change,” said New York State Senator Brad Hoylman.

The report highlights seven cities, businesses and institutions that have made groundbreaking progress in energy efficiency and renewable energy that dramatically reduce their contributions to global warming, while also helping their bottom lines. These projects were supported by revenue from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – a program that limits carbon pollution from power plants and makes polluters pay for the privilege of using the sky for waste disposal. Much of the revenue is then invested in clean energy programs.

The report also looks at two exciting projects built to capture opportunities for new markets created by the increasing need for pollution­ free energy.

Here in New York, the report highlights SolarCity’s “GigaFactory” in Buffalo, New York. It will become the largest solar panel factory in the Western Hemisphere when it comes online in 2017. The company expects to create 3,000 jobs in Buffalo over the next decade. The report also highlights Hunt Country Vineyards in Branchport, NY which installed 300 solar panels on its wineries, meeting 70 percent of its electricity needs and cutting pollution by as much as 3,000 cars emit annually.

“Four wineries got solar panels last year, and now another 15 or so will do so this year,” said Art Hunt, owner of Hunt Country Vineyards in Branchport, New York. “We’re trying to show that it’s very cost effective, very dependable.”

The projects highlighted in the report are just the beginning when it comes to potential to use energy more efficiently, and to generate more of our energy from pollution­free resources. Offshore wind energy alone could meet the electricity needs of the East Coast five times over, with zero pollution.

“In every facet of our economy, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is working,” said Anna. “Whether you are a worker looking for a manufacturing job in Buffalo, a parent taking your child to the doctor in Connecticut, a senior citizen living in a retirement home in Maryland, or a millennial having a craft beer in New Hampshire, climate protection programs like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative are helping to save money and create new opportunities – while protecting our climate for generations to come.”

Officials from New York are currently undertaking a review of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and are expected to propose changes to the program in the coming months. Advocates are calling for Governor Cuomo to double the benefits of the program by doubling the pollution reduction goals through 2030.

“This year is on track to be the hottest in recorded history, so now more than ever the New York Legislature must reaffirm its commitment to RGGI and ensure its funds are being used to effectively counter this looming climate catastrophe,” said Senator Hoylman.