New York’s New Energy Leaders Debut at SyracuseCoE Symposium

Video for the Plenary Panel can be found here.

COE Syracuse Center of Excellence 13th Annual Symposium 2013 Urban Reinvention and Resilience
COE Syracuse Center of Excellence 13th Annual Symposium 2013 Urban Reinvention and Resilience

The SyracuseCoE Annual Symposium features the best and latest innovations in energy efficiency and indoor environmental air quality, among other topics.

This year, symposium highlights included a statewide first: the three newest leaders of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s energy team appeared together for a discussion of the state’s emerging clean energy economy. Symposium attendees left with renewed optimism for collaboration and progress in key financial, regulatory and programmatic areas.

The trio—Richard Kauffman, chairman of energy and finance for New York and chairman of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA); John Rhodes, president and CEO of NYSERDA; and Audrey Zibelman, chair of the New York State Public Service Commission—was appointed over the past year by Governor Cuomo to lead his ambitious plans to scale up clean energy and enhance New York’s competitiveness.

The three are working together and with the rest of the NYS energy leadership team, on strategies and policies to expand innovation in energy to boost the state’s clean energy economy and stimulate economic activity, while ensuring an affordable and reliable energy system.

“Governor Cuomo is committed to clean energy and New York has long been a leader in clean energy, but we want to do more,” Kauffman told the symposium participants.

He encouraged the stakeholders to communicate with the state regarding existing market barriers, so they can determine what government tools may alleviate challenges and allow for private-sector forces to play a more significant role in the clean energy marketplace. “We’ve got to hear from market participants,” Kauffman said. “We want to hear what’s going on in the market—what’s working, what’s not.”

Louis Schick, a partner with NewWorld Capital Group, valued the invitation to offer ideas and help accelerate adoption of energy efficiency measures.

“It has been easy to become jaded and cynical about change and progress generally. Specifically, the gap between promise and progress in New York has traditionally been wide,” Schick said. “The state’s new top energy leaders have shown the will, courage and creativity in getting together, breaking traditional ‘fief’ boundaries and addressing stubborn challenges. I am grateful for their time, consideration and optimism.”

Another industry leader at the event, Kevin LaMontagne, chief financial officer at Fulton Companies, also found the discussion encouraging for increased collaboration between government and business leaders.

“It was wonderful to hear the team’s commitment to working together to transform energy policy in New York,” said LaMontagne. “I was happy to see the team’s receptiveness to feedback and input from Central New York’s vibrant clean tech sector.”

The dialogue and perspectives will also help inform the work of the SyracuseCoE, as it seeks to propel research, development and education in environmental and energy innovations with its partners.

“It was a great privilege to hear from Governor Cuomo’s newest energy leaders at the SyracuseCoE Symposium this year,” said Sherburne B. Abbott, vice president for Sustainability Initiatives and University Professor of Sustainability Science and Policy at Syracuse University. “We appreciated their candor and openness, and we look forward to working together to engage our partners in emerging statewide priorities and opportunities.”

During the symposium, Kauffman, Rhodes and Zibelman participated in a plenary panel moderated by Abbott on Oct. 21 at the Oncenter in downtown Syracuse. The session was sponsored by the New York Power Authority.

“Working in policy in New York is especially rewarding because it’s so quick that we’re able to turn policy ideas into real actions,” said Jill Anderson, NYPA chief of staff and director of energy policy. “You can actually see changes in our industry.”

Kauffman, Rhodes and Zibelman discussed Governor Cuomo’s vision for a new clean energy economy and such initiatives as the proposed “Green Bank” that will help attract private capital to accelerate clean energy projects.

“This state has all of the key ingredients to seize the opportunity: smart energy and environmental policies, outstanding academic institutions, tremendous R &D assets, a robust capital marketplace, big Fortune 500 companies in the market and smaller entrepreneurs entering the market,” said Rhodes, adding that the governor is committed to seizing this opportunity.

“It’s also clear more needs to be done to create an environment where commercialization of clean energy technology can flourish in this state,” Rhodes said.

The establishment of the Green Bank is helping in that area. “The most important metric for the Green Bank will be the investments that it enables in clean energy projects,” Rhodes said. “The purpose of the Green Bank is to take Green Bank funds and leverage them with funds from other entities, principally the private sector, so you get a multiplier there. And because the monies go out of the Green Bank and come back, they then can go out again.”

As chair of the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC), which regulates the state’s electric, gas, steam, telecommunications and water utilities, Zibelman addressed how she sees the role of the PSC in driving innovation and meeting demand. She noted how, as with any system, the electricity system will only work at its best when it works together and works efficiently and is aligned throughout the system.

“We’re at a point in time where we’re actually changing and fundamentally rethinking this system,” Zibelman said. That includes thinking about the customer’s needs as an active part of the system, identifying and removing barriers in market entry and investing in infrastructure.

“New York is in a fabulous position to have both national and international leadership. We certainly have the brains and we certainly have the energy—what you’re seeing is an opportunity to turn this into a true benefit to the state,” Zibelman said.

Kauffman also spoke about several principles that are driving changes in the state’s overall strategy in rethinking energy policies, including making change happen faster, encouraging innovation to achieve better value and choice for customers, leveraging ratepayer funds beyond grants and subsidies to maximize the benefit and enabling markets to work better. “We know that market forces are powerful and by harnessing them we can do more,” he said.

Ed Bogucz, executive director of SyracuseCoE, welcomed the participation of Governor Cuomo’s new energy leaders at the symposium for their first joint appearance. “We applaud their fresh ideas and their keen interest in connecting with New York firms and institutions that are creating innovations in clean energy and environmental systems,” Bogucz said.

The energy leaders brought insights that will help shape the vision for New York’s energy future. “The state is clearly on a path that is leading policy and programs nationally,” said Jim Fox, CEO and chairman of the Board of Directors of O’Brien & Gere. “Central New York’s cluster of manufacturing, design and construction firms is extremely well positioned to develop innovative enabling technologies and deploy integrated solutions here and across the country.”

The SyracuseCoE is New York State’s Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems. Its 2013 Annual Symposium, held Oct. 21-22, attracted more than 400 attendees—including industry practitioners, state and local officials, university faculty and students, and citizens—from throughout New York, more than 30 communities across the United States, and internationally.

This year’s symposium addressed “Urban Reinvention and Resilience,” including presentations on innovations to improve energy efficiency and indoor environmental quality in buildings, construction materials management, urban stormwater management using green infrastructure and community resilience through district energy systems.