California’s Energy Nightmare is a Cautionary Tale For New York’s Climate Policies

Legislative Column from Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay

Rushed, politically driven policy making doesn’t work, and California’s current energy crisis is proof of this fact. This week, officials declared a statewide energy grid emergency and warned of potential blackouts as California faces a late-summer heat wave. Residents have been asked to limit their energy consumption by cutting down on major appliance use, including electric-vehicle chargers. That translates to, “Stop using your air conditioners and stay home unless your car already has a full battery.”

The stability of California’s energy grid is dangerously uncertain. Ironically, the call for residents to scale back on charging electric cars comes just a week after the state announced it would ban the sale of new gas-powered vehicles by 2035.

This is alarming, and sadly, New York is heading down the exact same path thanks to the 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) that completely overhauls energy policy and industry. We cannot allow this to happen. 

California, like New York, fancies itself as a leader in climate policy. And also like New York, it has taken a laudable idea, clean energy, and completely missed the mark on how to execute it. Per the California Energy Commission, utilities are already expected to procure one-third of retail sales by renewable resources, with that number jumping to 60% by 2030. It expects to be “100% clean energy by 2045.” Residents are going to have a hard time getting to work, school and the grocery store if they can’t charge the electric cars they are being forced to buy, though.

What’s going on in California is dangerous, and unless we heed this warning seriously, New Yorkers are going to be in the same position in the very near future. Policy analysts in our state have issued dire warnings about some of the provisions in the CLCPA, including one assessment from the Empire Center for Public Policy estimating energy deficits could lead to a supply shortage of as much as 10% by 2040. With the electrical grid already strained, an energy shortage or blackout during, for example, a summer heat wave similar to the one we just experienced, or a winter storm, could prove fatal. 

Further, not only will our energy grid be at risk due to this dramatic overhaul, but its implementation is also going to costs billions of dollars in increased taxes, utility expenses and retrofitting. These costs will undoubtedly be passed down to residents. A more expensive, less reliable energy grid serves no one, and masquerading this bad policy around as “climate consciousness” is disingenuous at best.

As I have repeatedly pointed out, New York only contributes around 0.5% of global carbon emissions and only 3% of emissions in the U.S. New York is already “green” by almost every conceivable metric. Our Conference has always stood for a better environment and that is an important goal, but without a full cost-benefit analysis, and a plan in place to mitigate the type of disaster we are seeing on the West Coast, we must pause what we are doing now before we find ourselves in a crisis. Thankfully, we have the benefit of learning from someone else’s mistakes, wasting that chance is irresponsible and foolish.