Jan. 8, 2019 By Meghan Sackman
Council Member Costa Constantinides is set to introduce a new bill on Wednesday that if passed will mandate the city to determine the feasibility of doing away with its gas-fired power plants and opt instead for cleaner energy sources.
The bill comes weeks after an electrical equipment malfunction at an Astoria Con Edison substation that resulted in a massive “arc flash” that lit up New York’s sky a shade of electric blue.
Constantinides quipped that the ‘Astoria Borealis,’ the term coined for the Dec. 27 incident at the power plant, “shined a light” on the issues with locating power plants in proximity to residential areas.
“It is nonsense that, in 2019, we still have power plants in residential neighborhoods,” Constantinides said.
The arc flash, however, occurred within a component of the plant that would still be required even with cleaner energy sources, according to Con Edison. And while the incident left many area residents unsure about subsequent environmental risks, officials confirmed that there were none posed by the event.
Still, the Astoria Borealis at the substation has sparked talks toward a cleaner power grid.
“At a time when we’re trying to shed our reliance on fossil fuels, it is crucial we target the low-hanging fruit like our secondary plants in favor of renewable alternatives,” Constantinides said.
The bill, should it pass, will require a report on the feasibility of replacing the city’s 21 gas-fired power plants with renewable sources of energy such as solar or wind units powered by battery storage.
The legislation also requires that by Dec. 30, 2019, a plan and timeline to replace the current power plants with renewables be formed, should the step be deemed feasible in the prior study.
The bill also requires research on six different types of batteries that could be used as backup power sources for the plants when wind or sun are not available.
These power plants, plus the three other city power plants that are fueled by petroleum- an even dirtier fuel- make up about 30 percent of the city’s gas emissions, which would be eliminated by the switch to renewable energy use.
Constantinides’ bill was backed by local leaders including State Sen. Jessica Ramos, who joined the council member outside the 20th Avenue plant today for the announcement.
“Our borough is one of the most polluted in New York City, and this is not an environment we should have to raise our children in,” said State Senator Jessica Ramos. “Council Member Costa Constantinides’ bill to investigate closing gas-powered plants is an important first step in questioning our dependence on dirty energy and toward creating a cleaner, safer, more sustainable New York.”
The bill’s introduction follows plans announced yesterday for a City Council hearing to review the late December incident at the substation and discuss steps toward a greener city.
The legislation also coincides with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent pledge to make the state grid carbon neutral by 2040, according to Constantinides.