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Grassroots Bulletin

July Newsletter

NY Energy Week Focuses on Major Industry Changes       

The second annual New York Energy Week (NYEW) was held in June and brought together more than 4,000 industry leaders and innovators to discuss the state’s energy sector.  Con Edison CEO John McAvoy spoke at the event’s opening ceremony, which was held at Con Edison’s headquarters, and then participated in a roundtable discussion examining cutting edge changes in the energy industry.

Public Service Commission (PSC) Chair Audrey Zibelman, Gil Quiniones, president and CEO of the New York Power Authority (NYPA), and John Rhodes, president and CEO of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), were among the panelists.

Other panelists included Alfred Griffin, president of the New York Green Bank, Angelique Mercurio, founder and CEO of EnerKnol, the entity that founded and organized the event, and Kenneth D. Daly, president of National Grid.

A number of consistent themes emerged giving attendees a clear vision of the steps the industry is taking toward adopting a modern, decentralized, clean energy future.  And while the topics for discussion varied, conference participants seemed to all agree: the energy industry is at a critical juncture for change and actions over the next five years could very well define our energy future for the next 50 years.

Topics for discussion included the state’s recent move to re-examine its utility business model under a PSC proposal called “Reforming the Energy Vision” (REV).

One of the main themes of the discussion was how the energy industry is undergoing dramatic changes with regard to the customer relationship.

“We need to ask and think about how we can create a much more customer oriented system.  We can’t afford not to,” McAvoy said.  “And this is really a continuation of the work we’ve been doing at Con Edison.  We now need to take it to the next level.”

The panel also talked about how to stimulate conversation between different energy sectors that will lead to collaboration, investment, and innovation in technology.  McAvoy underscored the potential of technology to significantly accelerate a transition to a clean energy economy and enhance energy efficiency.  Utility-scale research and development is now partnering more and more with “small, nimble tech firms adding to the overall drive of technology,” he said.

The panel agreed that applications for technology in the energy industry are limitless and range from using electric vehicles and large batteries to create a resilient electric grid, to enabling two-way data communication programs like demand response, which incentivizes people (via a credit or rebate on their monthly electricity bill) to conserve energy during periods of peak or high energy demand. Technological advances like building efficiencies also support the production of renewable energy on a larger scale, while solar panels and wind turbines have come to finally represent a larger percentage of global energy generation as the technology behind them continues to improve.

State Legislature Concludes 2014 Session  

The New York State Legislature concluded the 2014 regular legislative session last month.  In the final week, lawmakers passed a number of energy-related initiatives, advanced Mayor de Blasio’s “Vision Zero” plan, and made changes to the state education system.  However, the legislature failed to address immigration laws or the DREAM Act, which would have provided public tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants.

Legislators now return to their districts to campaign for upcoming elections.  All seats in both houses of the legislature are up for grabs, and Governor Andrew Cuomo is seeking a second term against Republican challenger and Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino.

Con Edison won support in both houses for a bill authorizing “joint bidding” for all public works projects throughout New York City. Joint bidding allows the City’s public works projects and related utility interference work to be bid together. This practice streamlines the contracting process, reduces project delays, cuts costs, and minimizes disruption to New York City’s businesses and residents.  Joint bidding has been restricted to projects in Lower Manhattan since 2004 under a successful pilot program that has aided the lower Manhattan redevelopment project. The bill approved by the State Legislature, if signed into law by the Governor, will expand joint bidding to all public works projects.

In addition to joint bidding, the Legislature took action on another bill supported by Con Edison that directs the Public Service Commission (PSC) to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of the state’s net metering program. Net metering allows customers who generate electricity to sell power they don’t use back to the utility. The intent is to provide policymakers with a review of the true costs associated with net metering in advance of any further expansions of the program.

A key part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to eliminate traffic deaths passed a major hurdle in Albany when the state legislature passed a bill that would let New York City lower its default speed limit to 25 miles an hour.  If signed into law by Cuomo, the measure would let the city’s Department of Transportation reduce the current 30-mph limit on streets where no speed restrictions are posted.

It would also require input from local community boards if the city wants to lower speed limits by more than 5 mph. Winning state approval to reduce the city’s default speed limit to 25 mph has been among the major legislative priorities of the Mayor’s “Vision Zero” plan to curtail dangerous driving and reduce traffic deaths and injuries.

While Congress has failed to address immigration reform in Washington, New York State lawmakers considered an immigration bill of their own in the waning days of the session.  Under the ‘New York Is Home Act’, noncitizens who have proof of identity and have lived and paid taxes in the state for three years could apply for legal status.  The bill, which failed to pass, would also allow Medicaid coverage, tuition assistance, driver’s licenses, and voting rights in state and local—but not federal— elections.

Finally, both houses of the legislature also approved legislation that creates a two-year moratorium or “reset” on the use of Common Core-related test for teacher evaluations, if those evaluations reflect poor test scores.  Some lawmakers have criticized the Common Core tests because they are used to gauge student learning as well as teacher performance.

Volunteer as a Camp Counselor in the Hudson Valley 


Saturday, August 9 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Volunteer with Fresh Air Fund as a camp counselor at Camp Hayden Marks, their summer camp in Fishkill, NY.
Volunteers are needed to help with the day's scheduled activities like playing sports, leading arts & crafts, and socializing with the campers during lunch.  150-200 campers from ages 9-14 will be attendance. This is a rain or shine event. Adult guests are welcome to volunteer.

Since 1877, The Fresh Air Fund, a not-for-profit agency, has provided free summer experiences in the country to more than 1.7 million New York City children from low-income communities. The Fresh Air Fund's tradition of caring provides children with a much-needed respite from the inner-city streets. Thousands of youngsters enjoy summer experiences with volunteer hosts or attend one of five Fresh Air Fund camps in upstate New York.

The camp is accessible by car and the Metro-North Railroad (Beacon Station), a Fresh Air Fund van will transport volunteers to the camp from the station.

Sign-up to Volunteer!  For more information on the organization, visit www.freshair.org. Con Edison is a supporter of Fresh Air Fund.  

An Interview with City Councilmember Robert Cornegy

District 36 - Brooklyn. 

Robert E. Cornegy, Jr., Chair of the New York City Council Committee on Small Businesses, was born and raised in Brooklyn and represents the 36th Council District comprised of Bedford Stuyvesant and Northern Crown Heights. 

He attended St. John’s University and the University of Alabama on full scholarships, earning his Master’s Degree in Organizational Management.  Robert has represented the people of Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights for many years through his work as a community organizer, social worker, and neighborhood advocate working with the underprivileged, at-risk youth, senior citizens, and local business owners, ensuring their voices are heard, respected, and acted on.  Robert  previously worked as a legislative policy analyst for the New York City Council serving the Aging and Veterans committees in the Human Services Division, playing a key role writing important resolutions impacting the entire city on such issues as anti-gun violence, human and civil rights.

What do you see is your biggest priority as the new Chair of the NYC Council Committee on Small Business?
I believe the Chair must be an advocate for small businesses in New York City because of the important role small businesses play as job creators, providing both a cultural and economic livelihood for residents.  I’m on guard against any proposed legal or regulatory changes that will make the city a more difficult place for small businesses to grow and thrive.

What are your thoughts on the Mayor’s agreement with the Council Speaker on paid sick leave, the relatively quick roll out of the program, and its impact on small businesses?
I was initially very concerned that the phase-in period negotiated last year was eliminated in the revised bill, meaning that the new legal requirement would apply to small businesses much sooner. Many small businesses and their representatives in our Chambers of Commerce and other groups raised their voices and we were able to win a six month grace period to allow businesses to adjust to the requirements of the law without fear of penalty. I’m pleased with the public education campaign that’s rolling out now, involving the Department of Consumer Affairs, Small Business Services and other community partners.  As the grace period ends this fall, I’ll be vigilant to be sure that enforcement efforts prioritize protection of workers with the education of their employers, rather than punishment.

What are your thoughts on the proposed increase of minimum wage in the City and its potential impact on small businesses?

I support the request that the city be given the authority to set its own minimum wage. However, I believe that if we receive this authority, we must use it judiciously and implement change gradually and with attention to all of the effects such changes have on the job market.

There are other policy tools we can use right now to encourage the availability of living wage jobs in New York City. I see supporting the growth of the industrial and manufacturing sectors and worker cooperatives as very important means of helping workers earn more.

With a new Mayor, a large new freshman class of Council members and a new Speaker, how do you see these changes impacting New York City’s climate change efforts regarding recovery and resiliency  and economic sustainability?

I’ve been incredibly impressed by my peers in government, including Council Members Treyger, Menchaca and Richards, all freshmen members whose districts were heavily impacted by Hurricane Sandy. They, along with our state representatives and Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez, are constantly fighting to ensure that not just the Council and the administration but also the state and the federal government live out their commitment to help those areas recover and to plan to respond to future disasters more effectively. Luckily, we’re all assisted by the work of strong and vocal grassroots community advocates for these issues.  

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