It’s Time to Get to Work on Renewable Energy Solutions

By Vincent Albanese | April 13, 2022

Renewable energy projects have the potential to bring sustainable solutions not only to New York’s power grids, but to our laborers as well. Now more than ever, we need to invest in long-term infrastructure to support a green future that will create high-quality jobs for decades to come. For the past few years, our economy has been at the mercy of global events. Stress from the COVID-19 pandemic put thousands of hard-working laborers out of a job. Natural disasters and extreme weather, exacerbated by climate change, continue to threaten the foundation on which New York is built. Now, global political circumstances have introduced a new layer of uncertainty to our economy. It’s time to move forward with changes that will address climate concerns and create dependable, good-paying union jobs for New Yorkers.

New York has always pioneered reliable grid infrastructure, supporting millions of acres of farms, powering the homes of families across the state, and lighting the city that never sleeps. We have the tireless work of New York laborers to thank for keeping us on the cutting edge of energy solutions, and we will rely on them once again in our transition to solar and wind power. Projects like Clean Path New York (CPNY) and the Champlain Hudson Power Express (CHPE) will be instrumental in this transition. Both these projects hope to build efficient transmission of renewable energy from upstate, delivering clean energy to New York City and reducing emissions across the energy sector by 22%. Upstate New York already functions on a 90% zero-emission grid, but to drive the renewable energy effort, we must turn our focus to updated and improved transmission infrastructure.

These projects will help to fuel New York’s economy, creating a combined total of over 10,000 new jobs for the next 30 years and billions of dollars of benefits for New York. The state is brimming with skilled laborers and union members who have the knowledge and experience to break ground on CHPE. The workers are ready and the permits and labor agreements are in order; the only obstacle between New Yorkers and a revolutionary grid is the contract approval. The sooner CHPE gets the green light, the sooner we can reap the benefits of clean energy infrastructure: reliable power, economic growth, and a precedent for environmental health.

All New Yorkers deserve to share in the prosperity of clean energy. In our efforts to advance solar and wind projects, it is important to identify opportunities to focus on equity. Historically disadvantaged communities and those who build and maintain existing pipelines face the greatest obstacles in this shift. Both CHPE and CPNY prioritize the fair distribution of renewable power and ensure that experienced laborers will have secure jobs. The advancement of these projects is an investment in the health and safety of every neighborhood, not just those near solar and wind farms.

In 2019, New York set ambitious climate objectives by passing the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. To reach the goals of 70% renewable energy by 2030 and 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040, we must act quickly. We have an arsenal of skilled laborers who are ready to mobilize New York’s green economy. The longer we delay projects like CHPE and CPNY, the less likely we are to uphold our commitment to working New Yorkers, rendering our climate goals and all our work thus far futile. The approval of these projects is an essential step in catalyzing New York’s transition to clean energy.

New Yorkers deserve to benefit from the highest standard of clean, efficient power. With the myriad of ever-arising threats to the stability of our economy, we owe it to ourselves to invest in long-term energy solutions like CHPE and CPNY. New York union members have the specialized skills to carry out these projects quickly, with virtually no community or environmental disruption. We cannot squander the resources we have when there are New Yorkers who are suffering the detriments of an outdated grid. A better future is at our fingertips. Let’s move forward with these projects.

Vincent Albanese, Director, Policy & Public Affairs at New York State Laborers’ Organizing Fund.