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Governor Pataki’s pledge to boost the state’s use of renewable energy created a buzz among clean energy advocates and environmentalists last week. By mandating that one-quarter of the energy that utility companies provide comes from renewable resources, Pataki could put New York at the top of the nation’s list of energy-friendly states.

“This is one of the most aggressive renewable strategies in the nation–it’s not a token effort,” said David Wooley of the American Wind Energy Association,

The state Public Service Commission, which is responsible for regulating the power industry, would not discuss details of the governor’s plan, stating only that it plans to convene interested parties to create a renewable portfolio standard. If it’s up to energy experts, though, most of the renewable energy will come from the wind and the sun.

New York already has two big wind facilities upstate, and private companies are considering building another six north of the city and off the coast of Long Island. These facilities are still on the drawing board because of “cost and investor interest to build facilities,” said Anne Reynolds of Environmental Advocates, a lobbying group. “This proposal will really help their chances and provide an impetus to make them happen.”

Of course, this will all take money. To up the portion of the state’s renewable energy from 17 percent of the state’s total energy to 25 percent, Wooley estimates that 4,000 megawatts in alternative power will have to be constructed. That would require a $2 billion investment from power companies to purchase land, and build, operate and maintain facilities, he said.

As long as Albany officials mandate demand, green-energy advocates believe these companies will find it’s worth the investment. “Utilities to this point have been locked into using old fossil fuels, and to change that someone needs to be in the business of buying renewable energy sources, just like they’re in the business of buying coal,” said Marchant Wentworth of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “In other states where this change has taken place, it’s been wildly successful.”

Twelve other states currently have renewable energy standards ranging from 30 percent of Maine’s total energy supply to 2.2 percent of Texas’.

Wentworth anticipates Pataki’s proposal will also reach beyond New York’s borders. “When other states see a state as big as New York making the switch they feel pressure to do the same thing,” he said. “It forces states in other areas to ask, ‘Why can’t we do this?’ And the answer is, ‘We can.'”

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