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Symposium draws focus toward future renewable energy use

Gino Geruntino
Speakers discussed the future of renewable energy during a panel discussion.

New technology could play a vital role in the future of renewable energy, and could end up having an impact on consumers' energy bills. Hundreds of people attended last week's 10th Annual Symposium on Energy in the 21st Century, learning about how New York state's energy production and use will change in the next decade.

"We need to empower customers," said Garry Brown, commissioner of the New York State Public Service Commission. "We still have meters that look exactly like they did in 1957, that you can do very little with in controlling your own destiny. You have very little information on a household basis to make wise and efficient decisions."

Brown says companies need to both move toward more renewable forms of power and help consumers use less energy.

Credit Gino Geruntino / WRVO
Ashok Gupta discusses renewable energy during the 10th Annual Symposium on Energy in the 21st Century.

Ashok Gupta, with the Natural Resources Defense Council, agreed, saying customers should want to become more energy efficient and take advantage of financing when it becomes available.

"That's still a riddle that still has to be solved, in terms of how to drive the demand," Gupta said. "How to create the pipeline of projects for energy efficiency."

Bob Cattell, chairman of the Advanced Research and Technology Center at Stony Brook University, says solar power is only one of several forms of renewable energy taking root in New York.

"We have about 300 megawatts of solar in New York, and it's estimated that over the next four years that nearly 6,000 megawatts of utility-scale solar projects are expected to be built, with another 1,300 megawatts in Canada," Cattell said. "So solar really is becoming more part of the mainstream."

All of the speakers at the symposium say New York state could be taking better advantage of solar and wind technology, and many buildings could also be efficiently retrofitted and designed to reduce their energy footprints. Emerging renewable energy industries could also impact the job market if there is enough demand from consumers.

Keynote speaker Jose Zayas, with the U.S. Department of Energy, says the solar and wind industries currently combine to employ about 200,000 people nationwide.