Energy Assistance to Business Roundtable Opening Statement

Albany, New York, February 2, 2010
February 2, 2010

Good morning. I’d like to thank all of you for joining us today to discuss how the state can assist all our industries lower energy consumption and costs while also encouraging the development of a vibrant clean energy business sector.

As all of us are aware, energy costs for New York’s industries are among the highest in the nation, placing our manufacturing companies at a significant competitive disadvantage.

Programs that provide low-cost electricity to selected firms are important, but limited by fiscal necessity in scope. One focus of our discussion today concerns the effectiveness of current state programs that offer business assistance in lowering energy costs through efficiency and conservation strategies and the deployment of renewable energy technologies.

Industry surveys indicate that the average manufacturing facility can reduce its energy consumption by 10 to 20 percent. Investment in energy efficiency improvements can lower production costs (including environmental compliance costs), improve productivity, increase competitiveness and promote job retention.

But significant barriers exist to the adoption of energy efficient systems and practices by the manufacturing sector. In many cases, businesses are simply not aware of the benefits of adopting energy efficiency strategies, even relatively low-cost changes to practices and behavior. Access to the capital necessary to make energy efficiency improvements to systems and facilities is always problematic, but in the current recessionary period, firms are cutting costs in order to survive and capital markets have dried up. Efficiency improvements often also require major disruptions to plant operations, and must be timed to coincide with other necessary capital investments.

Let’s turn to the additional focus of our gathering, the opportunity that the high cost of energy and the imperative for energy independence present for the State to develop a robust clean energy technology business cluster. New York can draw upon it’s strengths in natural resources, research and development capacity, investment capital, and manufacturing, to create new industries and well-paying job opportunities for New Yorkers.

While state energy programs do offer assistance to new and expanding clean energy technology companies, it is not a primary focus. New York’s economic development agency offers financial and technical assistance to business generally for capital improvements and the adoption of more cost-effective processes, but promotion of the clean energy technology industry has yet to become a high-profile mission. It is essential that New York State have a clear, coherent, unified message amongst all State entities.

I look forward to today’s discussion and hope to gain a better sense of how New York’s economic development programs and policies can be more effectively and efficiently utilized and coordinated to foster energy efficiency and renewable technologies, to support businesses that want to deploy this technology, and to assistance commercial entities from Buffalo Niagara to Long Island in achieving significant energy cost-savings through the use of these technologies.