Under The Radar - November 2015 REV Hearings in Buffalo NY


By Francis White

So the latest round of REV (Reforming the Energy Vision) public hearings in Buffalo NY a few days ago came and went. I attended. Because of the organizing work by community organizations like #PUSHbuffalo, these hearings have been making the rounds to different municipalities throughout the state of New York in an apparent attempt to show that there is clarity on the issue. 

There wasn’t much media there, but there was a very nice showing of concerned citizens and corporate citizens. Some of your favorite community advocates were in the house, and some of your favorite big business advocates were in the house.

Going back a bit, a couple months ago PUSH Buffalo and others helped to organize a New York state sponsored public statement hearing on these REV energy proceedings that would presumably have a big impact on the energy use future for the average Buffalonian and state resident.

Throughout the whole event, I could see the invisible hand of Utility Pimpin at work. There were numerous people that stood up and spoke on the record in favor of truly “reforming the energy vision”, to make the process open, and real to all the people who live here, not just for big utility companies who already benefit off our high gas and light bills. There were people who spoke (some the usual suspects and some representatives of the utility companies themselves) in favor of maintaining the death grip big energy companies already have on our current sources of energy – which is mostly electric and gas.

There are “REV demonstration projects” happening in select areas throughout the state. In various municipalities in New York, the Public Service Commission (New York state energy regulators), and big utility companies or big private corporations have joined forces to finance certain projects that have mainly been solar panel installations. They are touting these particular projects as demonstrations or examples of the renewable energy future that they want to see in New York state – a future where they control the solar, geothermal, wind, and any other type of clean renewable energy game that may develop. For them it would a continuation of the unchecked power and control they have now. It would be like giving the wolf the keys to the hen house. One speaker in favor of this way described it like a trickledown effect where the light and gas companies who have the best interest of the community at heart primarily make all the decisions on how these new, non-traditional forms of energy will work in New York.

A local REV demonstration project taking place in the Buffalo area  is the solar panels going up on select houses in the Fruit Belt neighborhood. On this particular project select homeowners would ultimately receive what amounts to pennies on the dollar, and National Grid would eventually be the primary benefactor of the solar installation not the community resident.

All of this advocacy work on #EnergyDemocracy doesn’t mean a hill of beans if we deliver control of the new renewable and clean energy system into the hands of the entities that are already utility pimping the community right now. In order for Energy Democracy to be long lasting and truly effective, local community control of renewable energy sources must be on the table. 

After the hearing when I was on my way out, I got a text from Utility Pimpin that read “hey sucka, how you’d like the show? If you thought we were just going to hand over control of potentially the biggest energy pimp game to hit New York in decades to a bunch of squares, you must have been snorting something.” Ok, I hear you, we’ll see about that.