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Reducing Emissions

Wed, 10/02/2019 - 19:56

Regular readers of this newspaper know it has made a significant editorial commitment of time, resources, and newsprint to issues surrounding greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution in its coverage of alternative energy sources and the reduction of demand. Small steps within the Star building have included replacing an outdated oil boiler for heat and shifting lighting to power-miserly LEDs. The Star has also installed an electric vehicle charger, available to employees — and readers, too, who know to ask if it is available.

In a rattily 100-year-old structure, this is the low-hanging fruit — solar incentives of the sort available to private homeowners (such as our editor in chief) are not quite there for businesses. But change is coming, however incrementally, and that’s a good thing.

In the past week New York State broadened its options for businesses and municipalities interested in doing the right thing. Local government can apply for state-funded rebates of up to $5,000 for “clean” vehicles put in service since July 1. These include all-electrics, plug-in hybrids, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Grants of up to $500,000 also are being made available for fast-charge or hydrogen filling stations, provided there is local financial support for a fifth of the cost.

But perhaps the most far-reaching incentives are state grants of up to $4,000 per new, high-output, or level 2, charging ports, not just for government, but public and private employers, building owners, and nonprofit organizations. The goal is to add 1,250 new charging spots around the state.

For homeowners there is some sweetness as well: PSEG-Long Island has rebates available of up to $500 for residential, web-connected “smart” chargers. This is almost too good to be true; prices for indoor/outdoor level 2 units can sometimes be found at actually less than the rebate amount (installation and utility use is extra, of course). For example, leases for a new Honda Clarity plug-in hybrid with an all-electric range of about 50 miles and more than 300 on its auxiliary gas engine can be found for about $3,500 down and less than $250 a month — a sugary deal if one’s workplace is picking up the $2.50 needed to bring the battery up to full charge. And forget about oil changes and frequent, costly maintenance; E.V.s and plug-ins cost only a fraction of conventional vehicles to keep up.

Income-tax breaks for home solar installations remain attractive, though they are scheduled to be phased down substantially after this year. Reducing or eliminating fossil-fuel electricity is nice, but being able to charge your vehicle with electricity made on your own roof is icing on an already tasty cake.

All in all, New York State continues to be a leader in de-carbonizing transportation. It is now up to local government, the private sector, and each of us to take advantage of it.