There is a key component missing in our current discussions about renewable energy and addressing climate change. The simplest and most overlooked option is to upgrade our much-depended-on existing energy infrastructure to be as environmentally friendly as possible. This is where the Danskammer Energy Plant in Newburgh plays an important role.

Those making demands for 100 percent renewable energy fail to show the path we should take to get there. And the fact is we are so far from our goals, stop gaps like improving the pieces of the grid we rely on today are a necessary part of the plan if we want to keep moving in the right direction on climate change.

According to the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO), which is responsible for the state’s energy grid, in 2018 roughly 5 percent of the electricity used in the state came from wind and solar power generation. In the last five years New York has added only 100 megawatts of wind generation, and there are currently no wind projects under construction anywhere in the state. Couple this with the closing of the Indian Point nuclear power station and the math is clear: even at an accelerated pace, it would take many years – decades even – to meet the renewable goals being presented right now.

Danskammer’s proposal to repower its plant in the Town of Newburgh to make it cleaner and more efficient is good for the Hudson Valley and good for New York. Remember, NYISO will call on Danskammer to meet the state’s aforementioned energy needs, with or without a newer, cleaner facility. But the repowered plant will reduce emissions by 85 percent on a per-megawatt-hour basis.

The benefits are not just environmental. This project will create more than 450 union jobs during the construction phase, maintain more than 30 full-time jobs at the site and maintain a $5 million payroll. Additionally, it will deliver more than $50 million in revenue to local governments and schools over a 20-year period.

Along with myself, a large number of organizations with members that live with their families and work in the lower Hudson Valley have vocalized support for the Danskammer repowering project including Acting Orange County Executive Harry Porr, Marlborough Town Supervisor Al Lanzetta, Hudson Valley Building Trades, Orange County Partnership, the Construction Contractors Association, New Yorkers for Affordable Energy Coalition, Council of Industry, Hudson Valley Labor Management Alliance, Hudson Valley Construction Industry Partnership and the Construction Industry Council.

All of these groups and their members believe that to truly bridge to renewables, we must simultaneously upgrade our state’s existing energy portfolio and continue to invest in newer technologies. Improving our energy industry is the goal. Fighting climate change is the goal. Until we can achieve 100 percent renewable energy, we must embrace clean, reliable and efficient natural gas and its facilities, including the Danskammer repowering project.

Gil Piaquadio is Newburgh Town Supervisor.