The rooftop of Jetro Restaurant Depot in the Bronx, with a view of Manhattan in the distance, is covered with solar panels. As rising utility rates squeeze working-class New Yorkers and power plant owners seek to swap oil for other fossil fuels, calls have mounted in the nation’s largest city to remove the profit motive altogether and seize the means of electricity production. But a government takeover of the city’s utility infrastructure would be no simple feat ― steep costs, lengthy legal battles, and that’s before you get to the challenge of replacing fossil fuels with cleaner alternatives. Blackouts, electrical accidents and pollution would become a political liability for anyone in power. But Brad Lander, the progressive Brooklyn city councilman now running for comptroller, thinks he’s found a way to skip past that and start generating clean, publicly owned electricity almost immediately. Lander envisions spending $500 million over the next eight years to install 25,000 solar panels on rooftops citywide. The city would own and operate the panels through a municipally run utility that, given how much electricity it would generate, could negotiate better rates with Consolidated Edison, the private utility giant that controls the city’s transmission lines. The […]

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