The Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth & Community Benefit Act, which Governor Cuomo announced last month as part of his 2020-2021 Executive Budget, would help the state meet its ambitious goals under the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA). While much of the attention has been focused on the section of the Act that would improve the siting process for new renewable energy projects in New York, the Act would also—critically—improve transmission to ensure that renewable energy can be reliably and cost-effectively delivered to customers.
Why Transmission is Important in Meeting the State’s Goals
One of the CLCPA’s overarching goals is the requirement that 70 percent of the state’s electricity be generated from renewable energy by 2030. Achieving this requirement won’t be easy. Currently, New York gets 28 percent of its total electricity from renewable sources, and the vast majority of this (about 80 percent) comes from large legacy hydropower facilities owned and operated by the New York Power Authority. Scaling up renewables to hit 70 percent in 10 years will require a massive amount of new clean generation to come online.
Much of this new renewable energy will be sited upstate and other areas far from load centers, like New York City, where it is needed. Thus, this clean energy will have to transmitted to these areas of the state. However, the existing transmission network is often insufficient to carry this energy to these load centers where it is needed. Simply put, more transmission lines need to be built, and the process needs to move forward faster.
The Act would do four key things to accelerate the development of a grid capable of transmitting large amounts of clean energy:
- Create a bulk transmission investment program that would accelerate development of transmission through existing processes and authorize the New York Power Authority (NYPA) to build these lines by itself or in partnership with others.
- Apply an expedited nine-month siting process for transmission lines that are built within existing rights-of-way.
- Direct NYSERDA, in consultation with NYPA, the Long Island Power Authority, the New York Independent System Operator (the entity that operates the state electric grid), and utilities to conduct a comprehensive study to identify cost-effective distribution, local and bulk electric system upgrades and file the study with the Public Service Commission (PSC).
- Direct the PSC to establish a distribution and local transmission system capital program based on the results of the study, with associated milestones and reviews, for each utility service territory where local upgrades are deemed necessary.
The passage of the CLCPA in June 2019 cemented New York State as a national leader in ramping up clean energy and the broader fight against climate change. However, much more work remains to be done. The Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth & Community Benefit Act, and in particular the section that accelerates the buildout of transmission in the state, is key to ensuring that the CLCPA’s clean energy goals are met.