The New York REV Keeps Running Down The Track...Track II

In New York State's Reforming the Energy Vision proceeding, designed to make the Empire State's energy system cleaner, more affordable, and more reliable, the key to maximizing the benefits lies in the details.

When a state decides to launch one of the most transformative utility initiatives in the nation, you can bet that the ensuing process will be much more of a marathon than a sprint. That's certainly the case in New York's groundbreaking Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) proceeding. Today marks a notable milestone on that longer journey, with dozens of parties--including NRDC and our allies such as the Pace Energy & Climate Center and the Energy Efficiency For All coalition--filing comments on the Department of Public Service's "Track II White Paper." (You can find copies of those comments--NRDC's longer comments as part of the CEOC comments, and the EEFA comments, which NRDC participated in, too--here.) The focus of this round of comments is responding to a number of questions and proposals related to utility business model reform and rate design laid out by Department of Public Service staff, and comes on the heels of a robust stakeholder process that has included hundreds of parties from diverse constituencies. (The Public Service Commission acted on the first part of this process, Track I, earlier this year. More on those outcomes here.)

Like runners in this weekend's New York City Marathon, New York can achieve its important goals but taking the right steps toward the (clean energy) finish line. (Photo: Andy Dickinson via Creative Commons)

The reason the REV proceeding is being watched so carefully is that it's intended to make New York's electric system a model for the 21st century, one that can meet its many challenges while also taking advantage of the new opportunities it presents. Ideally, REV will make the Empire State's electric grid cleaner, more affordable and more resilient. It's a tall order. But already New York has moved out in front on many important climate and clean energy policies, that, if woven together in the right way, can deliver on the state's and the REV proceeding's important promise.

The key to maximizing REV's benefits lies in the details. Most importantly, energy efficiency is crucial to meeting New York's clean energy targets and saving consumers cash. We need to ensure New York continues its history of ambitious efficiency goals--leading states now save 2 percent or more each year--and further expands its programs to make sure low-income electric users are able to tap into these savings. Specifically, utilities must receive the necessary clarity under Track II to sufficiently invest in energy efficiency. Without that clarity, New York could fall behind in capturing this highly cost-effective resource. Also essential is the timely adoption of a Large-Scale Renewables program that ensures New York continues to lead in installing large renewable energy projects such as wind farms and utility-scale solar arrays. Finally, we need to make sure the energy resources that come online under REV help reduce, overall, the pollution that fuels global warming and endangers our health. Delivering smart rate designs and utility reforms in Track II--and including in those designs and reforms metrics that track the pace of clean, distributed resources on the grid and internalize the cost of carbon into price signals--will ensure the state's utilities play the role of clean energy partner in achieving those critical public policy objectives.

New York has already set out a set of serious and ambitious commitments that show the state knows how to lead on clean energy and climate. This month, for instance, Governor Cuomo signed the Under 2 MOU, committing, with a group of more than 45 "sub-national" jurisdictions to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 percent. In the NY-Sun Initiative, New York's got one of the most forward-looking solar policies in the country. The state led the charge to strengthen the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which cuts power plant pollution while it creates jobs and saves consumers money on energy, and we look forward to working with Governor Cuomo's team to do that again as the state updates RGGI to comply with EPA's Clean Power Plan. And, the state's clean energy targets are as strong as any in the country: 50 percent renewable energy by 2030, along with a 23 percent reduction in energy demand in buildings. Public Service Commission decisions in the REV will play a central role in maximizing the environmental and economic benefits of implementing the policies necessary to achieve those targets.

No wonder energy experts around the nation are following this proceeding so closely. Bringing New York's clean energy efforts together will maximize REV's transformative potential, and Track II outcomes are where the rubber hits the road in this marathon. With REV, New York has started down the right track. Working together on the details, we can arrive at the finish line on time.