New York State Steps Up On Clean Energy--10 years, $5 billion

Here’s the news, hot off the press: New York’s Governor Cuomo has proposed committing $5 billion—that’s right—a walloping $5 billion, over the next 10 years, to make New York state a clean-power powerhouse. The proposal, submitted yesterday afternoon as a part of a regulatory filing, would put the Empire State on a clear glide path toward meeting its existing commitments to cut carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030, and 80 percent by 2050. That’s pretty impressive.

There’s more, too. The governor’s new, 10-year plan will give industry the long-term certainty it needs to invest in new and existing facilities, and to hire and train more workers, creating new, local jobs. Already, thanks to New York’s existing clean power programs, like the NY-Sun solar initiative, big clean energy companies such as Solar City are seeing New York as an attractive place to set up shop. Solar City will not only build a huge solar manufacturing facility in Buffalo, but now, according to a recent US Securities and Exchange Commission filing, it plans to create a separate research and development program in New York state, too.

The proposal includes four main program strategies: market development, technology and business innovation, the public-private New York Green Bank, which was designed to help private lenders move into the field of clean-energy finance, and NY-Sun. Through this integrated approach—and by working closely with utilities, municipalities, and other state agencies and authorities—New York can truly begin to bring clean energy to scale. By promoting energy efficiency and helping to lower the already plummeting costs of solar and wind power, the governor’s proposal will save consumers of big money on energy—an estimated $4-plus billion, in fact. If enacted, the proposal will also play a key role in New York’s efforts to comply with the EPA’s Clean Power Plan to cut carbon emissions from existing power plants. It will make the state’s energy system more resilient in the face of the extreme weather events we’ve come to know only too well. And, it can make New York a model for states and regions across the country hoping to do similar things.

Not too bad for one regulatory filing announced on a September afternoon.

Governor Cuomo and Chairman of Energy and Finance Richard Kauffman have made this proposal as part of their emerging Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) blueprint to redesign New York’s electric system. The goal is for the grid to be better tuned in to today’s realities than the current system of producing and transmitting electricity. Part of the plan involves introducing market innovations—an important step forward in clean-energy deployment. It’s reassuring, though, that as New York’s energy team plans to open the energy system to market solutions, it intends to retain the road-tested Clean Energy Fund programs, originally set to expire next year, that have driven so much growth in clean energy in New York to date.

According to yesterday’s filing, collections for the Clean Energy Fund will gradually step down year over year through 2025. But anticipated increased investment in energy efficiency, distributed resources like battery storage and micro-grids, and utility-scale renewables by the private sector and state’s utilities under the REV should increase overall clean-energy deployment.

Redesigning the state’s electric system is an important and complex task. We applaud these efforts to move into new territory and to create the long-term certainty that industry and investors need. The benefits to New Yorkers will be tremendous—jobs, cleaner air, energy-bill savings, a safer climate. By continuing the Clean Energy Fund program as part of the new plan, New York is building on a foundation that works.