With Large-Scale Renewables Plan, New York Makes Strides In Race To Lead The Nation In Clean Energy

New York took an important step forward in the race for state clean energy leadership this week.

If you've been watching this contest, you know that California has ambitious plans: Governor Brown's goal, shared by many in the state legislature, is to get 50 percent of the Golden State's electricity from renewable resources by 2030. But now, New York is catching up. And late Monday, NYSERDA, the state's clean energy planning agency, announced a proposal that would have New York devote $1.5 billion over the next 10 years to promote utility-scale renewable energy projects--large wind and solar power developments--here in the Empire State. Once finalized, and once specific, ambitious targets for renewable energy goals are in place, not only will New York's plan spur new clean-energy development, it will help Governor Cuomo fulfill the state's commitment to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050. It will also help New York cost-effectively meet its carbon-reduction targets under the EPA's Clean Power Plan to cut greenhouse gas pollution from existing power plants.

More good news on New York's clean energy leadership is in the offing in the weeks to come, too. The state's new energy plan is expected soon, and we'll be looking for the energy plan to feature an impressive and ambitious clean energy target. NRDC has long advocated for a 50-percent-by-2025 renewable electricity standard as the way to go. This is an ambitious but achievable goal. We're also expecting an announcement soon on the final rules for the state's proposed Clean Energy Fund program. In other words, we New Yorkers might have a lot to celebrate on clean energy in the very near future. (The Clean Energy Fund, by the way, supports the NY-Sun Initiative, the New York Green Bank, and NYSERDA's innovative programs to bring the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy to New York residents and businesses.) The winner of this contest, after all, won't just be doing the most to protect its residents from climate change. It will also create good-paying jobs in the burgeoning clean-power industry. It will save ratepayers money on our energy bills. And it will help our kids breathe cleaner air. That's a winning investment.

New York's ten-year, large-scale renewables proposal would also give clean-energy developers and related companies the long-term market certainty they need to grow their businesses in our state. Here's an example of how that works: Governor Cuomo's NY-Sun Initiative, which will support competitive solar incentives over the next 10 years, has helped draw one of the country's largest solar developers, Solar City, to Buffalo. The company is building a huge manufacturing facility there, with a goal of employing almost 1,500 by the time the factory is running at full capacity in 2017. Solar City plans a separate research and development program in New York, too. This is a success story that should be replicated for all renewable energy technologies.

The state's new renewable electricity proposal, which invites public comment, will help New York take fuller advantage of our incredible renewable energy resources. According to new calculations from the U.S. Department of Energy, developing just 5 percent of our onshore wind-power potential using the 110-meter turbine towers now commonly installed in Europe means New York could meet a full 17 percent of our electricity needs with onshore wind power alone. New York is also blessed with strong winds off our coast. Experts estimate that New York could get at least 5,000 megawatts of electricity capacity from offshore wind power developments by 2025, helping to jumpstart a new, clean energy industry in the United States. And New York's solar resources are actually far better than those of Germany, a world leader on solar power.

New York's announcement this week is the latest indication that the governor and the state understand the importance of leading on clean energy. We hope that the expected release of the State Energy Plan and the Clean Energy Fund program in the weeks to come will add to that momentum. If New York can keep up the pace and finalize a strong, long-term "50 by '25" renewable electricity standard, our state will assume the clean-energy leadership position that it will come to deserve.