New York REV Order Poised to Deliver More Clean Energy, a Stronger Grid & Lower Bills for New Yorkers

This blog post was co-written with my NRDC colleagues Raya Salter, Senior Attorney, Energy and Equity, and Jackson Morris, Director, Eastern Energy, who are NRDC's leads in the REV proceeding

Yesterday, the New York Public Service Commission, which regulates New York's utilities, took a bold and historic step toward making New York State's electricity grid cleaner, more reliable and more efficient.

The Commission issued the Track I order as part of its "Reforming the Energy Vision" plan, also known as REV. The order sets the stage for big changes in the way New Yorkers meet their energy needs. New York state is taking the lead in reforming how utilities are regulated in order to scale up on-site clean energy--including energy efficiency, solar, wind, and energy storage--all while seeking to make electricity more affordable. REV also aims to ignite a new green economy for energy services, such as energy-saving building upgrades, and products like solar inverters, smarter meters, energy efficient windows, and insulation.

We haven't yet fully digested the Commission's 300 plus page decision. But here's NRDC's initial take: The Commission's plan creates a road map for utilities to integrate and scale up on-site energy efficiency and renewable energy that will ultimately make New York greener, healthier, and more resilient. The plan provides a policy framework that affirms the state's responsibility for--and commitment to--reducing carbon emissions, and includes requirements for utilities to develop innovative new plans to scale up energy efficiency. The order will also facilitate the widespread use and adoption of electric vehicles and efficient technologies like combined heat and power

Here are three key takeaways from the Commission's order:

  1. Renewable Energy: Significantly, the order creates a path that NRDC hopes will lead to an expansion and an extension of New York's Renewable Portfolio Standard, the state's landmark program for scaling up renewable energy. The order establishes a discrete, parallel process that will chart a post-2015 path for a larger, utility-scale renewable energy program that focuses on onshore and offshore wind power projects and larger solar arrays. In the interim, the order directs the state to issue a solicitation for large renewables projects in 2016 while the longer-term framework is hammered out. This step is essential in order to avoid market uncertainty and sustain New York's momentum in deploying renewable energy projects of all sizes. NRDC will continue to push hard for a Renewable Portfolio Standard that will ensure that 50 percent of New York's electricity comes from renewable resources by 2025.
  2. Energy Efficiency: As New York transitions to a REV future, NRDC and many other stakeholders have pushed to ensure that the state avoids any backsliding on its existing energy efficiency portfolio, even as we undertake a bold transition in how we deliver energy savings. Yesterday's order makes those assurances, and states that the Commission expects overall 2016 efficiency savings from utility programs, coupled with initiatives to be proposed by NYSERDA in its Clean Energy Fund initiative, will be at least equal to 2015 levels. Just as important, the Commission committed to a framework under which utilities will be pushed to procure even greater amounts of energy efficiency in the coming years with smarter, more nimble programs that can adapt to changing market conditions while still ensuring we meet our core public policy objectives. Specifically, NRDC believes that based on best practices in other leading states, a 2 percent annual energy savings target should be what New York ultimately has utilities aim for.
  3. Energy Equity: Importantly, the REV order also includes actions to ensure that utilities create other tangible benefits for New York's electricity customers. The Commission's order requires that utilities implement measures to avoid or mitigate harmful global warming emissions and other air pollution in low-income communities and communities of color; they often shoulder a disproportionate amount of it. The order also calls for strong consumer protections and measures to ensure that low- to moderate-income consumers--including those in affordable multifamily housing--have access to clean energy, such as energy efficiency programs, that can reduce their carbon footprints and lower their bills simultaneously. It is great that the Commission has recognized that all New Yorkers, including low-income New Yorkers, deserve access to the benefits clean energy has to offer, and all can play a role in combating climate change.

In the months and years ahead, NRDC will work hard and remain vigilant in our efforts to ensure that the clean energy potential of yesterday's REV decision becomes a reality. In short, this decision paves the way to boost clean energy in the state, seeks to lower energy bills--especially for the low-income New Yorkers who need it most--put more clean vehicles on the road, and make our electric grid more resilient than ever.

That's news worth celebrating.