More Efficiency for New York Means More Savings, Carbon & $

The New York Public Service Commission today ordered regulated utilities in the state to ramp up their energy savings to satisfy an increasing percent of total electricity and gas demand each year through 2025. The utilities will be saving energy, instead of needing more energy from the grid and gas system. Energy efficiency is the foundation of our growing clean, green energy economy in New York; using less energy by being smarter and more efficient with how and when we use it, is cheaper and better than using more energy, even if it’s from clean and renewable sources.  Energy efficiency and building electrification is also going to provide one-third of the emissions reductions we need to achieve the state’s 40 percent by 2030 goal under the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), which came into force on January 1st. The order will create an additional $2 billion in electric and gas efficiency and heat pump programs that will ramp up to total 2 percent of electric demand (3 percent when Long Island Power Authority and New York Power Authority efforts are included) and 1.3 percent of gas demand by 2025, saving a total of more than 35 trillion Btu of energy through 2025, that's as much energy as used annually by 340,000 homes. These savings levels are equal to the strongest in the country.

Last year New York’s position improved in the ACEEE state scorecard rankings (up a position, and back into the top 5!); now, with this order we have an enormous boost to achieving our statewide energy efficiency goals. We are still digging in to the details, but having an order and moving the ball forward on efficiency and heat pumps is hugely important for all our CLCPA and clean energy goals.

History of this proceeding

The order adopting accelerated energy efficiency targets was issued in December 2018, thereby officially adopting the 185 TBtu energy savings goal announced by Governor Cuomo on Earth Day 2018. That order was the culmination of years of advocacy by dozens of groups and thousands of individuals to assure that New York is taking full advantage of the cheapest, fastest, and most homegrown climate policy we have, reducing the amount of energy used in homes and businesses in New York, while delivering more comfortable, safer buildings and offices, and lowering bills for everyone. By ordering this ramp up to 2 percent electricity and 1.3 percent gas savings rates for utilities by 2025, the PSC has placed New York firmly at the head of the pack of leading states taking full advantage of all the benefits of strong energy efficiency programs.

Here is a summary of New York’s efficiency progress:

Things included in this order that are new and important

Spending on programs for Low and Moderate Income customers will equal 20 percent of expanded expenditures. Programs for affordable multifamily housing are especially important in New York City and in other cities around the state, where multifamily buildings make up the majority of the housing stock.

Specific goals and expanded funding for heat pumps are also included, to further New York’s building electrification goals. The state will develop a roadmap for clean heating and cooling, to chart the transition away from burning fossil fuels in our buildings for heat and hot water. To reach New York’s CLCPA goals of a net zero carbon economy by 2050, cleanly generated electricity powering highly efficient electric appliances for heat and hot water must become ubiquitous throughout the state.

Scaling up efficiency at the state level is critical and is a job-creating, economic development machine

As my colleague, Lara Ettenson, points out in a blog, state level action on efficiency continues to be one of the brightest places for climate action, picking up the slack for a portion of the awful reversal of climate progress at the federal level. It also results in a multitude of benefits, including providing tremendous economic development opportunities.

As of December 2018, there were 123,000 energy efficiency jobs in New York, according to NYSERDA. And with the implementation of this order we’ll have tens of thousands more. If we also move forward on other pieces of the overarching efficiency goal, like appliance standards, we’ll have hundreds of millions of dollars of energy savings for New York customers through the end of the next decade, and hundreds of millions of tons of climate pollution prevented.

Efficiency will help save the planet

Now that we’ve finished a year that was littered with epic climate failures by the federal government, the PSC’s latest energy efficiency order is a great bright spot highlighting the leadership of states and cities in fighting back and moving forward.

We’ve always said efficiency is the fastest, cheapest way to reduce emissions, and this order guarantees we will have more of it, buttressing all the other pieces of New York’s transformation to a green energy economy, all across the state.