This blog post was co-written with my colleague Bruce Ho.
The good climate news out of New York just keeps coming. Yesterday, Governor Cuomo announced a proposal to install more than 500 new electric vehicle chargers throughout the state. This morning, the governor officially announced the deal to close the troubled and aging Indian Point nuclear power plant, while committing to replace it with clean energy and avoid any increases in emissions. And shortly thereafter, in today’s State of the State address in New York City, the governor called for developing offshore wind power off of Long Island while he pledged to cut the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative’s carbon cap, by 30 percent by 2030. (As stated in the accompanying press release, the RGGI cap would decrease from 78.2 million tons in 2020 to 75.1 million tons in 2021, and continue to decline to 54.6 million tons in 2030.) If agreed to by the other eight RGGI states—Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont—this pledge, equal to a reduction in carbon pollution of roughly 3 percent per year between 2021 and 2030, will ensure continued climate leadership under RGGI for years to come.
RGGI is a pioneering cap-and-invest program that cuts carbon pollution from the power sector in nine Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states. Since 2009, it has proved to be an incredible success, helping cut power plant carbon pollution by more than 37 percent, all while:
- generating $2.9 billion in economic benefits;
- saving consumers a substantial $618 million on their energy bills—with $4 billion more in savings expected in the coming years;
- creating 30,000 job-years (a job-year equals one-year of full-time work); and
- saving $10 billion in health costs, thanks to reduced air pollution.
Over the last year, the RGGI states have been conducting a program review to determine how best to continue cutting carbon pollution post-2020. The states made notable progress on this review in 2016, which sets them up to reach agreement on a package of reforms later this year.
RGGI’s carbon cap currently declines by 2.5 percent per year through 2020. In November, the states signaled they were honing in on a RGGI cap that would continue to cut emissions in the years after that, in the range of 2.5 to 3.5 percent per year. The states’ modeling projected that a reduction in this range would only minimally affect power prices. And as experience under RGGI has shown, the net effect for consumers would likely be positive, as investments in energy efficiency and renewables help drive electricity bills lower and generate economic growth.
Governor Cuomo’s pledge today to achieve a 30 percent reduction between 2020 and 2030—i.e., 3 percent per year—is right in that sweet spot, and would guarantee continued climate progress as a major pillar of the state and region’s clean energy future.
We are confident that in the coming weeks, New York will continue to work collaboratively with its RGGI state partners to enshrine this commitment and other reforms needed to deliver a strong program review outcome. That, in turn, can ensure collective success under RGGI in the years to come and provide a model for states across the country of the many benefits that come from cutting carbon pollution.
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The pioneering Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative has dramatically cut carbon pollution, saved consumers hundreds of millions of dollars on energy, and created tens of thousands of new jobs. Now, as the RGGI states chart a course for post-2020, complementary clean energy policies in RGGI states can enable the program to cost-effectively and ambitiously cut carbon pollution by as much as 5 percent a year.