As leaders from around the world met in Paris today to work out a new international climate agreement, here in New York, our state's governor, Andrew Cuomo, took another important step in leading the nation and the world toward a safer future: following up on an announcement last week, he officially directed the state Department of Public Service to design and enact a new Clean Energy Standard. Governor Cuomo explained that "as discussions continue in Paris, we are taking real, enforceable actions in New York to lay the foundation for a thriving clean energy economy."
Governor Cuomo's directive to the New York State Public Service Commission today creates an enforceable Clean Energy Standard that will help the Empire State get 50 percent of its electricity from clean sources, like this Long Island solar array, by 2030. (Photo by Brookhaven National Laboratory, via Flickr.)
To meet the goals of New York's State Energy Plan, the Clean Energy Standard will require that New York gets 50 percent of all its electricity from renewable sources, such as solar power and on- and offshore wind power, by 2030. This isn't just a goal but an enforceable mandate that will make New York a leader in clean energy and all the many benefits that come with it--good jobs, lower energy costs, cleaner air for our kids to breathe. "By mandating a Clean Energy Standard," the governor wrote in a letter today to Public Service Commission Chair Audrey Zibelman, "we ensure that this goal is converted from aspirational to actionable." The details of the plan are to be delivered by June.
Governor Cuomo's actions today underscore his emerging role as a leader on a national scale. "Climate change is one of the defining issues of our time," he observed, "and we must act now." The state's new Clean Energy Standard is an ambitious one, but it's eminently doable, following the example already set by California's similar "50 percent by 2030" program. Already, through its successful (and soon-to-expire) Renewable Portfolio Standard, the state has driven more than 2,000 megawatts of renewable energy, including wind and solar, while spurring more than $2.7 billion in direct investment in New York's economy, producing about $3 of investment for every $1 of public support. That impressive ROI can be seen in places like Buffalo, where a new SolarCity manufacturing facility is already employing 450 and will likely hire more than 1400, total, by 2017. With our new standard in place, New Yorkers can expect even more of the same throughout the state. In New York City and Long Island, unleashing the power of offshore wind power will be central to meeting the new 50 percent standard.
Pivotal to the success of the new standard are the details of the programs created to implement it. That's why we look forward to working closely with the Public Service Commission, which regulates the state's utilities, to develop smart implementation plans that maximize the amount of renewable energy installed per dollar invested.
Separately, the governor also directed the PSC to develop a program aimed at preventing the "premature retirement" of currently unprofitable, upstate nuclear power plants.
But the Governor made clear in his letter to Zibelman that financial support for nuclear power plants "should be separate and distinct from the renewable energy goal." We'll be examining this part of the program carefully as details emerge.
With his letter today, Governor Cuomo signaled that New York means business on renewable energy, creating one of the most ambitious and enforceable clean energy programs in the nation. Let's hope that ambition and the governor's forward-looking approach will inspire world leaders as they meet this week in Paris to attend to their most important task.