On January 3, 2018, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo pledged to combat climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and by growing the clean energy economy.
The New York state 2018 Clean Energy Jobs and Climate Agenda will slash emissions from existing fossil fuel power plants and further strengthen the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The pledge made unprecedented commitments to clean energy technologies, including offshore wind, solar, energy storage, and energy efficiency. Moreover, environmental issues like removing toxic PCBs polluting the Hudson River and addressing traffic congestion in New York City were also part of the announcement.
The plan is intended to concurrently spur market development and create jobs across the state.
“New Yorkers know too well the devastation caused by climate change, and in order to slow the effects of extreme weather and build our communities to be stronger and more resilient, we must make significant investments in renewable energy,” Governor Cuomo said. “With this proposal, New York is taking bold action to fight climate change and protect our environment, while supporting and growing 21st century jobs in these cutting-edge renewable industries.”
Governor Cuomo will direct the Department of Environmental Conservation to:
- Undertake procedure to implement a 30 percent cap reduction of carbon dioxide, which will avoid nearly 133 million tons of additional carbon pollution region-wide from the electric power sector;
- Ensure that environmental justice communities benefit equitably from investment;
- Reduce emissions from New York’s highest-polluting powerplants;
- Propose complementary reforms to reduce emissions of smog-forming pollutants from peaking units; and,
- Adopt regulations ending the use of coal in the state’s power plants by 2020.
Cuomo called for at least 800 megawatts of offshore wind power that would result in enough clean, renewable energy to power 400,000 New York households. A $15 million investment will train workers for jobs in offshore wind construction, installation, operation, maintenance, design, and associated infrastructure. Part of the plan will seek ways to attract investment in infrastructure and supply chain activities as part of the public and private offshore wind port infrastructure investments.
Tackling Clean Energy Challenges
Two significant energy-related challenges were outlined. First, New York will need to upgrade its aging energy infrastructure at an estimated $30 billion price tag over the next 10 years. Second, methods to store the energy and dispatch the intermittency of clean resources like wind and solar need to be created.
As a result, Cuomo described an initiative to deploy 1,500 megawatts of energy storage by 2025 and employ 30,000 New Yorkers. The goal would produce $2 billion in energy value. The 1,500 megawatt commitment by New York represents the largest such commitment per capita by any state. State energy agencies and authorities will be directed to collaborate to generate a pipeline of storage projects through utility procurements, advancing regulatory changes in utility rates and wholesale energy markets, incorporating storage into criteria for large-scale renewable procurements, and reducing regulatory barriers.
In order to help drive down costs and to strategically deploy energy storage where the grid needs it most, the plan includes proposing at least $200 million from NY Green Bank for storage-related investments and from NYSERDA to invest at least $60 million through storage pilots and activities. These investments would reduce barriers to deploying energy storage, including permitting, customer acquisition, interconnection, financing costs, utility procurements, and regulatory changes.
Environmental Justice through Clean Energy
Low-income households experience energy burdens and can be left behind in clean energy economy restructuring. Cuomo’s strategy aims to ensure that the economic, environmental, and health benefits of clean energy are accessible to New Yorkers who are most in need.
Community solar is an initiative that enables low-income customers to access solar power, reduce their energy costs, and share in the benefits of solar power even if they live in an apartment or other building that cannot support a rooftop solar system. The following steps will help low-income New Yorkers to share in the benefits of solar power:
- Community solar subscriptions for low-income customers will develop through state purchasing power by securing and providing zero-cost savings. That means that clean energy may be delivered to more than 10,000 low-income New Yorkers.
- Low-income energy efficiency programs, utilities, community agencies, solar project developers, investors, and other stakeholders will work alongside the Cuomo state government to develop strategies that enhance optimal low-income New Yorkers’ participation in the growing clean energy economy.
Reconvene US Climate Alliance to Provide Guidance on Climate Change Impacts
The federal government announced its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement in June, and Cuomo said afterward that the Trump administration was in “the State of Denial” about climate change. North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper noted then that “the absence of leadership from Washington” on climate change prompted states like his to reduce pollution and protect the environment on their own and in conjunction with other states.
In June 2017, Cuomo formed the U.S. Climate Alliance with Governor Jerry Brown of California and Governor Jay Inslee of Washington state to ensure that New York state and other willing partners continue to meet or exceed the targets of the Paris Agreement on climate change. The bipartisan coalition that has grown to 14 states dedicated to meeting the Paris Agreement climate goal.
The federal government also disbanded the Federal Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment, which was a group of leading scientists and stakeholders that outlined scientific recommendations that supported state and local governments, communities, and the private sector in planning for the effects of climate change.
Because of the substantial gap to states as a result of the disbanding, Governor Cuomo, as co-chair of the U.S. Climate Alliance and in collaboration with partners, will reconvene the Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment. By deleting federal participation and restrictions, the Advisory Committee will develop recommendations to navigate the challenges of climate change on the local level, empowering its constituents and providing latitude for decision-making.
The governor’s statement indicates that the Advisory Committee will “continue its critical work without political interference and provide the guidance needed to adapt to a changing climate.”
Energy Efficiency Starts in Homes and State Facilities
Overall energy consumption is a necessary element if New York is to achieve nation-leading clean energy and environmental goals. Because homeowners and renters often do not invest in comprehensive energy-saving upgrades due to high upfront costs or a lack of knowledge about financing and technology options, they fail to save money over the long-term. To create a more energy-efficient New York through greater investment and innovation in energy efficiency, Cuomo has proposed the following.
- New York will engage stakeholders in the public and private sectors by proposing a “comprehensive and far-reaching” energy efficiency initiative by Earth Day, April 22, 2018.
- A new 2025 energy efficiency target can be achieved through cost-effective implementation strategies and innovative approaches from both utilities and the Clean Energy Fund.
- New York state facilities should be the models for energy efficiency, so investigation into ways that state facilities can lead by example will be undertaken.
- Appliance efficiency standards, with support for implementation from the Clean Energy Fund, will achieve significant energy savings and fill in a gap “abdicated by the federal government.” Working through the U.S. Climate Alliance and with other partners, New York State will provide certainty to manufacturers that appliance efficiency standards must be met across the United States.