N.Y. Approves Nuclear Subsidies and Mandates 50% Renewables by 2030

The New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) approved New York’s Clean Energy Standard on August 1, likely saving three upstate nuclear power plants, while requiring 50% of the state’s electricity to come from renewable energy sources by 2030.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) praised the action in a statement following the announcement.

“New York has taken bold action to become a national leader in the clean energy economy and is taking concrete, cost-effective steps today to safeguard this state’s environment for decades to come,” said Cuomo.

Several organizations, including advocacy groups (Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Upstate Energy Jobs Coalition, and Nuclear Matters), unions (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Central-Northern New York Building and Construction Trades Council, and Rochester Building and Construction Trades Council), utilities (Con Edison and Exelon Corp.), and others also applauded the news.

Promoting Renewable Energy

The first-ever New York state mandate will more than double current renewable energy resources, such as biomass, hydro, wind, and solar power. In its initial phase, utilities and other energy suppliers will be required to procure and phase in new renewable power resources starting with 26.32% of the state’s total electricity load in 2017. The percentage will increase annually, growing to 30.54% in 2021. The PSC will adopt incrementally larger percentages through the triennial review process to achieve the 50% goal by 2030.

According to Cuomo, implementing the Clean Energy Standard will cost the average residential customer less than $2 per month. He noted that the 50% renewable mandate is a critical component in reducing New York’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40% (from 1990 levels) by 2030 and by 80% by 2050.

“The Clean Energy Standard aligns with the Governor’s directive to phase out coal power by 2020 and affirms New York’s position as a leader in combatting climate change,” said Richard Kauffman, chairman of Energy and Finance for New York.

Lifeline for Nuclear Power

But renewable energy isn’t the only winner—New York’s financially struggling upstate nuclear power plants will begin receiving subsidies in 2017. The Clean Energy Standard requires all six New York investor-owned utilities and other energy suppliers to pay for the intrinsic value of carbon-free emissions from nuclear power plants by purchasing “Zero-Emission Credits.” The New York Power Authority and the Long Island Power Authority are also expected to adopt the same requirements. Details of how the subsidies will be calculated were rolled out last month in a staff-written PSC proposal.

Exelon announced on July 13 that it had entered into discussions with Entergy Corp. to potentially purchase the James A. FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant in Scriba, N.Y, which Entergy had planned to close. Approval of the Clean Energy Standard allows negotiations between the companies to continue, conceivably saving the plant. Exelon operates two other upstate nuclear plants—R.E. Ginna in Ontario and Nine Mile Point in Oswego—that will benefit as a result of the Clean Energy Standard subsidies.

Additional State Actions

Other directives included in the Clean Energy Standard include the following:

  • The PSC will work with the state’s Energy Research and Development Authority and stakeholders to develop the content and standards that could be used to create a New York-certified clean electric product. The product is expected to be labeled and identified as New York–based clean power, giving consumers the ability to buy 100% clean power, if they want to.
  • The PSC will promote and support maximum expansion of energy efficiency, wherever possible, and evaluate the creation of renewable heating and cooling technologies, such as geothermal heat pumps.
  • The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority will develop a blueprint, which is already in progress, to advance offshore wind energy.
  • PSC staff will work with the New York Independent System Operator and other stakeholders to ensure that necessary investments are made in storage, transmission, and other technologies to secure a reliable electric system.
  • The PSC will require triennial reviews of the Clean Energy Standard to ensure economic and clean energy goals are being achieved.

Aaron Larson, associate editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine)