New York Is Fertile Ground for Clean Energy

When many people are asked which state is leading the U.S. toward a renewable energy future, California is the first that comes to mind. And while California is worthy of such distinction, it’s not the only state with a progressive clean-energy agenda. New York should also be part of the conversation.

On Jan. 8, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave his 2020 State of the State address, outlining what his office has called a “bold agenda to continue New York’s role as progressive capital of the nation.” Among the many proposals he put forth was a plan to grow New York’s “Green Economy.”

Renewables Growth = Job Growth

In a 318-page book released in conjunction with the address, combatting climate change is the first chapter, and Cuomo believes tackling the issue will be a win-win for the environment and his state. In 2019, the governor signed New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA). Cuomo claims the CLCPA is the most aggressive plan in the nation for fighting climate change, committing New York to achieve economy-wide carbon neutrality, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions throughout the state by 85% by 2050.

Cuomo’s vision for the electricity sector, specifically, is for 70% of the power supply to come from renewable sources by 2030, with zero carbon emissions from the sector by 2040. Nearly 10 GW of solar, wind, and storage capacity has been installed or contracted for in New York over the past 10 years, including the largest procurement of offshore wind in the U.S. to date.

And the projects have led to jobs. According to Cuomo, there are nearly 160,000 clean energy jobs in New York, and the state has seen clean jobs grow 8.9% since 2016. New York is near the top in many green-job sectors, ranking 3rd among states in solar jobs, 3rd in energy efficiency, 10th in wind, and 4th overall. Energy efficiency jobs were noted to comprise the largest component of New York’s green economy with more than 117,000 people employed. Notably, many entry and mid-level clean energy occupations are said to have significant wage premiums compared to workers in other sectors (32% and 12% higher, respectively).

Wind and Solar Projects

In 2019, agreements were finalized for two offshore wind farms—Empire Wind and Sunrise Wind—with capacity of nearly 1,700 MW. The New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) is expected to issue its second solicitation for offshore wind facilities this year. The solicitation could yield another 1,000 MW or more of wind power.

The state has also awarded contracts for more than 65 land-based renewable energy projects since 2018. Cuomo claims that is the most significant state commitment to renewables in the nation. The governor’s proposal calls for NYSERDA to award 21 large-scale solar, wind, and energy storage projects across upstate New York, totaling more than 1,000 MW of renewable capacity and 40 MW of energy storage capacity. Several of the projects are expected to break ground in 2020, and all are expected to be operational by 2024. The private-sector investment toward development, construction, and operation of the projects is expected to total more than $2.5 billion, while the state’s commitment to the projects is estimated to be $1 billion, paid when the projects begin generating electricity.

Training for the Future

Also on Cuomo’s agenda is a proposal to increase workforce training. Under his plan, the state would invest $40 million—for a total investment of $100 million—over the next five years to build a talent pipeline for clean energy workers and provide the existing workforce with opportunities to enhance their skills. This includes training on energy efficiency, solar energy, energy storage, and more. The goal is for NYSERDA to work in concert with the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development to build partnerships with industry, ensuring that workers are not only trained but also placed in jobs through on-the-job training for new workers, supporting internships, and career pathway initiatives.

Among other plans, the governor hopes to launch a new Offshore Wind Training Institute designed to support the growing offshore wind industry. Farmingdale State College and Stony Brook University, both part of the State University of New York (SUNY), would formally solicit partners for the $20 million Offshore Wind Training Institute, so that training could begin in 2021.

Aaron Larson is POWER’s executive editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine).

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