New York Latest State to Set 100% Carbon-Free Goal, with Increased Renewables

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is continuing his push for renewable energy in the state, as the governor on Jan. 15 announced an initiative for New York to achieve 100% carbon-free power generation by 2040. Cuomo’s “Green New Deal,” part of his 2019 Justice Agenda and as part of the state budget, calls for an increase in deployments of renewable energy projects, including offshore wind.

New York is the third state, behind Hawaii and California, to commit to a full portfolio of renewable power generation. The Sierra Club said more than 100 U.S. cities and counties also have committed to all renewable energy, and about a half dozen already have met that goal.

“Let us set the goal, 100% clean power by 2040, highest in the United States of America, a climate action council to eliminate the state’s carbon footprint,” Cuomo said in his State of the State address at the state capitol in Albany. He said he wants groups to “come up with the next generation of clean technology and train our workforce for those jobs.”

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D), who took office earlier this month, has said he wants that state to be powered by 100% renewable energy by 2040. Xcel Energy, the state’s largest utility, in December announced its commitment to 100% renewable power by 2050. Xcel is the first major U.S. utility to make that commitment.

A statement from Cuomo’s office on Tuesday took aim at the Trump administration, which has moved to prop up coal-fired generation and relax pollution standards for power plants. “Amidst the Trump administration’s assault on the environment and in order to continue New York’s progress in the fight against climate change, Governor Cuomo is announcing New York’s Green New Deal, a nation-leading clean energy and jobs agenda that will put the state on a path to carbon neutrality across all sectors of New York’s economy.”

Cuomo’s move comes on the heels of California Gov. Jerry Brown’s (D) executive order last year, which calls for California to achieve carbon neutrality in its economy by 2045. California also has legislation in place to achieve 100% “clean” power generation by the same year.

Hawaii was the first state to commit to 100% renewables, with the state enacting a law in 2015 that mandates all electricity generation to come from renewables by 2045.

NY Legislature Will Consider Proposal

Because it is part of the state’s budget process, New York’s legislature will take up Cuomo’s proposal, and if lawmakers approve it the state will have the most aggressive carbon-free energy target in the country.

The major piece in Cuomo’s proposal is to increase the state’s Clean Energy Standard from 50% to 70% renewable energy by 2030. The new deal’s goals also include:

  • A nearly fourfold increase in New York’s offshore wind target, to 9,000 MW by 2035, a jump from the original goal of 2,400 MW by 2030.
  • Adding new large-scale, land-based wind and solar resources through the Clean Energy Standard, more than doubling the current deployment.
  • A 100% increase in distributed solar projects, with a goal of 6,000 MW by 2025; the original target was 3,000 MW by 2023.
  • Having at least 3,000 MW of energy storage in operation by 2030.

Cuomo also said the state has $1.5 billion in competitive awards in support of 20 large-scale wind, solar, and energy storage projects across upstate New York. The projects, all expected to be online by 2022, would have a generation capacity of about 1,650 MW.

There were some critics of the governor’s plan. Micheal Kracker, an executive with Unshackle Upstate, a pro-business group, said the proposal would cause New Yorkers to pay more for their power.

“We can all get behind an increase in reliance on renewables, but setting a date and not really giving us a path forward how to get there, is no doubt going to lead to higher utility bills for families and businesses across the state,” Kracker said in an interview with National Public Radio.

Praise from Environmental Groups

Groups that support renewable energy were quick to praise Cuomo’s proposal. Anne Reynolds, executive director of the Alliance for Clean Energy New York, in a statement said, “Today was a big day for the clean energy industry in New York and we thank Gov. Cuomo for his recognition of the great potential of renewable energy jobs in New York. The state’s commitment to wind and solar power will attract the interest and investment we need to get projects built. And we applaud the Governor’s announcement that eight new staff members will be hired to accelerate renewable project siting and permitting.”

“Governor Cuomo delivered today on his promise for a Green New Deal,” said Joe Martens, director of the New York Offshore Wind Alliance. “He hit the trifecta by increasing the clean energy standard to 70% renewable electricity by 2030, raising the offshore wind goal to 9,000 MW and investing a nation-leading $200 million in related port infrastructure. These ambitious new targets will accelerate the transition to clean, renewable energy, generate thousands of good-paying jobs and reduce greenhouse gases. These initiatives are good for New York, the region and the nation. The New York Offshore Wind Alliance applauds the Governor’s bold and visionary announcements and commits to working with his Administration to ensure they are realized.”

The Green New Deal also calls for creation of New York’s first statutory Climate Action Council. The group will include heads of several state agencies and other workforce, environmental justice, and clean energy experts to develop a plan to make New York carbon neutral.

The plan got an immediate boost with this week’s announcement from EDF Renewables that it has begun commercial operation of its 80-MW Copenhagen wind park in Lewis and Jefferson counties in upstate New York. The wind farm has 40 turbines supplied by Denmark’s Vestas Wind Systems A/S. The facility has a 15-year power purchase agreement with Narragansett Electric Company, a unit of National Grid.

Darrell Proctor is a POWER associate editor (@DarrellProctor1, @POWERmagazine).