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New York Formalizes Renewables Targets with Aggressive Climate Plan

June 23, 2019


Lawmakers in the Empire State have swung behind Governor Andrew Cuomo’s ambitious plans for solar and offshore wind.

New York was poised Wednesday to pass landmark legislation requiring a complete decarbonization of its electricity system by 2040, including ambitious nearer-term targets for offshore wind and solar, after the bill passed what has long been its main obstacle, the state Senate.

The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (PDF) was approved in Albany by the Senate, which last year flipped to the Democrats after a decade under Republican control. The bill was expected to be swiftly passed by the Assembly and signed into law by Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has emerged as a strong supporter of renewable energy in recent years.

The legislation codifies many of Cuomo’s previous goals for climate and energy-related measures, while going further in some areas.

The bill formalizes New York’s existing targets of 6 gigawatts of solar capacity by 2025, 3 gigawatts of energy storage by 2030, and 9 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2035 — the latter being by far the most ambitious such target in the country.

The 6-gigawatt solar target will be enough to power 1 million households in the state by 2025, and “will attract significant solar investment to the Empire State,” said Sean Gallagher, vice president of state affairs at the Solar Energy Industries Association, in a statement. New York has about 1.7 gigawatts of installed solar today, according to SEIA.

The bill requires New York to source at least 70 percent of its electricity from renewable energy by 2030. By 2040 it will shift entirely to a zero-emission generation fleet, and by 2050 it will cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent compared to 1990.

Altogether, the targets amount to one of the most ambitious clean-energy mandates in the country at a time when cities and states have taken the lead on climate change. Separately on Wednesday, the Trump administration finalized its plan to replace the Clean Power Plan proposed under former President Barack Obama.

Central to New York’s plan is the creation of a new state climate action council, which will over the next three years put together a scoping document outlining a strategy for achieving the emissions reductions, including a series of public meetings across the state.

New York already has a relatively low-carbon grid by U.S. standards, thanks to its nuclear plants and the largest hydroelectric fleet of any state east of the Rocky Mountains. Pushing much further will be challenging, however, in part due to the lack of transmission lines linking spacious regions upstate capable of hosting more renewables plants with downstate population centers hungry for the power.

In recognition of that reality, New York has over the past few years embraced offshore wind as one of its best options for installing gigawatts of new utility-scale renewables capacity in the 2020s and beyond.

The state is expected any day to announce the winners of its first offshore wind request for proposal, worth 800 megawatts of capacity or more, having drawn bids from developers backed by Avangrid, Ørsted, Equinor and Shell New Energies.

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