New York State and Renewable Energy (Updated 2021)

New York State has set high goals to become a champion of renewable energy. The development of renewable energy sources in our state is essential to:

  1. Reduce our dependence on destructive extraction and burning of fossil fuels and on the nuclear industry.
  2. Create tens of thousands of jobs in manufacturing, installation and maintenance.
  3. Increase investments in sustainable economic development.
  4. Help control global climate change by controlling greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and black soot.
  5. Leave a livable planet for our children and grandchildren.

The press release and video from former Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 2021 State of the State on Energy delivered January 13, 2021 is found here:

During the State of the State, the Governor stated “Green energy is a pressing moral imperative and a prime economic opportunity. New York can and will be the nation's leader for renewable energy innovation and production, all while securing jobs for the future of New Yorkers. Our entire green energy program will create a total 12,400 Megawatts of green energy to power 6 million homes, directly create more than 50,000 jobs, and spur $29 billion dollars in private investment all across the state.” The Governor also warned “Our planet is in crisis. By every metric it is clear: sea levels are rising; ice caps are shrinking; California is burning; the Arctic is melting and deserts are flooding.”

Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA)
The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, enacted in 2019 by a 41-21 vote in the NYS Senate and a 111-35 vote in the NYS Assembly, is one of the most aggressive clean energy and climate laws in the nation. It sets a legal goal that 70% of the State’s electricity utilized in 2030 be produced from renewable energy sources, mainly solar, wind and hydro power. The State’s electricity grid is to be 100% zero-emission free electricity by 2040. Greenhouse gases (GHG) are to be reduced by 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 and 85% by 2050. Energy efficiency is also to improve by 23% compared to 2012 levels by 2030. Construction and buildout goals enacted in the law include 9,000 Megawatts of offshore wind by 2035, 3,000 Megawatts of energy storage by 2030, and 6,000 Megawatts of solar by 2025.

The CLCPA also calls for creation of a Climate Action Council (CAC) of 22 members which will prepare a Scoping Plan by 2022 to achieve the State’s energy and climate agenda. The CAC will also have advisory panels and working groups.

The CLCPA also set goals that all workers in renewable energy manufacturing, installation and maintenance jobs be paid prevailing wages; that environmental justice, low income and communities of color will receive 35% of the financial benefits from renewable energy growth; and that workers and communities dependent on the fossil fuel industry shall be aided financially in a just transition.

Accelerate Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act

In 2020, the Governor signed into law the Accelerate Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act. The act establishes an Office of Renewable Energy Siting (ORES) to accelerate the buildout of large-scale solar, wind and hydro projects in the State. Regulations for ORES are to be established by April 2021, with a goal establishing a mechanism where large-scale renewable energy projects can be approved within one year of application. This accelerated program is structured to require much of the groundwork of developers, including wetland and environmental studies and meetings with town officials and communities, be completed prior to the submission of an application. The ORES regulations will also establish numerous parameters which must be met by each developer in order to achieve approval of their project, including reviewing setbacks, noise and vibration, studies of endangered species, birds and wildlife, wetlands, transportation, etc.

Another aspect of the Accelerate Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act is a provision concerning host communities, insuring they will be paid adequate taxes and for payments to school districts and highway departments. Local laws will be observed unless they are deemed to be unduly burdensome. All approvals of renewable energy projects will be subject to judicial review.

Renewable Energy Buildout in NYS

As of early 2021, the State had 52 large-scale solar projects, 13 onshore wind projects, and 3 offshore wind projects either in existence or contracted for. The 2021 State of the State announced another 24 upstate projects, which included 23 solar arrays and a hydro project.

Offshore wind projects, scheduled to be placed in the Atlantic Ocean off Long Island, already have contracts for 4,500 Megawatts of electricity, one half of the 2035 goal. Several years ago, the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) released a major study finding that Long Island can be powered completely by renewable energy with no need for additional fossil fuels or nuclear energy sources.

The State is also aiming to become a major manufacturing center for renewables. The Tesla plant in Buffalo, New York is currently building solar roofing shingles. The State also has planned a wind power manufacturing facility on a brownfield site in the Port of Albany. The South Brooklyn Marine Terminal would be a staging facility and maintenance hub for offshore Atlantic wind turbines.

The State is also investing $20 million dollars in an offshore wind training institute based at SUNY Stonybrook and Farmington State College, which aims to train at least 2,500 New Yorkers for prevailing wage jobs in wind and heat pump work. The State will also invest $700 million dollars in building electrification solutions for approximately 130,000 buildings, including a variety of heat pumps, and training 14,000 workers for the heat pump market. Over 2,000 Megawatts of distributed solar, photovoltaic panels have been installed in New York under the New York SUN Initiative, announced in 2012. Studies have shown that for each dollar of State money invested in renewable energy, the private sector benefits by an incremental amount.