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NY governor backs transmission projects to carry renewables from upstate, Canada


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NY governor backs transmission projects to carry renewables from upstate, Canada

Transmission projects delivering renewable energy to downstate New York can help reinvigorate the state's economy, which has taken a hit because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo in March ordered all nonessential businesses in the state to close in order to stem the spread of COVID-19. While parts of New York now are reopening, the governor on May 26 outlined ways in which infrastructure projects can jumpstart the economy. To that end, Cuomo said the state would work to build transmission projects to carry renewable power from upstate to areas downstate and also expedite a power line to bring hydropower from Canada to New York City.

"Let's build the cross-state transmission lines to develop that renewable market upstate and satisfy the need downstate," Cuomo said during his daily coronavirus update. "We know they have low-cost hydropower in Canada. Let's run the cable, the transmission lines from Canada to New York City to get that power down here and let's stop talking and let's start doing. Let's invigorate this whole renewable market."

The governor did not specifically name the Champlain Hudson Power Express, a high-voltage direct-current transmission line being built to move power from Hydro-Québec to New York City, and Cuomo's press office did not reply to a question about whether he was referring to that project. But the project's backers and a critic both responded to Cuomo's remarks as if he were.

Project developer Transmission Developers Inc. in a statement said the Champlain Hudson Power Express is ready to meet Cuomo's call.

"We agree wholeheartedly with Governor Cuomo that now is the time to build and now is the time to jumpstart New York's renewable future," the company said.

The project, Transmission Developers said, would create more than 2,000 jobs for New Yorkers and pay an estimated $1.7 billion in new taxes to municipalities and school districts along its route over the first 30 years of operations. The company added that the transmission line also would help the state in its bid to obtain 70% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

Transmission Developers expects construction on the line to start in 2021 and the project to be operational in 2025.

Hydro-Québec likewise said the project would benefit New York's economy and environment.

"Québec and New York have a long history of working together as neighbors. Side by side, we can make the air cleaner and reduce carbon emissions in New York, and that's good for everyone," the company said in a news release. "Let's get this infrastructure project up and running as fast as we can."

The project also has the support of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has said the city will seek a contract for power generation from Canada by the end of 2020.

Meanwhile, the Independent Power Producers of New York, or IPPNY, agreed that renewable energy and transmission projects can help the economy. However, the group said New York should focus on developing in-state transmission to carry renewable resources from upstate instead of supporting a project like the Champlain Hudson Power Express.

IPPNY and Energyzt Advisors LLC in January released a report alleging that the project will not reduce carbon emissions, a finding that Hydro-Québec disputed.

"Spending more than $3 billion to support the profiteering of a Canadian company on a project that will not revitalize the state's economy and will not actually provide an environmental benefit is a mistake," IPPNY President and CEO Gavin Donohue said in a statement. "Expanding New York's own renewable energy industry will allow for guaranteed emissions reductions while creating in-state jobs."

Since the passage of the state's Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act in 2019, which set the renewable electricity mandate and also calls for all of New York's power supply to be carbon-free by 2040, state officials have taken steps to meet the requirements.

New York lawmakers in April backed Cuomo's proposal to speed up permitting of renewable energy projects. The state Public Service Commission recently opened a proceeding to review power grid modernization to help meet New York's goals.