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NY power producers, unions seek program for 1 GW of nonrenewable clean energy

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NY power producers, unions seek program for 1 GW of nonrenewable clean energy

The Independent Power Producers of New York, along with two major labor unions, filed an Aug. 18 petition urging the New York State Public Service Commission to develop a program that would incentivize the development of a minimum of 1 GW of nonrenewable, zero-emission energy systems that are ready to enter commercial operation by 2030. (Case 15-E-0302)

In 2019, New York passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, or CLCPA, that sets several benchmarks toward fighting climate change, including transitioning the state's energy system off of fossil fuel-fired power. Among those benchmarks is a target to have 70% of power be generated by renewables by 2030 and 100% zero-emission electricity by 2040.

The groups, which include the New York State AFL-CIO and the New York State Building and Construction Trades Council, said such a program is needed "in order to meet the CLCPA's requirement of having a zero-emitting statewide electrical demand system by 2040 while maintaining electric system reliability."

"The commission's [Clean Energy Standard] modification order established policies and mandates to achieve the 70 by 30 target but was silent on how the state should achieve the 2040 zero-emission target or even designate the types of resources that could be used to meet such target," the petition reads. "Nor did the commission state in the [Clean Energy Standard] modification order when it would consider establishing policies to achieve the 2040 zero-emission target."

But the group noted the PSC has the authority, backed by legislation, to establish a pilot program to ensure that the state will meet the 2040 zero-emission target in a way that maintains system reliability.

"The Commission's silence on these matters creates uncertainty in the electricity market and investment community, thereby potentially delaying, unnecessarily, the development of resources that are both zero-emitting and capable of meeting electric system needs that cannot be met fully by renewable energy systems due to their intermittence," the petitioners wrote.

Wind, solar and "limited-duration energy storage" will not be enough to meet electric demand in 2040, the group asserted, pointing to other forms of power generation recommended to the state's Climate Action Council like "bioenergy, hydrogen, carbon capture and sequestration, and nuclear generation" in a recent report by consultant group Energy and Environmental Economics Inc. These power sources would complement a diverse mix of resources that include "onshore and offshore wind, large-scale and distributed solar, in-state hydro and existing and new hydro imports from Quebec, existing nuclear capacity, existing and new combined cycles (CC) and combustion turbines (CT) utilizing zero-emissions biogas, [and] new natural gas-fired combined cycles with carbon capture and sequestration," according to the consultant report.

The petitioners also said a May 3 report to the Climate Action Council by the Power Generation Advisory Panel suggesting green hydrogen and renewable natural gas could substitute for natural gas "if scalability, feasibility and environmental impact and air quality issues can be addressed."

The coalition pointed to a recently-announced green hydrogen demonstration project at the New York Power Authority's Brentwood facility as an example of the type of initiative that needs to occur "on a broader scale and basis."

The groups called on the PSC to initiate a proceeding or establish a "new tier" under the Clean Energy Standard to determine by July 1, 2022, the zero-emissions energy systems likely to be capable of providing, by 2030, the reliability and dispatchability historically provided by fossil-fueled generation.

PSC spokesperson Jim Denn said the commission will review the petition.

"New York already has the most aggressive climate and clean-energy initiative in the nation that will create an orderly and just transition to clean energy," Denn said in a statement. "With the CLCPA, New York is on a path to achieve its mandated goal of a zero-emission electricity sector by 2040, including 70[%] renewable energy generation by 2030, and to reach economy-wide carbon neutrality."