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New York energy plan would double distributed solar, quadruple offshore wind

Q2: U.S. Solar and Wind Power by the Numbers

Essential Energy Insights - September 17, 2020

Essential Energy Insights September 2020

Rate case activity slips, COVID-19 proceedings remain at the forefront in August


New York energy plan would double distributed solar, quadruple offshore wind

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed nearly quadrupling the Empire State's offshore wind development goals from the previous goal of 2,400 MW of offshore wind capacity by 2030 to 9,000 MW of such capacity by 2035. The Democratic governor is also proposing to double distributed solar deployment to 6,000 MW by 2025, up from 3,000 MW by 2023.

Cuomo unveiled his initial vision of a "Green New Deal" to achieve a 100% carbon-free power grid and economy by 2040 during a Dec. 17, 2018, speech, where he called on the Democratic-controlled state Legislature to pass the plan's various decarbonization measures within the first 100 days of the 2019 legislative session.

The governor filled in the details of that proposal, including the new offshore wind goal, during a Jan. 15 State of the State address in Albany and a State of the State book released the same day. The initiative also would increase New York's mandate for renewable-generated electricity to 70% by 2030 from a current target of 50% by that date and would deploy 3,000 MW of energy storage by 2030.

Under the proposal, the state would invest $150 billion in infrastructure projects over the next five years, including $1.5 billion in competitive awards to support 20 large-scale solar, wind and energy storage projects across upstate New York with a total capacity of more than 1,650 MW.

Cuomo is seeking to establish a $10 billion "Green Future Fund" in 2019 to support clean water infrastructure, renewable energy and clean transportation. In addition, Cuomo said New York will create its first Climate Action Council to develop a plan to make the state's economy carbon-neutral across all sectors. The council will make recommendations on regulatory measures, clean energy programs and state policy actions.

The council will study the feasibility of working with the U.S. Climate Alliance to create a new multistate emissions reduction program that covers all sectors of the economy, including transportation and industry. The alliance is made up of Puerto Rico and 16 states, including New York, that committed to achieving U.S. emissions cuts under the Paris Agreement on climate change after U.S. President Donald Trump announced in June 2017 the withdrawal of the U.S. from the voluntary pact to mitigate climate change.

Renewables supporters and green environmentalists largely applauded the announced proposals, but not all were receptive. The New York Communities for Change's climate social justice campaign director Pete Sikora took to Twitter to criticize inadequacies of Cuomo's plan that effectively seeks to achieve the front end of the Paris climate agreement through 2030. "How is that consistent with granting permits to [natural gas-fired] plants like Cricket Valley and CPV? Meanwhile, right now, the state's at only 5% wind/solar."

Sikora was referring to the approximately 1,070-MW Cricket Valley Energy project that is under construction in Dutchess County but is still waiting on a key environmental permit from the state to expand the Iroquois Gas Transmission System LP pipeline that will supply the facility with gas.

In contrast, the 680-MW CPV Valley Energy Center power plant in Orange County started commercial operations in October 2018 after a state Supreme Court judge sided with the developer in an environmental permitting dispute with the state. The CPV Valley plant is meant to replace some of the approximately 2,075-MW capacity provided by Entergy Corp.'s Indian Point nuclear power plant after its two reactors shut down in 2020 and 2021.

Even though Cuomo's Clean Energy Standard subsidizes New York's remaining nuclear power plants by compensating them for their emissions-free generation as a means of maintaining carbon cuts, Cuomo forced the early closure of Indian Point over a perceived safety threat the nuclear plant posed to downstream New York City. With the expected loss of Indian Point, New York's power grid operator, the New York ISO, has warned that the CPV Valley project is needed to shore up grid reliability for the New York City area.