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NY governor calls for 'green new deal,' carbon-free grid by 2040

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Speaking in Manhattan on Dec. 17, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo outlined an aggressive 2019 legislative agenda.
Source: Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Citing New York's total Democratic rule coming out of the 2018 midterm elections, with control of both houses of the state legislature plus the governorship, Gov. Andrew Cuomo outlined an aggressive 20-point policy agenda and urged lawmakers to act on it in the first 100 days of the 2019 legislative session.

Among Cuomo's top priorities is the complete decarbonization of New York's power grid in roughly two decades, an aspiration he said would someday encompass all corners of the state's economy, including transportation and heating.

"New York must be the most progressive state in the nation moving to renewables," the governor said Dec. 17, speaking at Hunter College in Manhattan. "There is real economic growth potential and New York will launch the green new deal to make [our] electricity 100% carbon neutral by 2040 and ultimately eliminate the state's entire carbon footprint."

The proposal would put the Empire State on a pathway to zero-carbon power five years ahead of both California, which in September passed a law to reach 100% carbon-free electricity by 2045, and Hawaii, which approved the nation's first state-level 100% renewable energy mandate in 2015.

New York, which already has a clean energy standard that requires 50% of its electricity to come from renewable energy by 2030, still relies on natural gas generation for almost two-fifths of the state's net electricity generation, according the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Accounting for about one-third each are nuclear power and renewable energy, including hydropower, wind, solar and biomass.

The state counts its nuclear energy fleet toward its existing targets of slashing greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050, both from 1990 levels.

Cuomo's announcement came just days after New York energy regulators, with the governor's backing, established a goal of adding 3,000 MW of energy storage by 2030, while authorizing up to $310 million in energy storage incentives, and the state-owned New York Power Authority approved a $250 million investment to boost grid flexibility through the use of battery storage and demand-side management. The moves could enable intermittent wind and solar resources to seize a greater share of the state's power mix.

Renewable energy groups applauded Cuomo's zero-carbon power proposal.

"Governor Cuomo's commitment to move New York to 100% carbon-free electricity is historic, and will cement New York's place among America's clean energy leaders," Sean Gallagher, vice president of state affairs for the Solar Energy Industries Association, said in an emailed statement, citing "massive economic and environmental benefits to communities throughout the state."

Cuomo's list of priorities also includes a new $150 billion infrastructure plan, passing tax reforms and legalizing and taxing the use of recreational marijuana by adults.