Seeking a balance of power sources
While President Donald Trump is walking away from international clean energy goals, New York lawmakers are looking at ways to implement a state plan to increase the use of renewable energy.
Albany lawmakers who lead the energy committees in both houses say they will push for diversification in energy sources as part of New York’s compliance with the Clean Energy Standard.
That order requires 50 percent of New York’s electricity come from renewable energy sources like solar and wind by 2030, with a phase-in schedule that was set to ramp up this year. It’s a fundamental part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Reforming the Energy Vision policy, which aims to modernize the aging energy infrastructure exposed by Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
In addition to its goal of reducing the state’s fossil fuel dependence, REV has a long-term goal of reducing total carbon emissions statewide by 80 percent by 2050. The plan also aims to decrease energy consumption in buildings by 23 percent from 2012 levels. To reach these targets, the state has undertaken a number of initiatives, including the Clean Energy Fund, NY-Sun, NY Green Bank and the NY Prize competition.
State Sen. Joseph Griffo, the Republican chairman of the state Senate Committee on Energy and Telecommunications, said that a reliable, resilient, safe, clean and affordable supply of electricity across the state is vital to New York’s economy and the everyday lives of its residents.
“One of our big priorities is making sure the implementation of REV is transparent and responsible,” Griffo told City & State.
He also mentioned that his committee would be working on encouraging further buildout and improvement of the state’s broadband infrastructure, which Cuomo has promised to significantly improve by 2018. “We need to ensure that the remote parts of the state also have broadband access and are not isolated from the rest of New York economy,” Griffo said.
Assemblywoman Latrice Walker, chairwoman of the Assembly Subcommittee on Renewable Energy, said carbon pricing, or charging industries that emit carbon dioxide for their emissions, would be on her agenda. “In light of the New York Independent System Operator mentioning carbon taxes on the wholesale market, there will definitely be a conversation about carbon pricing in the upcoming session,” Walker said.
Walker also said she is working toward helping her constituents in Brownsville, Brooklyn, install solar panels on their buildings and obtain energy-efficient appliances that could cut the operating costs of the New York City Housing Authority.
“We are actively helping communities transition to more sustainable energy practices, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and lowering costs,” she said.
Her Democratic colleague, Assemblyman Michael Cusick, was appointed chairman of the Assembly Energy Committee in October.
“As the new chair, my priorities are the committee’s priorities,” Cusick said. “I was just appointed a few weeks ago, so right now I’m in the process of talking with members of the committee and look forward to talking to members of our conference on what their priorities are when it comes to energy production. I know that the house has always been committed to the state’s clean energy goal of 50 percent of renewable energy by 2030, so we would stay on that guideline.”
Although lawmakers look to increase reliance on renewable energy in New York, it will come with a price tag. A recent report by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst noted that a commitment of $31 billion per year in clean energy investment would be needed to meet New York’s 50 percent by 2030 target.
“Through investments at this level, the state can bring (carbon dioxide) emissions down to about 100 million tons by 2030, along with comparable declines in methane emissions from natural gas production,” the report concluded. “Total investment spending at this level would average about 1.8 percent of the state’s projected GDP between 2021-2030, assuming the state’s economy did grow at 2.6 percent per year over this period.”