New York expands state clean energy standard, moves to boost renewables use in the Big Apple – Utility Dive

Dive Brief:

  • The New York Public Service Commission (PSC) on Thursday expanded the state’s Clean Energy Standard (CES), approving measures to boost renewable energy use in New York City, grow wind resources and maintain the state’s existing renewable generation.
  • The CES expansion was one of three significant energy decisions. Regulators also advanced the first transmission project under the state’s new siting law designed to speed project development; they say the Northern New York project could unlock more than 1,000 MW of renewable energy in the upstate region.
  • And, the PSC took steps to improve utility transparency regarding the financial impacts of climate change. Regulators say they will consider requiring New York’s investor-owned utilities to make annual climate disclosures detailing risks to their companies, investors and customers.

Dive Insight:

New York is targeting 70% renewable energy by 2030, and a zero-emission power sector by 2040, under the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA). The PSC says the expanded CES will allow the state to issue a Request for Proposals needed to meet those goals.

“With this expansion of our Clean Energy Standard, we are further accelerating the state’s historic efforts to grow our onshore and offshore renewable capacity, and create thousands of good-paying clean energy jobs for New Yorkers that will power our economic recovery,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.

The PSC order creates a new Tier 4 large-scale renewable program to value environmental attributes associated with renewable energy delivered into New York City.

Establishing the Tier 4 program “is the state’s most ambitious step yet to clean the New York City electricity system, which is the dirtiest in the state and has had major negative impacts on the historically disadvantaged communities living near fossil fuel plants,” Noah Shaw, a partner at Hodgson Russ, said in an email.

According to Shaw, the expanded CES “sets the stage” to reach 70% renewables “but also righting those historical wrongs.”

Cuomo’s statement noted that the the clean energy plan would ensure “a large share of the benefits go to communities and workers that have been historically disadvantaged.”

Shaw said the Tier 4 program approved by the PSC is different from the originally proposed program, and includes a contract approval process that requires commission review to ensure it benefits the public.

“This is a significant departure from the operation of the State’s other renewable energy programs,” Shaw said. He pointed to Department of Public Service staff doubts about the quality and quantity of proposals that would come in for a Tier 4 solicitation.

The order requires the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to issue an RFP for bids within 60 days. 

The PSC also implemented CLCPA requirements to increase the use of offshore wind from 2,400 MW by 2030, to 9,000 MW by 2035. And, it creates a competitive five-year Tier 2 program under the CES to “preserve existing renewable baseline generation” to support the state’s renewable goal, according to the commission.

The Tier 2 program “has been sorely needed in New York,” Anne Reynolds, executive director of the Alliance for Clean Energy New York, said in a statement. The program covers projects that were in operation before 2015.

The order includes a directive for NYSERDA to enter into contracts for 4,500 MWh/year for upstate renewables each year and 700 MW to 1,000 MW of offshore wind annually. “This creates a strong market in New York and should attract the private investment we will need to get projects under development,” Reynolds said.

Transparency and transmission 

Regulators took action on non-CES items as well.

The PSC said it adopted criteria for identifying transmission projects that can be quickly advanced by new siting rules approved earlier this year. As part of that action, the commission also identified the New York Power Authority’s (NYPA) proposed Northern New York project “as a high-priority project” that could be developed in accordance with the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Protection Act of 2020.

The project includes completion of the second phase of NYPA’s 86-mile Smart Path Moses-Adirondack rebuild, rebuilding other sections of transmission, and rebuilding and expanding several substations.

The project is expected to “unbottle” at least 950 MW of renewable energy sources, PSC Chair John Rhodes said in a statement, adding that the project will “complete a critical link in our upstate grid.” NYPA has estimated the project would result in production cost savings of approximately $99 million annually, resulting in a project value of approximately $1.05 billion over a 20-year period. The project is also expected to result in more than $447 million in annual congestion savings in Northern New York.

And, the PSC launched a proceeding to consider requiring IOUs to make annual climate risk disclosures detailing risks to their companies, investors and customers going forward. 

“Today we started to bring necessary and valuable transparency on climate-related risk to the utilities that operate in New York,” Rhodes said. 

The order requests comment on several questions, including the costs and benefits of risk disclosure, and potential frameworks for risk disclosure. Comments are due within 30 days.

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