Reaction to Cuomo on Climate

Climate Activists Say Cuomo Headed in Right Direction but Needs to Speed Up Transitional Efforts, Starting with Offshore Wind

While climate activists said that the Governor’s call for the state to purchase 400 MW of electricity from off shore wind (OSW) a year for two years was a step in the right direction, it fell fall short of the leap that was needed to enable the state to avoid catastrophic climate change.

“We agree with the Democratic Party national platform that in order to avoid catastrophic climate change we need the same type of across-the-board mobilization that we saw in WWII. We need New York to commit to an all in strategy rather than continuing modest efforts to reshape the market place as the Governor has preferred,” said Mark Dunlea of the Green Education and Legal Fund.

While climate activists have applauded the Governor for calling for the State Comptroller to divest the state pension funds from fossil fuels, they feel he should start with fossil fuel projects that he directly controls.

“We need the state to dramatically expand its efforts for wind, solar and geothermal. We also need the state to halt any more wasted investment in fossil fuel infrastructure – starting with its own plan to spend up to $100 million on new two new fracked gas turbines to power the Empire State Plaza. We also need a strong commitment to a Just Transition, including addressing the needs of low-income and communities of color,” Sue Hughes Smith of the Rochester People’s Climate Coalition.

“No more political posturing from the Governor. It is time for action. Immediately prohibit the State from approving the construction or operation of any new fracked natural gas and/or diesel fuel energy generating facilities. Solar, wind and geothermal plants only,” said Dominick Calsolaro, a member of PAUSE (People of Albany United for Safe Energy).

The State presently only gets 3% of its electricity from wind, solar and geothermal, even though Governor Pataki set a goal in 2003 of reaching 11% from such sources by 2015. Advocates and industry observers point out that NY has lagged behind its modest goals for improvement in energy efficiency as well. While Cuomo has focused primarily on electricity, that represents only about a quarter of the state’s carbon footprint. The two biggest carbon emitters are buildings (heating and cooling) and transportation.

“In 1895, NY State lead the world in making electricity from a renewable source by building the the world’s first large-scale hydro-powered generators at Niagara Falls NY. Today, it is now technically feasible and cost-effect for NY State to transition from fossil and nuclear sources to make all its electricity from solar,wind and hydro. Similarly, NY State can transition its vehicular stock off of fossil fuels to electricity sourced from wind and solar, and transition our buildings off of natural gas to heat/cool all structures with geothermal sources. The burden of transitioning off of fossil and nuclear fuels will be greatly eased if energy efficiency, which is the most cost-effect “power-generating” technology, is funded on a large scale. All microgrids in NY State should be powered by energy efficiency, renewables and battery storage. NY State can and must do all these things simultaneously and rapidly, as it will create 100,000’s of jobs in the state and reduce NY State’s contribution to climate change. NY State will reclaim its status as the world leader in renewable energy when it becomes the first state in the nation to achieve net-zero status,” said Charley Bowman of the Environmental Justice Task Force of the WNY Peace Center.

The Jacobson report by Stanford and Cornell professors said that in order to get to 100% clean energy in NY by 2030, the state would need to get 40% of its electricity from OSW, or 58,924 MW. Adding on 400 MW a year is way too slow. It is also way too little to attract the level of infrastructure investment need to drive the cost of wind down to the recent projects in Europe (e.g., 5.5 cents per kwh). Mainstream groups had been asking for a PPA commitment of 5,000 MW by 2025; others wanted at least 10,000 MW by 2030.

The report two years ago by the University of Delaware for NYSERDA found that the best way to lower costs for offshore wind was to commit to OSW development at scale, lowering costs as 30%. Taking advantage of wind turbine innovations and other technology and industry advances could lower costs by about an additional 20 percent.

OSW has a great potential for job creation and local economic development. A 2014 study by Stony Brook University found that if 2,500 MWs of OSW projects were developed, Long Island would get 58,457 construction and operations phase jobs, as well as approximately $12.9 billion in local economic output. But without significant infrastructure investment, companies may build the projects (and the jobs) in Europe and then ship the turbines to the US, as StatOil is planning with the first major OSW project off of Long Island.

The groups say that energy democracy needs to a key part of the state’s climate agenda, empowering local residents to determine their energy future. “Building the clean energy system would create 4.5 million jobs while lowering electricity costs by more than half. A state public power utility would be essential for planning the technology transition and reinvesting earnings from fossil and nuclear energy as they are phased out into clean energy. New York can and should provide national and world leadership on this central issue,” noted Howie Hawkins of the Green Party.

The groups also noted that while Cuomo throughout his tenure has stressed the importance of regional cooperation with other northeast states in developing off shore wind, so far this has been little concrete action to back up the rhetoric.

Climate change activists are urging the Governor to set a near-term target date to get to 100% clean energy (e.g., 2030, A5105 / S5908). The US Conference of Mayors this summer urged local governments to set a target date of 2035. Governor Brown of California recently said he wants the state to go to 100% clean energy by 2040. California announced that it expects to hit 50% of the state’s electricity coming from renewables by 2020 – ten years earlier than expected and ten years sooner than Governor Cuomo’s target of 2030.

The groups also want the state to adopt a comprehensive Climate Action Plan with clear benchmarks and timelines. Such a plan is already required under Executive Orders issued by both Governor Paterson and Cuomo, though Cuomo has failed to take action.

Groups would also like to see the Governor to set a bolder target for when all new vehicles be zero emissions. Norway has set that goal for 2025, India by 2030 and a number of other countries by 2040. Merrill Lynch recently concluded that even without subsidies electric cars will be cheaper than fossil fuels by 2024 – and electric cars are already cheaper to operate and maintain.

A recent report found NY is the middle of the states in term of electric cars (EVs) – about 1 in 1000 vehicles. California was at the top with 6.65 vehicles per 1,000. There are currently 25,000 EVs in NYS. The Multi-State ZEV Action Plan that NY is part of committed to 3.3 million EVs on the road by 2025 with 850,000 in NYS.

Climate advocates are also urging the Governor to embrace the Renewable Heat Now campaign. The groups want the state building codes amended to require all new buildings to have net zero greenhouse gas emissions. The state needs to support mandatory cost-effective energy retrofits for existing buildings, including revamping the existing Green Jobs Green Homes program to hit its target of retrofitting one million homes. NYSERDA does support moving to heat sources like geothermal. Industry officials estimate to achieve the goal of a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, the state would need to convert around 126.000 houses a year to geothermal. The most recent annual estimate was around 1,000.

The groups also support more action to address agriculture, which is often overlooked in the climate change debate. A major problem is large-scale factory farms with high methane emissions. The state also needs to increase support for regenerative agriculture techniques to restore carbon to the soil which would also improve its fertility.

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  • Expand Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and Reduce Emissions Equitably From the Highest-Polluting, High Demand “Peaker” Power Plants 
  • Issue Solicitations in 2018 and 2019 to Develop at Least 800 MW of Offshore Wind Projects and Foster Offshore Wind Industry and Workforce in New York State
  • $200 Million Investment to Meet Unprecedented Energy Storage Target of 1,500 Megawatts by 2025 In Order to Increase Transmission of Clean and Renewable Energy 
  • Create the Zero Cost Solar for All Program for 10,000 Low-Income New Yorkers
  • Reconvene Scientific Advisory Committee on Climate Change Disbanded by the Federal Government
  • Governor Directs the Establishment of Energy Efficiency Target by Earth Day
  • Regulations to Close all Coal Plants to be Adopted

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today unveiled the 20th proposal of the 2018 State of the State: a comprehensive agenda to combat climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and growing the clean energy economy. By further strengthening the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and welcoming new state members, New York will continue its progress in slashing emissions from existing fossil fuel power plants. In addition, unprecedented commitments announced today to advance clean energy technologies, including offshore wind, solar, energy storage and energy efficiency, will spur market development and create jobs across the state.


“New Yorkers know too well the devastation caused by climate change, and in order to slow the effects of extreme weather and build our communities to be stronger and more resilient, we must make significant investments in renewable energy,” Governor Cuomo said. “With this proposal, New York is taking bold action to fight climate change and protect our environment, while supporting and growing 21st century jobs in these cutting-edge renewable industries.”


The 2018 Clean Energy Jobs and Climate Agenda will build on the progress made to date under the Governor’s Reforming the Energy Vision policy, which includes the nation-leading Clean Energy Standard mandate to generate 50 percent of the state’s electricity needs from renewable energy sources by 2030, as well as ambitious climate protection activities under the Environmental Protection Fund.


Governor Cuomo’s 2018 Clean Energy Jobs and Climate Agenda includes the following:


Expand Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and Reduce Emissions Equitably from the Highest-Polluting, High Demand “Peaker” Power Plants


In 2013, Governor Cuomo led the nine RGGI states in reducing the cap on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants 50 percent by 2020. Since that time, RGGI has continued to exceed expectations, providing over $2 billion in regional economic benefits and public health benefits of $5.7 billion while reducing emissions more than required by the declining cap. In August 2017, the other RGGI states agreed to Governor Cuomo’s 2017 State of the State call to reduce the cap another 30 percent by 2030. To further these efforts, Governor Cuomo will work with RGGI states and potential new partners in Virginia and New Jersey, to ensure a smooth transition to a broader, more cost-efficient greenhouse gas market that maintains the initiative’s ambitious reductions in climate pollution.


Currently, RGGI only covers power plants with a capacity of 25 megawatts or greater, leaving out many smaller but highly-polluting, high demand “peaking” units, which operate intermittently during periods of high electricity demand. These polluting units are often located close to population centers that come online to meet peak electricity demand on excessively hot or cold days, and disproportionately impact low-income and minority communities that already face a multitude of environmental burdens.


Governor Cuomo will direct the Department of Environmental Conservation to:


  • Undertake a rule-making in 2018 to implement the 30 percent cap reduction of carbon dioxide to avoid nearly 133 million tons of additional carbon pollution region-wide from the electric power sector announced by the RGGI states in August 2017, including revisions to strengthen RGGI by grouping together and thereby covering peaking units that collectively exceed RGGI’s capacity threshold of 25 megawatts; and
  • Work with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to engage the Environmental Justice & Just Transition Working Group convened by the Governor in 2017, to ensure that Environmental Justice communities benefit equitably from investment of RGGI auction proceeds.


Moreover, in order to immediately reduce emissions from New York’s highest-polluting power plants Governor Cuomo directs the DEC to:


  • Propose complementary reforms to reduce emissions of smog-forming pollutants from peaking units; and
  • Adopt regulations ending the use of coal in the state’s power plants by 2020. This is something the Governor called for in his 2016 State of the State address. At the same time, Governor Cuomo created the Electric Generation Facility Cessation Mitigation Fund to address the needs of the local communities affected by any closure.


Solicit Proposals for Offshore Wind Power


In the 2017 State of the State, Governor Cuomo took the bold step of establishing a target of up to 2.4 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030, the largest commitment to offshore wind power in U.S. history. To position New York as the leading offshore wind market in the United States and to drive competition, reduce costs and create new well-paying jobs, this year Governor Cuomo is calling for a procurement of at least 800 megawatts of offshore wind power between two solicitations to be issued in 2018 and 2019, resulting in enough clean, renewable energy to power 400,000 New York households. These solicitations will be the first in a set schedule to reach the 2030 target, will create competition among developers to build some of the largest offshore wind projects in the United States, and will ensure that the resulting jobs and economic development benefits accrue across the state.


In addition, Governor Cuomo is directing NYSERDA to invest $15 million in clean energy workforce development and infrastructure advancement to train workers for jobs in this good-paying industry, including offshore wind construction, installation, operation, maintenance, design and associated infrastructure. To attract private investment in port infrastructure and supply chain activities, Governor Cuomo is further directing NYSERDA to work with Empire State Development and other state agencies to determine the most promising public and private offshore wind port infrastructure investments. These new actions will jumpstart project development, drive job growth and industry investments, and secure New York’s status as the undisputed home for the emerging offshore wind industry in the U.S.


Increase Transmission of Clean and Renewable Energy By Investing $200 Million to Meet Unprecedented Energy Storage Target of 1,500 Megawatts by 2025 

New York faces a number of energy-related challenges including upgrading its aging energy infrastructure, which carries with it an estimated $30 billion price tag over the next 10 years. Moreover, as renewable energy sources produce a larger share of New York’s electricity, New York must also address the intermittency of clean resources like wind and solar. Without methods to store the energy and dispatch it when and where it is needed, New York will face challenges integrating and maximizing the benefits of these clean resources.


To address these challenges, create jobs in research and development, and further New York’s climate and clean energy leadership, Governor Cuomo is launching an initiative to deploy 1,500 megawatts of energy storage by 2025 and employ 30,000 New Yorkers to establish New York as a home for this rapidly expanding clean tech industry. Achieving this ambitious goal will produce $2 billion in energy value to New Yorkers by reducing the reliance on costly, dirty and inefficient energy infrastructure, while also helping to scale up the clean energy industry. A 1,500 megawatt commitment by New York represents the largest such commitment per capita by any state.


Building on the recently signed Energy Storage Deployment legislation, Governor Cuomo is directing state energy agencies and authorities to work together during 2018 to generate a pipeline of storage projects through utility procurements, advance regulatory changes in utility rates and wholesale energy markets, incorporate storage into criteria for large scale renewable procurements, and reduce regulatory barriers.


Invest $200 Million from NY Green Bank to Support Energy Storage

The Governor is also proposing a commitment of at least $200 million from NY Green Bank for storage-related investments to help drive down costs and to strategically deploy energy storage to where the grid needs it most. Finally, the Governor is directing NYSERDA to invest at least $60 million through storage pilots and activities to reduce barriers to deploying energy storage, including permitting, customer acquisition, interconnection, and financing costs. In addition to utility procurements and regulatory changes, these investments will be critical to jumpstart the market and support robust and cost-effective project development on the way to achieving the 1,500 megawatt goal. 

Create the Zero Cost Solar for All Program for 10,000 Low-Income New Yorkers


Reducing the energy burden of low-income households and ensuring their participation in the clean energy economy are central goals in Governor Cuomo’s energy policies. The Governor’s REV strategy aims to ensure that the economic, environmental and health benefits of clean energy are accessible to New Yorkers who are most in need. In 2016, Governor Cuomo also unveiled the Energy Affordability Policy to limit energy prices and provide direct cost relief for low-income New Yorkers, and expanded it the following year to bring the total program benefits to $260 million.

Community solar is a REV initiative that enables customers to share in the benefits of solar power even if they live in an apartment or other building that cannot support a rooftop solar system. This initiative is one of the best options for low-income customers to access solar power and reduce their energy costs, but since community solar is relatively new and not yet widely adopted, low-income customers have yet to realize the program’s full potential. To help low-income New Yorkers reap the benefits of solar power, the Governor is announcing that NYSERDA will:


  • Use its purchasing power to secure community solar subscriptions for low-income customers and provide them at zero cost to deliver cost savings and clean energy to more than 10,000 low-income New Yorkers, and to contribute to helping achieve the Governor’s Clean Energy Standard; and
  • Work with low-income energy efficiency programs, utilities, community agencies, solar project developers, investors and other stakeholders to market the program to low-income customers and develop strategies for how the program can better serve low-income New Yorkers and help them participate in the growing clean energy economy.

Reconvene Scientific Advisory Committee on Climate Change


In June 2017, Governor Cuomo formed the U.S. Climate Alliance with the Governors of California and Washington State to ensure that New York State and other willing partners continue to meet or exceed the targets of the Paris Agreement on climate change. After announcing its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, the federal government took another misguided step by disbanding the Federal Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment, a group of leading scientists and stakeholders tasked with providing recommendations to the federal government on scientific information to support state and local governments, communities, and the private sector in planning for the effects of climate change. In the absence of guidance from the Advisory Committee, decision-makers will have limited ability to know how climate change will impact their organizations and communities, and what they can do to better plan for those impacts.


Therefore, Governor Cuomo, as co-chair of the U.S. Climate Alliance and in collaboration with partners, will reconvene the Advisory Committee to develop recommendations to navigate the challenges of climate change. As a result, the Advisory Committee will continue its critical work without political interference and provide the guidance needed to adapt to a changing climate. 

Establish New Energy Efficiency Target by Earth Day


In order to combat climate change, New Yorkers must increase the use of clean and renewable energy, but must also lower our overall energy consumption. Energy efficiency is a highly effective way to lower energy bills for New Yorkers and to meet New York State’s nation-leading clean energy and environmental goals. With more than 110,000 New Yorkers employed in energy-efficiency related jobs, the industry is already a major component of New York’s clean energy economy.


Building on the progress made through utility programs and cutting-edge work to reduce energy use in state facilities, Governor Cuomo launched the $5 billion Clean Energy Fund in 2016 to support investment in energy efficient technologies. This initiative is already demonstrating significant progress across New York State, from Upstate farms and greenhouses to commercial buildings in Manhattan. These activities are expected to save New Yorkers a remarkable $39 billion in energy costs over the next 10 years while significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

However, much work remains to realize the full potential of energy efficiency for New Yorkers. Homeowners and renters often do not invest in comprehensive energy-saving upgrades due to high upfront costs or lack of knowledge about the financing and technology options that can save money over the long-term. And while significant innovation and growth have been achieved in the renewable energy industry in New York, energy efficiency has not been on the same trajectory towards greater energy savings and greenhouse gas reductions like solar and wind. Creating a more energy efficient New York will require effort across the board to attract greater investment and innovation in energy efficiency.


To address this, Governor Cuomo is directing the New York Department of Public Service and NYSERDA to:


  • Engage stakeholders in the public and private sectors, and propose a comprehensive and far-reaching energy efficiency initiative by Earth Day, April 22, 2018;
  • Propose a new 2025 energy efficiency target achieved through cost effective implementation strategies and innovative approaches from both utilities and the Clean Energy Fund, which will accelerate progress towards the state’s ambitious climate and clean energy goals; and
  • Identify opportunities by which state facilities can lead by example.


In addition, NYSERDA will propose the establishment of appliance efficiency standards, with support for implementation from the Clean Energy Fund. This strategy is proven to achieve significant energy savings and is a function recently abdicated by the federal government. As co-chair of the U.S. Climate Alliance, New York State will work with its partners in other states to help scale state-level appliance efficiency. Working through the U.S. Climate Alliance and with other partners, New York State will provide certainty to manufacturers that appliance efficiency standards must be met across the United States.