Comments on Large Scale Renewable Proceeding, PSC

Green Education and Legal Fund
315 Greene Ave 2B, Brooklyn NY 11238 – – 518 860-3725

August 12, 2014

Honorable Kathleen H. Burgess
Secretary to the Commission
New York State Public Service Commission
Empire State Plaza, Agency Building 3
Albany, New York 12223-1350

Comments in Case 15-E-0302. Large Scale Renewables by the Green Education and Legal Fund.

  1. New York State recently released its 2015 State Energy Plan, which specifies a 50% by 2030 renewable energy goal. GELF recommends that it be amended to adopt a goal of 100% clean energy by 2030 (excluding nuclear, natural gas, garbage incineration), or at least net zero greenhouse gas emissions. The state also needs to adopt a goal of keeping increases in temperatures to below 1.5 degrees centigrade; even that is no assurance that catastrophic climate change will be avoided. To achieve goals needed to avoid catastrophic climate change will require a much stronger commitment to developing renewable energy than currently outlined in the LSR proposal. However, to achieve even its present limited goal of 50% renewable energy by 2030, NY will need continued development of new renewable energy projects, both larger scale selling into the grid (like wind power), and smaller scale located where the energy is used (like rooftop solar), also referred to as distributed resources.
  1. The state’s prior effort to reach a goal of getting 30% its electricity through renewables by 2030 fell significantly short of the mark, adding only a few percentage points over a decade. This should serve as a warning for the state to be more aggressive in promoting renewables including large scale. Until the state has achieved clean energy levels and greenhouse gas emissions reductions necessary to prevent catastrophic climate change, it should reject a goal of ending subsidies for developing clean energy.
  1. There needs to be a major carve out for off-shore wind. Offshore wind has great potential in New York and it will be necessary to attract offshore wind development to New York in order to meet the state’s renewable energy goals. The state should commit to a PPA of 5,000 MW of off-shore wind by 2025 and 10,000 MW by 2030. Our discussions with state energy officials indicate a weak commitment to off-shore wind by the Cuomo administration, relying upon “market forces” rather than making the major upfront commitments (e.g., PPA) that will enable off-shore wind to develop and reduce costs. NYSERDA’s paper shows that a major long-term commitment by NYS to off-shore wind could alone reduce costs by 30%. The new LSR program should be designed, through a carve-out or locational delivery requirement, to attract offshore wind development and the associated supply chain, economic, and jobs benefits. Offshore wind development off Long Island is close to the significant demand for electricity in New York City and Long Island, and the wind resources can produce electricity in the afternoons, the time of peak demand. Offshore wind has been successfully developed in Europe for 20 years and we need to bring that industry to NY.
  1. Enact a carbon tax. Since the state’s is presently on overly relying upon market forces to promote renewables and reduce carbon emissions, it is imperative that the state immediately enact a carbon (greenhouse gas) tax to adequately capture the costs and damage imposed upon the state and its residents from the burning of fossil fuels. Without a robust carbon tax there is no possibility that the market can adequately promote the correct energy mixture. The State of Oregon’s feasibility study found that a carbon tax should be set at least $60 per ton to reduce carbon emissions.
  1. The State released an LSR Options Paper [1] that assessed a potential investment level of $1.5 B over 10 years – though it is unclear how much would actually be invested by the state and when. (For instance, the Clean Energy Fund proposal indicates that the State is recommending allocations of just $3 million per year for 2015-2018 for LSRs and a one-time $150 mil for 2015 for Main Tier RPS.) Based on the state’s past performance in promoting renewables, the investment of $1.5 billion is way too little. The amount of investment in the LSR Program should be linked to the amount of renewable energy New York needs to achieve the 50% goal. $1.5B represents less than 1% of what New Yorkers spend on electricity[2], and the level of investment should be higher. As a backstop, the program should have a periodic review to analyze if the level of investment is achieving the amount necessary to get to the state’s goals. And the level of investment should not be back-loaded for future years as was proposed, because we need to get projects built soon and start to realize the climate change and clean air benefits sooner.
  1. The state should establish enforcement mechanisms to hold the state and utilities accountable for meeting the renewable energy goals. The new LSR program should place an enforceable obligation on the distribution utility companies (e.g. ConEdison, National Grid, NYSEG) to purchase renewable energy, with that obligation increasing gradually over time to a level required to meet the renewable goal. Other states that have renewable energy standards place the obligation on utilities, and most states use an “alternate compliance payment” (ACP) that utilities have to pay if they do not obtain the required amount of renewable energy; this payment penalty encourages compliance. There should be more detailed timelines and benchmarks. (For instance, deadline for RFP – January 2016 for 15% of utility territory peak demand in 2015 to be constructed & operational within 2 years. January 2017 for another 15% of utility territory peak demand in 2015. Continued RFPs every year until achieving 60% of peak demand is met by installed renewables, factoring in appropriate capacity factors. Some credit can be given to energy storage but should not exceed a maximum of 10% of peak demand. After that review in conjunction with achievements for energy efficiency and renewables. )
  1. The new LSR program should promote diverse clean and renewable energy technologies, including land-based wind, solar, geothermal, tidal, and offshore wind power.
  1. Make the Large Scale Renewables Program statewide. Long Island (LIPA) is not part of the current Renewable Portfolio Standard, which undermines renewable energy development efforts, particularly when it comes to the development of offshore wind. The new LSR program should provide geographic diversity, and diversity in the types of technologies used. This would be much more efficient than operating two separate renewable energy programs in the State. Long Island currently has just 3% renewable energy in its electricity mix, and this needs to be improved. NYPA customers should also contribute to the new LSR Program, so that all New Yorkers are supporting new clean renewable energy.
  1. The new LSR program should be established ASAP, so that planning and procurement for new renewable energy projects can start soon, and NY can be on track to achieve carbon and renewable energy goals. It can take up to 5 years for a wind power or other project to conduct environmental and interconnection reviews and receive all permits and approvals. The program needs to begin soon and have certainty over the long-term.
  1. The new LSR program should require utilities to enter into long-term contracts for renewable energy, also known as bundled power purchase agreements (PPAs), so that projects can get financed and built in NY. To actually get new clean energy projects built, the developers take risks and they need to have some opportunities to recoup their investments. If a project has a PPA, they have more and better options for financing, which increases the chances that the project will come to fruition.


Mark Dunlea
Green Education and Legal Fund
315 Greene Ave. #2B
Brooklyn NY 11238

[1] The Options Paper can be viewed online at :{26BD68A2-48DA-4FE2-87B1-687BEC1C629D}

[2] New Yorkers spent $21.7 Billion on electricity in 2012. See: 2012 New York State Energy Fast Facts,