This week New York Governor Andrew Cuomo released a number of policy proposals aimed at New York’s clean energy sector in conjunction with his annual State of the State address. Fundamentally, the Governor proposes that New York “become an international capital for clean and green energy products.” Consistent with the State’s clean energy policies, the Governor announced a plan to close or repower New York’s last two operating coal-fired power plants by 2020.
The Governor’s 2016 clean energy goals include several proposals (some of which were previously announced) to “Build a Clean Energy Economy”:
- Adoption of an enforceable State mandate requiring 50% clean energy by 2030, including development of market mechanisms to support upstate nuclear power plants that can provide carbon-free energy as a “necessary bridge” to achieve the 50% Clean Energy Standard.
- Create a 10-year, $5 billion Clean Energy Fund to, among other things, finance wind and solar farms and energy efficiency, as well as the ongoing $1 billion NY-Sun solar initiative. (The NY-Sun Program was recently extended by reallocation of $6 million in funding).
- Install solar (and other renewables) at each of the 64 State University of New York campuses by 2020. The Governor has also called on other colleges and universities to join in the effort. Many colleges and universities across the State have actively been “going green” in recent years, including SUNY Buffalo, St. Bonaventure, Vassar and Cornell. See Solar Energy Shines for NY Higher Education. (Phillips Lytle attorneys have assisted solar developers with all phases of such projects, including project development, power purchase agreements, solar leases and financing).
- Invest $150 million for large-scale renewable projects (such as solar, wind, hydro and fuel cells) in 2016, with the goal of adding an additional 300 wind turbines to increase wind production by 40% by 2020.
- Install solar on 150,000 homes and businesses by 2020, and expand access to solar power to communities through the Shared Renewables Program (aka Community Net Metering).
- Invest $5 million to develop a New York Offshore Wind Master Plan to capture the wind potential of New York’s 127 miles of coastline.
- Invest $8 million to advance eight microgrid projects (through New York Prize Phase 2).
- Invest $75 million to offset costs of efficiency upgrades in multifamily affordable housing.
- Help 500,000 homes and 20,000 businesses become more energy efficient by 2020 using energy audits and high efficiency upgrades supported by the Clean Energy Fund.
- Create a $3 million “Energy to Lead” Competition, awarding three prizes of $1 million to colleges and universities with the most ambitious student-led proposals for energy efficiency, renewables installation and emissions reductions – part of the REV (Reforming the Energy Vision) Campus Challenge program.
- Create a $15 million Clean Energy Workforce Opportunity Program to train 10,000 more workers for jobs in the clean energy sector.
These commitments come at a time of convergence for the State’s clean energy sector. New York’s cutting-edge Reforming the Energy Vision proceeding is expected to continue breaking new ground in 2016, as well as providing long-awaited details on the Clean Energy Fund and full rollout of Community Net Metering. At the same time, Congress’s recent extension of the federal solar and wind tax credits ends longstanding uncertainty that many had previously predicted would stall continued clean energy development this year. As a result of these converging policies, 2016 is expected to be a landmark year for New York’s renewables sector. Fasten your seatbelts, 2016 is going to be an exciting ride.
Thomas Puchner is a partner in the Energy practice group at Phillips Lytle LLP. Attorneys in Phillips Lytle’s Energy Practice Group have extensive expertise in all aspects of renewable energy projects, including siting and permitting, power purchase agreements, solar leases, financing (including New York’s Green Bank), and Public Service Commission/Utility regulatory matters. In addition, an interdisciplinary team of Phillips Lytle Energy and Environmental law attorneys excels in all aspects of siting renewable energy facilities on brownfields and landfills.