New York State has the ability to become a champion of renewable energy. The development of renewable energy sources in our State is essential to:
- Reduce our dependence on destructive extraction and burning of fossil fuels and the nuclear industry.
- Create tens of thousands of jobs in manufacturing, installation and maintenance.
- Increase investments in sustainable economic development.
- Help control global climate change by controlling greenhouse gas emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and black soot.
- Leave a livable planet for our children and grandchildren.
New York Sun Initiative
In April 2002, Governor Cuomo released the NY Sun Initiative. This proposal allows the spending of $1.5 billion in solar energy incentive over a period of 10 years, with annual expenditures of $150 million. An attempt to codify the Sun Initiative through legislation failed in 2013, after the Senate amended their Bill to include language for liquid gas development incentives.
Renewable Portfolio Standard
New York currently has a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) which calls for 30% of the State’s electricity to be provided from renewable sources by 2015. About 19% of the State’s electricity has been supplied by hydro power, mainly from the Niagara Falls and Massena power projects. This leaves approximately an 11% goal to be reached by 2015. As of the end of 2013, only approximately 3% of the state’s energy needs are being supplied from wind and solar sources, leaving the State behind its RPS goal.
Other State’s which have used Renewable Portfolio Standards to help achieve renewable goals, often include provisions in their regulations mandating the purchase renewable energy by private utilities. For example, California has a goal of providing 33% of its electricity from renewable energy by 2020. Each of its three major utilities are currently purchasing approximately 20% of their electricity from renewable energy producers.
Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) feed-in-tariff (FIT)and Request for Proposals
In June 2012, in conjunction with the NY Sun Initiative, LIPA initiated a pilot program for a 50 megawatt (MW) solar feed-in-tariff program. (As an approximation, 1 megawatt [MW] supplied for one year can power some 500-1,000 homes) LIPA set three tiers – small, medium and large scale solar projects. Prices were set by LIPA at which they would purchase renewable energy from solar providers with long term 20-year contracts. These long-term contracts permitted the renewable energy producers to obtain financing from banks and investments companies to pay for the cost of installation, which providing a profit to the producers. The success of the program led LIPA to recommend its expansion in October 2012. The expanded 150 MW program was approved in 2013.
Governor Cuomo and LIPA have also agreed in 2013 to a 280 megawatt (MW) Request for Proposals (RFP) solely for electricity produced from renewable energy. This would make it possible for LIPA to purchase electricity from proposed offshore wind energy projects.
While the fossil fuel industry continues to lobby, contribute to New York politicians and spend millions on advertising and misinformation to promote fracking in New York, smart investors are going to where renewable energy opportunities await. In May, 2013, the New York based investment firm Goldman Sachs announced its plan to invest $487 million in Japan’s growing renewable energy sector in the next five years.
Wind Power Opportunities in New York
In an October, 2013 article it was reported that PJM, the independent systems operator (ISO) for 13 northeastern states, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Ohio found that wind energy produces massive reductions in electricity production costs and wholesale prices. Obtaining 30% of its electricity from wind power would reduce production costs by $13 billion (about 35%) annually. Wholesale prices could be reduced as much as $21 billion. Wind power would also reduce carbon pollution dramatically. The study found that the use of wind would cause no reliability problems, and that grid upgrades would have a reasonable cost of only 6% - 8%.
To demonstrate the current value of wind power, three utilities in Massachusetts signed power purchase agreements (PPA) to double their purchases of wind power by adding 565 MW of wind energy at $.08/kWh. This resulted after the Patrick administration enacted new legislation directing utilities to purchase more renewable energy. This type of purchase to meeting renewable energy goals would be useful in New York State. Read more here.
New York has a net metering system to aid the development of renewable energy. Generally, this allows homeowners, farmers, businesses and municipalities to install a renewable energy system and generate their own electricity. This electricity is used for the producer’s electric needs, and is not billed by the local public utility supplies. If excess electricity is produced, it may be sold to the local utility at a reduced wholesale rate.
Drawbacks to net metering include the private installer having to pay for the solar or wind installation, and being dependent on available incentives to pay for the installation. The cost and need for incentives prevents many from using the net metering program. For more on Net Metering see here.
NYSERDA provides incentives to the installer of solar, wind and other renewable energy systems. http://www.nyserda.ny.gov/BusinessAreas/Energy-Efficiency-and-Renewable-Programs/Renewables.aspx