New York to procure $1.5 billion worth of renewables

To say that U.S. President Donald Trump’s moves regarding the climate and energy are controversial may be something of an understatement. The reality TV star turned world leader’s combination of blistering ignorance and plying energy mythology to workers in economically challenged industries has not won him any friends among the political leadership of the Northeast, West Coast and other regions.

If anything, Trump’s rejection of the Paris Agreement has inspired new ambition among those political leaders who are not hopelessly beholden to the fossil fuel industries. As evidence of this, last Friday New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) announced an initiative to take aggressive action on climate change, including two renewable energy procurements totaling a whopping $1.5 billion.

Under the Clean Climate Careers Initiative, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) will procure 1.5 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity each year from renewable energy sources including wind and solar, and the New York Power Authority (NYPA) another 1 TWh.

For scale, New York’s entire renewable energy generation was 33 TWh over the full year 2016, which was mostly from hydroelectric power and met 22% of the state’s electric demand. Through this and other initiatives the Cuomo Administration expects to double the state’s solar capacity by the end of 2018 to more than 1.6 GW.

The Cuomo Administration says that the solicitation is merely “the first in a series of major procurements” which are expected to result in the deployment of 40-60 utility-scale renewable energy facilities by 2022.

Along the way, the state plans to create 40,000 new “good-paying clean energy jobs” by 2020. The Administration describes the Clean Climate Careers initiative as part of a “multi-pronged strategy” to grow New York’s emerging clean energy economy and prepare its workforce for clean energy careers, including partnerships with the ILR School’s Worker Institute at Cornell University and Climate Jobs NY.

Governor Cuomo has emerged as one of the voices most critical of President Trump’s energy and climate policies, and the statement he issued was no exception. “As the federal government abdicates its responsibility to address climate change — at the expense of our environment and economy — New York is leading the nation in advancing a clean energy future,” stated Governor Cuomo.

As part of this, Cuomo also announced a U.S. Climate Alliance with California Governor Jerry Brown (D) and Washington State Governor Jay Inslee (D). It is unclear what relationship, if any, this alliance will have to the existing 20-state Governor’s Clean Energy Coalition, which is co-chaired by Kansas Governor Sam Brownback (R) and Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo (D) and includes California, New York and Washington.

It is possible that the states in the new Climate Alliance will be more aggressive regarding clean energy policies some of the others in the Govern’s Clean Energy Coalition. As of Monday the U.S. Climate Alliance had added nine states including Massachusetts and Minnesota, as well as Puerto Rico. Most of these states have governors who are members of the Democratic Party, with Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (R) as the sole exception.