New York Senate passes the biggest, baddest renewable energy mandate in the nation

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The 100% renewable energy movement has focused on getting state and city-level commitments passed to achieve their stated goal. But in this call to action there is one critical dimension missing: time. And not all 100% clean and/or renewable energy mandates are the same. Technically, Massachusetts has a 100% renewable energy mandate; only the timeline is so slow as to be meaningless.

Most of the 100% clean energy mandates that have swept the nation, with many passed in the last six months, set a target of 2045 or 2050 to achieve full decarbonization of electricity. But the mid-term targets that they set may be more important both for renewable energy industries and climate mitigation. Among these California’s 60% renewable energy by 2030 mandate has been a leading standard.

New York is now on the brink of passing the second-most aggressive renewable energy mandate in the nation, with the Senate approving S6599 on a 41-21 vote late last night. The New York state climate leadership and protection act has many provisions affecting multiple sectors which all add up to a 100% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from man-made sources by 2050, with the stated goal of “exercising a global leadership role on greenhouse gas mitigation and climate change adaptation.”

And as a central pillar of this, the bill would formalize Governor Cuomo’s plan to have the state’s utilities source 70% of their electricity from renewable energy by 2030, up from the current 50% by 2030, and for them to reach 100% zero-carbon electricity by 2040.

50% by 2030 already puts New York in a four-way tie for the 4th-most aggressive 2030 renewable energy target in the nation. If this bill passes, it would surpass even California, and put its mandate roughly on par with Vermont’s 75% by 2032 target, only exceeded by Washington D.C.’s 100% by 2032.

If you were tempted to see this as second place, keep in mind that New York has a population of 19.5 million, whereas Washington DC has only 700,000 residents and Vermont 600,000. This means that such a target not only means a lot more solar, wind and batteries, but is likely to have a bigger ripple affect on policies both nationally and globally.

The bill also sets targets to deploy:

  • 6 GW of distributed solar by 2025
  • 3 GW of energy storage by 2030
  • 9 GW of offshore wind by 2035

 

Getting to 70%, and 100%

The bill would task the state’s Public Service Commission to come up with a program to reach the 70% by 2030 and 100% by 2040 targets, and appears to give regulators a wide berth in how to do so. This program will be reviewed in 2024 and every two years thereafter.

As for the 6 GW distributed solar goal, which was a key portion of Governor Cuomo’s plans, regulators have until July 2024 to establish a program – only six months in advance of the target. And while Vote Solar Northeast Regional Director Sean Garren emphasized to pv magazine that he expects a program long before then, anyone who has followed the Reforming the Energy Vision process knows that the progress of crafting policies in New York can be painfully slow.

It is important to note that all of these targets are very ambitious not only compared to other states, but also in terms of New York’s progress to date. Per U.S. Department of Energy figures, in-state renewable energy made up around a quarter of New York’s electricity generation last year, but the large majority of that was hydropower. In-state solar met less than 1.3% of demand, and wind less than 3%, with the portion of both around 1/2 the national average.

However, the Cuomo Administration has shown a willingness to move boldly both at the distributed scale and for large-scale renewables, with both the NYSERDA block grant program for distributed solar and a series of massive solicitations showing that the administration means business.

S6599 must now pass the New York Assembly today, the last day of the session – unless the legislative session is extended. However, as the Assembly has passed a similar version of the bill, Vote Solar’s Sean Garren says that passage is likely. A signature by Governor Cuomo is assured as the governor announced a deal on Monday morning declaring that the legislation is good to go.

From there, it will be up to the implementation, and we will learn just how quickly New York can move.

 

Correction: This article was corrected at 8:25 AM East Coast time on June 20. The article previously stated that the Senate vote was 62-0, when we have been informed that it was actually 41-21. The article has been corrected to reflect this information. We had relied on a preliminary source that appears to be incorrect, but we regret the inaccuracy nonetheless.