Legislation that makes renewable energy an integral part of New York state’s post-COVID-19 economic recovery was included in the state’s annual budget, signed into law by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on April 3rd.
“[This Act] demonstrates how forward-thinking policy can be used to boost the state economy and create jobs while bringing abundant, clean, renewable energy to all New Yorkers,” said Rossana Rosado, New York’s Secretary of State. To restart renewable energy construction and accelerate renewable energy growth, the legislation also creates the U.S.’s first Office of Renewable Energy Siting.
The state’s new siting office will be charged with consolidating the environmental review of major renewable energy facilities and providing a single forum for ensuring that siting decisions are predictable, responsible and delivered in a timely manner with opportunities for input from local communities.
“Our hope is that renewable project siting will eventually be improved and streamlined across the entire U.S.,” said Gregory Wetstone, president and CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy. “Streamlining the construction of renewables and the transmission that unlocks them are both needed and welcome developments,” he added.
As the state continues to battle Covid-19, it needs to stay focused on its ambitious and necessary clean energy and clean energy jobs goals, John Rhodes, CEO of New York’s Department of Public Service said.
To accelerate the investment in and development of a more reliable, more modern grid, New York’s Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act directs Rhodes’s department to work with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the New York Power Authority, the Long Island Power Authority and the state’s grid operator and utilities to conduct a study that identifies cost-effective distribution, as well as local and bulk electric system upgrades.
The Act also directs New York’s Public Service Commission to establish a distribution and local transmission system capital program for each utility in need of local upgrades in their service territory, and it develops a bulk transmission investment program for the projects identified in the Department of Public Service’s study.
To ensure that renewable energy development is targeted to maximize economic development and natural resource protection, the Act also creates an incentives program that prioritizes the development of existing or abandoned commercial sites, brownfields, landfills, former industrial sites, and other abandoned or underutilized sites.
NYSERDA has already started collaborating with state agencies and other partners to identify an initial set of possible renewable energy project sites. As part of this “build-ready” project sites initiative, NYSERDA is developing a program that will offer incentives to property owners and communities that host renewable energy facilities. Additionally, the Act directs the state’s Public Service Commission to create a program that provides utility bill discounts or other compensation that benefits the residents of host communities.