New York OKs major transmission build-out, community clean energy incentives

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New York State officials are pushing forward with climate and clean energy goals outlined by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his recent State of the State address.

Cuomo and the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) announced final approvals to build the state’s “green energy transmission superhighway,” as well as a “first-of-its-kind” developer-funded program to directly pay residents whose communities host large renewable energy projects.

Transmission

The PSC approved the New York Energy Solution Project, a 54.5-mile, 345 kV transmission line starting in Rensselaer County and extending to Dutchess County in the far eastern part of the state. According to the PSC, the project is valued at an estimated $530 million and will speed the flow of energy from upstate New York to high-demand markets and consumers downstate.

The PSC also granted NextEra Energy Transmission New York Inc. approvals to exercise municipal agreements to build the Empire State Line. Located in Niagara and Erie counties in the western part of the state and valued at an estimated $180 million, the 20-mile, 345 kV transmission line is designed to help relieve congestion and maximize the flow of renewable resources.

The PSC said these are the final set of major approvals required to start construction on 250 miles of a so-called electric transmission superhighway this year. Cuomo first announced the $2 billion superhighway project during his State of the State address in January.

Gov. Cuomo called the green energy transmission superhighway “essential” for the state. Image: Pixabay

In a statement, Cuomo called the projects “key investments” to enhance the reliability and resiliency of the state’s energy infrastructure and “essential” for developing a clean energy economy.

Community incentives

The PSC also approved the Host Community Benefit Program. It will provide bill credits directly to residential electric customers in municipalities where major renewable energy facilities are located. The PSC said the initiative will require developers to fund the credits and claimed this “first-of-its-kind” program will incentivize more clean energy projects to be built across the state.

Commission Chair John B. Rhodes said the program will provide “direct benefits to residents, while keeping in place negotiated community-wide benefits, such as payments in lieu of taxes and host community agreements.”

The program will provide an annual bill credit to residential electric utility customers within a city or town where newly built facilities 25 MW or greater are sited for the first 10 years a facility is operational.

The PSC said project developers will be required to fund the bill credits, whose amount would correlate to the type and size of the facility. According to the commission, solar and wind project developers would pay an annual fee of $500/MW and $1,000/MW of nameplate capacity, respectively.

That means a 50 MW solar farm would provide annual customer credits totaling $25,000, and a 100 MW wind farm would provide annual customer credits totaling $100,000. The PSC said the money would be shared by all residential customers in the host municipality, regardless of proximity to the facility.

The incentive program will apply to communities with large wind or solar projects. Image: Pixabay

Facility owners would pay the annual fee to the utility serving the affected municipalities. Utilities then would apply a bill credit to eligible customers’ accounts and be tasked with reporting relevant information annually.

The PSC said the credit will be paid by any new project 25 MW or greater that goes into service after the effective date of the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act, which was April 2020.

According to the PSC, the Host Community Benefit Program received strong support from stakeholders participating in the review, including many local elected officials and project developers.

Bigger picture

The Host Community Benefit Program is among a host of newly approved initiatives designed to bolster renewables and help New York communities.

The PSC also signed off on $112.5 million in funding to support residents impacted by aging power plant closures as the state moves toward cleaner energy resources. Furthermore, Cuomo recently announced more than $17 million in new funding under the state’s Clean Energy Communities program, with additional support for projects located in disadvantaged communities.

New York’s latest efforts will help the state meet its 70% by 2030 renewable portfolio standard and climate goals. According to the PSC, the initiatives build on New York’s ramp-up of clean energy, including more than $4 billion invested in 91 large-scale renewable projects across the state, the creation of more than 150,000 jobs in New York’s clean energy sector, and a commitment to develop 9 GW of offshore wind by 2035.

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