Renewable Energy Gets Major Boost in New York State Budget

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Thanks to the leadership of Governor Cuomo and lawmakers—even in the midst of the ongoing health crisis—renewable energy is getting a critical boost as part of New York State’s Fiscal Year ‘21 Budget. The Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth & Community Benefit Act will streamline the processes for building renewable energy projects across the state and ensure clean power is efficiently transported wherever it needs to go. NRDC, along with a broad coalition of labor, environmental and business groups, actively supported passage of the Act.

The legislation will also help New York achieve its nation-leading goal of 70 percent renewable electricity by 2030, as required by the recently adopted landmark Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), while maintaining the state’s strong environmental and public participation standards.  At the same time, it will help bolster New York’s clean energy economy and the countless jobs that come with it — with more than 60 wind and solar projects that are ripe for construction after having undergone environmental review and permitting. 

As I have written before, achieving 70 percent renewable energy in the power sector by 2030 will require an “all hands on deck” approach if we’re going to get there. The state currently gets about 28 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, with a significant portion of that generated by large hydropower facilities owned and operated by the New York Power Authority (NYPA). Scaling up renewables to hit 70 percent in 10 years will require that renewable energy projects are sited quickly, and that there is enough transmission to transport this power to where it is needed. Until now, these processes have been overly cumbersome to navigate, thereby jeopardizing the state’s chances of meeting its ambitious target.

The existing siting process, known as Article 10, establishes a procedure for approving energy production facilities over 25 megawatts (MW). However, it has not worked well for renewable energy sources like solar and wind. Major delays within the Article 10 process have resulted in a massive bottleneck — jeopardizing over 8,000 gigawatt-hours per year of land-based wind and solar projects pending before the state’s Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment (known as the “Siting Board”), which considers these applications. Although the Article 10 process should only take about 24 months, the six projects that have made it through the process have taken significantly longer (and none are yet in operation) – and most projects are either still waiting for approval or have been withdrawn. 

The Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth & Community Benefit Act Explained

The Act contains three major provisions—a new, dedicated office and streamlined process for siting renewable energy projects over 25 MW, a program to identify “build ready” sites that are solid candidates for renewable energy projects, and a program to accelerate the development of necessary transmission and distribution upgrades. Each of these is explained in more detail below: 

Along with a statutory ban on fracking, a ban on polystyrene foam containers, and the passage of a nation-leading environmental bond act, these much-needed reforms to renewable energy siting and transmission in this year’s budget delivers a major boost to New York’s clean energy economy and its vast job creating potential. These siting reforms are also critical to ensuring that the state achieves 70 percent clean energy by 2030 and the CLCPA’s greenhouse gas reduction targets—collectively, they represent a game changing step forward for New York’s already impressive clean energy and climate portfolio. And as a result, the future of renewable energy in the Empire State is looking that much brighter.    

This content was originally published here.

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