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Another Voice: New York’s future is in clean, renewable energy

By Anne Reynolds

In the midst of the Paris climate talks, there was an exciting directive from Gov. Andrew Cuomo that 50 percent of electricity generated in our state be from renewable technologies by 2030. This is tangible, outstanding news that will prove to be great for New Yorkers.

This type of mandate is exactly what New York needs to continue its transition to renewable energy. With wise, long-term policies, we can achieve the 50 percent goal. This transition will support new jobs and economic development in the growing and vibrant clean energy industry.

In the last 10 years, New York’s renewable energy grew from roughly 19 percent to 25 percent of total electricity use. This was made possible by the state’s renewable portfolio standard, which expires at the end of 2015 after 10 effective years. How can we realistically double that to 50 percent in the next 15 years?

First, New York needs to remain committed to aggressive, innovative energy efficiency programs to pave the road to 50 percent. The fact is, without a serious uptick in progress on efficiency, the 50 percent renewable energy goal is that much harder to achieve.

Next, New York will need the full range of clean technologies – land-based and offshore wind, solar, hydro, sustainable biomass and biogas, and fuel cells. The 50 percent mandate program will need to procure power from new large-scale renewables like wind farms and from smaller, distributed renewables like rooftop solar while maintaining the renewables we have now.

The new policy needs to be an enforceable utility obligation that begins in 2017 with a small percentage procurement requirement that gradually increases over time. Utilities that do not meet their procurement obligations should have to make an alternative compliance payment that New York can reinvest in renewable energy.

One key to success will be requiring utilities to enter into long-term power purchase contracts with clean energy companies.

The governor’s impressive directive didn’t come out of the blue. For the past 18 months, the state Public Service Commission has been pursuing the Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) program – examining how to modernize our electric grid, deploy advanced energy, shift utility incentives and replace New York’s expiring renewable energy standard. The agency has analyzed options, collected copious public comments at technical conferences and public meetings and continues to solicit input.

It has been clear that there is a high level of public support for renewables. All of this work formed the foundation for the governor’s directive, and will help the state design an affordable program that can work to achieve 50 percent and create a better New York.

Anne Reynolds is executive director of the Alliance for Clean Energy New York.