Green Group Questions NYSERDA Renewable Energy Plan

Jun 9, 2015

Clean energy advocates are calling on Governor Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers to ramp up plans for large scale renewable energy beyond the $1.5 billion over 10 years proposed this month by the New York State Energy Resource Development Authority.

Credit General Electric

NYSERDA has come up with some new strategies in its mission to continue to support large-scale renewable energy sources, including solar and wind power. The proposal involves a long-term commitment via a public investment of $1.5 billion over a decade, which is comparable to the level of investment made over the past decade through the existing Renewable Portfolio Standard.

NYSERDA President and CEO John Rhodes:   "We of course should continue supporting large-scale renewables. It's an absolutely essential part of Governor Cuomo's overarching reforming the energy vision, the state strategy to achieve an energy system that's clean, resilient and affordable."

Dave Lucas : "So what's wrong with the old strategies?"

"The old strategies did a lot of good. The way these things work, the program has run its term and it's now time to think about what comes next. And what comes next is essentially a re-commitment to large-scale renewables with $1.5 billion. So part one of the strategy is to continue what we did before is to have a meaningful commitment. Part two of the strategy is this is now a longer-term commitment. We've got a program that's now intended to run for 10 years, and the third is that based on our experience with the old program, we now know how to design a more cost-effective program so that we can get as much benefit for the consumer, in terms of good energy and good environmental benefits, good local economic development and good local jobs, greater stability and customer bills, as much of those benefits as possible because we're being more cost-effective."

The Green Education and Legal Fund contends that the subsidy is actually less, when adjusted for inflation, than what was provided over the last decade under the state's Renewable Portfolio Standard.  Mark Dunlea is the fund's chair.  "The proposal to invest $150 million a year over the next decade to help subsidize renewables is in reality pretty much the same level of funding that the state presently has provided over the last decade. That effort fell far short of meeting the goal of getting 30 percent of the state's electricity to be from renewable sources. In fact, it only increased the percentage from 19 to 22 percent. The new proposal fails to recognize that climate change is a major crisis facing the state, and that we need to immediately stop investing in fossil fuels and move to a hundred per cent clean energy as soon as possible, hopefully by 2030."

Rhodes says New York already has a good starting point for renewable energy.   "We've got tremendous hydroelectric power resource, which is really just a fantastic legacy. We are counting on real and important increases in the capacity for wind and in the capacity for solar, and we expect those increases to be sustained over time, so that if you go 10 years out or 15 years out and look back, I think you'd say those achievements are actually pretty spectacular, although doing it one year at a time and just continuing to increase deployment may not look spectacular in the moment."

Dunlea's group cites a study by Stanford and Cornell professors on a clean energy future for New York that calls for 40 percent of the state's energy needs to be met by off-shore wind. Dunlea, pointing out that New York has the fourth highest electric rates in the U.S., says  NYSERDA's plan falls short when it comes to wind:  "The proposal does little to promote the critical need to develop offshore wind on Long Island, something that the governor has blocked while providing hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies to support coal plants upstate. The state continues to promote the use of fossil fuels and related infrastructure, all of which should be halted immediately. In the proposal there are no clear benchmark and timeline set for the state or individual utilities to expand renewables."

Dunlea also says the state needs a major carbon tax on fossil fuel burners.

The New York State Department of Public Service will convene a technical meeting to discuss the strategies and options presented by NYSERDA. Written comments will also be accepted, with initial public comments due July 22, 2015. Interested parties may view the filing on the DPS website.

About Reforming the Energy Vision

Under Governor Cuomo’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV), New York State is spurring clean energy innovation and attracting new investment to build a cleaner, more resilient and affordable energy system for all New Yorkers. REV encompasses groundbreaking regulatory reform to integrate clean energy into the core of our power grid, redesigned programs and strategies to unlock private capital, and active leadership in deploying innovative energy solutions across the State’s own public facilities and operations. REV will enable a dynamic, clean energy economy operating at a scale that will stimulate opportunities for communities across the state to create jobs and drive local economic growth, while protecting our environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants.

Successful initiatives already launched as part of REV include NY Sun, NY Green Bank, NY Prize, K-Solar, and a commitment to improve energy affordability for low-income communities.

To learn more about REV,  visit