Popular Science

by Mary Beth Griggs
September 6, 2016

Cuomo: 'The future of our children is in clean technology'

Better battery storage, offshore wind development eyed

Cuomo: 'The future of our children is in clean technology'
Gov. Andrew Cuomo arrives to deliver the 2018 State of the State address Wednesday in Albany.
PHOTOGRAPHER: NATHANIEL BROOKS/THE NEW YORK TIMES

CAPITOL — New York state would invest $200 million in expanded storage capacity for the state energy grid and make a significant effort to develop offshore wind power under a new proposal from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

The proposed Clean Energy Jobs and Climate Agenda released Tuesday was one of a series of ambitious proposals Cuomo released heading into his State of the State speech.

"The future of our children is in clean technology, and we should put our money where our mouth is," Cuomo said in his address Wednesday in Albany.

The state's planning comes as the federal government, under President Donald J. Trump, seeks to put new emphasis on established energy sources like nuclear, natural gas and coal, while states like New York and California push for cleaner energy sources.

Cuomo has already set a goal of deriving half the state's energy from renewable energy sources by 2030. A year ago, he proposed the state obtain 2.4 billion watts of power from offshore wind by 2030. He is now proposing the state solicit proposals in 2018 and 2019, seeking up to 800 megawatts of off-shore wind power, as a first step toward meeting that target.

The plan also calls for setting new energy efficiency standards for utilities to meet by 2025.

His plans also call for investing $200 million to establish 1,500 megawatts of storage capacity in the state's power grid — what Cuomo said is the largest such commitment to date by any state. As renewable energy sources produce a larger share of New York's electricity, storage capacity is needed because both wind and solar power is produced intermittently.

"Without methods to store the energy and dispatch it when and where it is needed, New York will face challenges integrating and maximizing the benefits of these clean resources," according to a summary of Cuomo's proposals.

In December, Cuomo signed a new law that made New York the fourth state in the nation to create energy storage deployment goals. He said the energy storage industry could potentially create 30,000 new jobs. He has directed the state Energy Research and Development Authority to invest $15 million in training for workers in the clean energy sector.

The recent record of battery projects in the Capital Region is spotty, however.

General Electric in 2011 invested $170 million in launching a battery plant aimed at locomotive and other markets at its Schenectady campus. The plant created 400 jobs and was touted by President Barack Obama during a 2012 visit, but in 2015 GE said it planned to close the operation because of a lack of sales. At start-up, the project received $45 million in various federal, state and local development incentives.

Some environmental groups lauded Cuomo's proposals, most of which will require negotiation with and approval from the state Legislature, while others said the plans still don't go far enough to reduce the state's dependence on the fossil fuels blamed for causing climate change.

“Gov. Cuomo clearly demonstrated that he is going to walk the walk, not just talk the talk when it comes to renewable energy, generally, and offshore wind specifically," said Joseph Martens, director of the New York Offshore Wind Alliance and a former commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

“The Nature Conservancy commends Gov. Cuomo for recognizing the importance of addressing both the causes and effects of climate change,” said Jessica Ottney Mahar, New York policy director for The Nature Conservancy. “Today’s proposals demonstrate New York’s national environmental leadership and dedication to creating a sustainable future so every generation can thrive."

But the 100% Renewable Energy NY Now Campaign said the goveror's proposals don't go far enough.

“The governor's agenda is reflective of the approach over the last 15 years that has left the state getting only 3 percent of its electricity from wind, solar or geothermal, with no overall progress on reducing greenhouse gas emissions during Cuomo's tenure. We agree with the Democratic Party national platform that in order to avoid catastrophic climate change we need the same type of across-the-board mobilization that we saw in WWII. We need New York to commit to an all-in strategy rather than continuing modest efforts to reshape the market place as the governor has preferred,” Mark Dunlea of the Green Education and Legal Fund said.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration says New York obtains 24 percent of its energy from renewable resources, most of that from hydropower. In 2016, EIA said that New York for the first time obtained more than 1 million megawatt-hours from solar energy, with 84 percent of that coming from non-centralized units like rooftop panels on commercial and residential buildings.

In other proposals, Cuomo is urging that the state pension system divest from fossil fuel companies, and make investments in clean energy companies.

He also wants to see the number of electric vehicle charging stations in the state increased from 1,800 to at least 10,000 by 2021, with a plan to install them along interstate highways and other high-travel corridors.