Walking Albany’s Halls for Clean Energy

By Jeff Jones

With the state budget approved and Spring in the air, members of six ACE NY Clean Energy Advocacy Day  teams spread out across the Capital last week to address two bills that lawmakers will hopefully face before the legislative session is over.

ACE NY Executive Director Anne Reynolds set the tone for the day in a recent letter to the Chairs of the Senate and Assembly Environmental Conservation Committees – Todd Kaminsky and Steven Englebright: “Climate change,” Reynolds wrote, “is the biggest global challenge we face and in order to avoid saddling future generations with its deleterious effects, we must act now.”

Divided into teams of renewable energy developers, energy efficiency companies, and environmental allies, we met lawmakers and staff to advocate for a new climate law that includes a 70% renewable electricity goal. Noting that both the Governor’s Climate Leadership Act (CLA), and the popular Climate Community and Protection Act (CCPA) take this approach, the ACE NY lobby day focused on the components necessary to build a robust renewable electricity industry in New York, critical to reaching the state’s clean energy and greenhouse gas emission reduction goals.

Underlying ACE NY’s ambitious agenda is the need to see more renewable energy projects come on-line soon. Long-term goals and reduction mandates are necessary, indeed critical. But to succeed, New York needs to grow its sources of pollution-free power now. As each lobby team pointed out, we are the only state in the country with a renewable electricity mandate that is not established in law.

The ACE NY suggestions to strengthen the bill are:

1.      Codify the Executive Budget recommendation of 70% renewable electricity by 2030 and include interim milestones and a NYSERDA procurement schedule;

2.      Require utilities to sign Power Purchase Agreements for a portion of their CES obligation;

3.      Use the original Renewable Portfolio Standard definition for renewables.

4.      Include the Governor’s stated electricity goals for offshore wind, distributed solar, and  energy efficiency.

Our second priority bill is the so-called Tier 2 bill (S.23/A.4292) which has passed the Senate and advanced to the Ways and Means Committee in the Assembly. This bill addresses an important gap in NY’s Clean Energy Standard by supporting existing pre-2015 renewables. Maintaining these facilities in New York is important to reaching the goal of 50%, or beyond. Teams thanked the Senate for passing the bill and urged its passage in the Assembly.

Because the budget process was behind them, the ACE NY lobby teams found many lawmakers and staff receptive to, and already thinking about, what can be accomplished between now and the end of session. We encountered no resistance to the idea that there is a climate crisis, let alone that New York can be a leader in crafting a response that supports renewable energy and energy efficiency, and creates jobs.  It is not clear whether Cuomo’s CLA or the popular CCPA will be the platform on which climate smart clean energy legislation will go forward this year. But there was no question that it should.