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Post-election Review: Unprecedented change - and opportunity - in the NYS Legislature

Post-election Review: Unprecedented change – and opportunity – in the NYS Legislature

Posted on November 8, 2018


By Jeff Jones

With heavy spending by the oil and gas industry, ballot initiatives promoting renewable energy and supporting climate projects went down to defeat in Washington, Colorado, and Arizona. Whether or not there was a Blue Wave can be debated in other parts of the country. But not in New York. Powered by Gov. Cuomo’s strong re-election success at the top of the ticket, Democrats took firm control of every level of state government, winning all four state-wide races, holding on to Kirsten Gillibrand’s US Senate seat, taking over the majority in the state Senate and holding firm in the Assembly. Of these, the most significant change is in the state Senate. Even the best pre-election speculation gave the Dems a chance of picking up one or two seats. That they now hold an 8-seat majority is unprecedented in anyone’s memory. It means, among other things, that they can, if they choose, move an aggressive agenda across a range of issues.

At ACE NY, we are asking: What will this mean for renewable energy and energy efficiency policy in New York?

It is reasonable to expect growing support for renewables and almost any concrete initiatives that are linked to combatting climate change. Longstanding relations between traditionally fossil-fuel friendly utilities, independent power producers and Senate Republicans are suddenly without consequence. Many of the newly elected members, coming from metropolitan areas impacted by Hurricane Sandy, included action on climate change in their campaign agendas. They were also universally in sync with the Governor in standing in opposition to President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords. And on Long Island, long a bastion of upper house Republican power, the Democrats now control six of the nine Senate seats. This does not mean that an organized and clear climate agenda is part of the incoming Majority’s agenda. Their initial focus looks to be on health care, ethics reform, and voter access. Even marijuana legalization was higher up on the electoral agenda. But the door will quickly open for serious support for renewable energy (and offshore wind on Long Island) and energy efficiency legislation.

Upstate, the NIMBY problems that have plagued the siting of utility-scale wind and solar projects will not go away. But two newly elected Senate Democrats, from the Hudson Valley and Syracuse, are active clean energy advocates. Jennifer Metzger, who won the 42nd District seat held by the retiring John Bonacic, has been a mid-Hudson Valley leader of community solar and other local clean energy programs for years. And Rachel May, who defeated Independent Democratic Conference member David Valesky and went on to win the District 53 seat, attended the 2nd Climate Solutions Summit, co-sponsored by ACE NY last May in Syracuse. With support from environmental organizations and the renewable energy industry, these two newcomers can become strong voices for the clean energy agenda.

Individual Senators will still echo local opposition to utility scale wind and solar projects, and this will remain an important area for ACE NY to monitor. They can even introduce bills, thanks to reforms enacted by the Senate Democrats during their brief and chaotic majority ten years ago. But, given the strong relation between the incoming Senate Majority and the Governor, we can hope for a  more favorable political environment in the Capital.  Both supporters and developers of renewable energy took heart from expressions by Governor staff members at the October ACE NY annual conference, undertaking to move projects more quickly through the Article X siting process. It also means that the Assembly will now, for the first time in a decade, be considering clean energy legislation that has a chance of passage in the Senate. This could be a game-changer




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Getting Renewables Sited in New York

Getting Renewables Sited in New York

By Erin Landy

The rate of permitting for large-scale renewables in New York State has become a major concern for ACE members and a potential roadblock in the path of the State achieving its 50% renewable energy standard by 2030. At the rate that new large-scale renewable projects are being approved, we will be nowhere near our goal of 50% renewable energy by 2030. Only one project has been approved thus far, four applications have recently been deemed compliant (complete), and another 33 projects are in the pipeline. It seems inevitable that the Department of Public Service (DPS) will need more staff to process these applications in a workable timeframe.

At this year’s  ACE NY Fall Conference, the Article 10 siting issue was a major theme. Sarah Osgood, Director of Policy Implementation at NYS DPS spoke on one panel and stated, "We need to have a rigorous and comprehensive application and review process but — and this is I think a very big but — the process must work. Hard stop. It must work. It needs to be as frictionless and smooth as possible, and we're moving in that direction, but we clearly have work to do."

The Article 10 process is lengthy, expensive, and unpredictable. ACE NY has a number of recommendations on how the process can be much more efficient: We recommend more predictable and timely completeness reviews, a better stipulations process, the development and use of standardized conditions, and more open and  productive communications between applicants and staff at the various Siting Board agencies, including DPS, DEC, and others.

The good news? DPS has assigned Ms. Osgood to focus on improvement of the process at DPS, and we also hear that some consulting support is now available to help with Article 10 at the NYS agencies. This, and the recent completeness determinations, may be reason for optimism. Still, changing agency culture is tough, and it often appears like the staff encouraging renewables and the staff permitting renewables are from two different States – or planets.

ACE NY will continue to focus on this issue and welcomes ideas or war stories from members companies now engaged in Article 10.   

Earth Day Announcement of New Energy Efficiency Goal

National Energy Efficiency Day - October 5

Earth Day Announcement of New Energy Efficiency Goal

On Earth day of this year, April 20, 2018, Governor Cuomo announced a new energy efficiency (EE) target in an effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change. The energy efficiency target, established in the New Efficiency: New York white paper, is 185 trillion British thermal units (TBtu) of cumulative annual site energy savings relative to forecasted energy consumption in 2025. This level of energy savings is equivalent to fueling and powering over 1.8 million New York homes by 2025. If achieved, the 2025 Energy Efficiency target will compensate for one-third of the 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions goal by 2030.
 
How will we reach this goal? Our Suggestions:
We at the Alliance for Clean Energy New York (ACE NY), fully support this target. The challenge we now face is reaching this goal. ACE NY and Advanced Energy Economy Institute (AEEI) filed Comments on New Efficiency: New York that detail our suggestions for NYSERDA to include in the Energy Efficiency Order that is to result from the New Efficiency: New York white paper.
 
We suggest a focus on utilities; giving them aggressive goals, strong incentives, and clear guidance on funding. The next step in reaching the Energy Efficiency goal is fully defining the Utility-leveraged portion of Accelerated Actions and providing guidance to utilities on actions they should be implementing to ramp up their EE savings.
 
We urge the Commission to issue an Energy Efficiency framework order focused on the Utility-Leveraged Accelerated Actions by the end of 2018 that allocates a portion of the Energy Efficiency target to each utility and explains how cost recovery will work in the short-term.
 
We request that this Order, while maintaining flexibility for utilities, compel them to apply a methodology to value energy efficiency as a resource and commence regular competitive procurement of energy efficiency. There needs to be a funding mechanism and price signal to invest in and capture the value of EE potential. Directives from the Commission to utilities that increase their EE targets, plus provide clarity regarding cost recovery, will jumpstart EE.
 
Finally the PSC must be bold and timely, because we simply do not have any more time to wait to leverage the sizeable EE opportunity and meet the Governor’s goals for EE, renewable energy, and carbon reductions for 2025.
 

Made in NY: What Will It Take for Corporates to Buy NY Renewables?

Made in NY: What Will It Take for Corporates to Buy NY Renewables?

--ACE NY at Climate Week NYC

Corporate voluntary purchasing of wind and solar power has been so hot in 2018; it seems a new deal is announced weekly. Bloomberg New Energy Finance reported a record-breaking 7.2 GW of global renewable energy purchasing so far in 2018, already well above 2017 levels.

But why isn’t it happening in New York?

Buying renewable energy through long-term power purchasing agreements is motivated by corporate sustainability goals, matched by the potential for long-term savings. The RE100 – a growing list of 140 companies striving to offset 100% of their energy needs through these agreements – reflects this marriage of eco-commitments and savings opportunities. And it is the U.S. and Nordic countries where corporate renewables buying is most active.

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