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New York Must Speed Up Climate Projects to Reach Goals

A report from the state comptroller’s office found that the state would need to increase its renewable energy generation by over 200 percent to achieve its goal of 70 percent renewable electricity by 2030.

New York is going to have to do a lot more to reach its climate goals, according to the latest report from the state comptroller's office.

The state has set high standards for the next few decades of energy and climate policy with the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, passed in 2019. The law pushes the state to reduce emissions to 40 percent below what was released in 1990 by 2030, and then 85 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

"New York's energy goals are attainable, but require careful attention and management to address challenges, meet ambitious deadlines and avoid future pitfalls," said Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

The comptroller pointed out that the state's record on completing successful renewable energy projects has been inconsistent, with funding gaps, canceled projects and delays pushing progress behind targets set in the laws and policies enacting them.

"Between 2005 and April 2023, 28 projects totaling 1,319 megawatts, or 11.3 percent of contracted capacity, have been canceled," DiNapoli's report said.

DiNapoli reported that the New York Independent System Operator interconnection process, which connects new projects to the grid, has one of the longest wait times in the country.

He noted that while the NYISO has started to streamline the interconnection process for renewable energy projects, more reform is necessary if the state is going to reach its 2030 goal.

New York ranks as the sixth-highest producer of renewable energy in the country, behind Texas, California, Iowa, Washington and Oregon, producing about 36,924 gigawatt-hours of renewable energy in 2020.

Hydropower represented the vast majority of that renewable energy, with the Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant in Niagara Falls serving as the single-largest power producer in the state in 2020 and 2022, generating 15,490 gigawatt-hours in 2022. A single gigawatt-hour powers about 750,000 homes for one hour.

Wind power was the second-largest contributor to renewable energy generation in 2022, providing 4,825 gigawatt-hours, 13.1 percent of renewable energy produced, and solar came in last with total production including personal panels for at-home use accounting for 12.9 percent of renewable power produced.

Overall, renewable power has only slowly become more prevalent in the daily energy source mix for New York, which combines renewables including nuclear power, hydropower, wind and solar with natural gas, heating fuel, biomass, and a very small portion of coal.

"The state's renewable electric generation averaged 20 percent of total electric generation between 2005 and 2016," DiNapoli's report states. "Since then, the share grew to approximately 29 percent of state generation in 2022. To reach the CLCPA goal of 70 percent in 2030, renewable generators in New York would need to produce an additional 78,073 gigawatt hours above 2022 production levels, an increase of over 200 percent."

DiNapoli said the NYISO has identified the need to add 20 gigawatts of additional electric generation and transmission infrastructure to meet the 2030 goal. Current renewable energy installations account for about 6.5 gigawatts, meaning the state will need to more than triple renewable energy production in the next seven years.

DiNapoli noted that most of the state's current renewable energy comes from hydropower projects that have existed for more than 60 years, and even the construction of new fossil fuel projects has not occurred at the rate needed to achieve the state's projected energy needs.

"To (achieve renewable goals), the state will have to increase the rate at which renewable electricity projects are permitted and approved for interconnection to the state electric grid as over the last 20 years, the state has only added 12.9 gigawatts of both renewable and fossil projects," the report said.

DiNapoli's report included suggestions for achieving the goals set in the CLCPA and still meeting the state's general electric generation needs; provide incentives to encourage renewable energy production, protect the permitting and siting process to ensure both state and local issues are respected when projects are built, and rapidly speed up the interconnection process to bring existing and soon-to-be-completed renewable projects online for the grid.

The report also noted that the state faces relatively high energy prices for consumers, and current funding paths for renewable projects may lead to even higher bills for average power customers by relying on bill fees to finance energy projects.

DiNapoli said that tends to lay even greater burdens on low-income households by increasing the cost of a necessary service for all customers. He suggested that the state further consider proposals that would lessen the impact of higher energy costs on New Yorkers, including one proposal that would limit energy bills for low income residents to 6 percent of their yearly income if they agree to a program to decarbonize their homes and improve their appliances' energy efficiency.

"In order to achieve the goals of the CLCPA, New York will have to take steps to increase renewable energy generation," DiNapoli said in his report. "If the projects currently under contract to sell (Renewable Energy Credits) to the state and the projects in the NYISO's interconnection queue are able to move through the interconnection and construction process, and needed transmission and distribution infrastructure is completed in a timely way, the CLCPA's goal of generating 70 percent of the state's electricity with renewable technologies appears to be within reach. But this is a big if."

He said the siting process may need to be sped up even more to achieve the goals of the CLCPA, and the continued issues with speeding up grid interconnection projects has become a major bottleneck.

"Every effort should be made to clearly identify how transitions to the states electric generation fleet and transmission grid will affect consumer electric bills in the future and to hold down costs to the state's electric customers," DiNapoli's report concluded.

(c)2023 Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, N.Y.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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