In New York, the good news I’m referring to, announced last Wednesday, is that two upstate communities will each become home to a 78-megawatt wind power project by 2017. Each project will create 200 jobs during construction, along with eight to 10 permanent jobs in operations.
Each will provide lease payments to land owners and support local communities. And each will provide enough pollution-free electricity to power more than 25,000 homes. “Through these and other innovative energy projects supported by the state, we are developing a more sustainable mechanism for delivering cleaner, more reliable and resilient energy,” New York’s Governor Cuomo said about the two projects. That’s good news, indeed. (Kudos, too, to the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority and the New York State Public Service Commission for helping make these projects possible.)
New York’s renewable energy standard, which provides the support Governor Cuomo alluded to in his comments, has been central to the development of virtually all of the clean energy projects developed here in the Empire State. So central has it been, in fact, that if not for the funding the standard provides, says Erin Bowser, of EDP Renewables North America LLC, developer of the new wind-power projects in Chautauqua and Franklin counties, “we wouldn’t be building these projects.”
That standard, technically called the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), is currently set to expire next year. As the governor and his energy team pursue their two-pronged Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) and Clean Energy Fund proposal to succeed it, they should be sure to build on this current, successful foundation. The $5 billion Green Energy Fund proposal would spur clean energy investments over the next 10 years by supporting NY-Sun, the NY Green Bank, and other programs to facilitate the deployment of energy efficiency and innovative clean technologies. But the state must provide that same certainty for utility-scale renewable projects if we want to sustain the momentum that has been generated to date.
In fact, to continue New York’s national clean energy leadership, to help further drive down the already plummeting costs of wind and solar power, and to meet New York’s commitments to cut carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050, the state shouldn’t just invest $5 billion over the next 10 years. It should commit to getting 50 percent of our energy from pollution-free sources—like wind and solar power—by 2025. Moreover, the Long Island Power Authority, which has been administratively exempt from the RPS to date, can contribute to the RPS’s successes and bring more of the RPS’s advantages to its part of the state. After all, Long Island accounts for nearly 20 percent of New York’s electricity demand. And it shouldn’t be denied the new jobs, the energy-cost cuts, the cleaner air, and the reduced carbon pollution the RPS helps deliver.
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