As climate change marches on, it’s hard to understand how we as a country will be able to turn this situation around. Our attachment to fossil fuels seems so intractable, and Congress still debates whether climate change is even real. But that’s only part of the story.

Albany [the NYS Energy Research & Development Authority] has just released its 2015 New York State Energy Plan. We are reading it closely now and will have more to say shortly. Take a second to absorb the fact that almost 100,000 New Yorkers commented on a draft of the plan. That’s a lot of people!

If you have the time, check out the plan’s overview. Here are the key goals articulated by the plan for the next 15 years:

1.) 40 percent reduction in New York’s greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels.

To date, NYS has cut GHG emissions 12 percent from 1990 levels- we have 28 percent to go. The State’s long-term goal is to decrease total carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050.

How will that happen? By reducing GHG emissions from the energy sector- which is responsible for overall power generation, including power for industry, buildings, transportation, and our general lifestyle.

2.) Half of electricity generation to come from renewable energy sources.

“Renewable energy sources, including solar, wind, hydropower, and biomass, will play a vital role in reducing electricity price volatility and curbing carbon emissions,” says the State.

3.) 23 percent decrease in energy consumption in buildings from 2012 levels.

Energy efficiency results in lower energy bills and is the single most cost-effective tool in achieving energy objectives, the State argues.

Renewable Energy- wind, solar and more

As part of the Plan, the State has eight renewable energy categories on which it will focus. We are using the Plan’s language in our summaries below.

  1. Large-Scale Renewables (e.g., wind farms and large solar arrays)- Centralized generation and transmission will continue to serve as the backbone of NY’s power grid. The State is making a 10-year budget commitment of $1.5 billion to stimulate greater investment in large scale renewables and put them on a path to grid-parity. The State has been investing in large-scale renewables since the 1950s, when the NY Power Authority developed its first hydroelectric stations. Since 2004, energy developers have built nearly 1,900 MW of clean power using state incentives.
  2. NY-Sun Initiative- launched in 2014, the $1 billion program provides long term support to the statewide solar industry using a declining incentive schedule. The goal is to create a self-sustaining solar market in New York, with an expected 3,000 megawatts of solar capacity added to the state’s electricity mix by 2023.
  3. K-Solar- helps K-12 schools go solar cost-effectively by aggregating hundreds of schools into regional procurement processes. Through May 2015, nearly 270 public school districts -over 35 percent of all districts in the state- have signed up for the program.
  4. “Shared” Renewables- only a quarter of residential rooftop area in the U.S. is suitable for hosting solar PV. Through “community net metering” New Yorkers will be able to participate in local renewable energy projects of all types and receive credit on their utility bills for their portion of the power produced.
  5. Offshore Wind Initiative-  creates an ecosystem for offshore wind that enables projects to develop at scale, rather than on a project-by-project basis. Includes forming a regional wind collaborative w-other northeastern states, and establishing “wind energy areas” throughout the Atlantic Bight coastal area.
  6. Renewable Heat NY & Other Renewable Thermal Technologies- supports greater use of “advanced” (less environmentally harmful) wood heating equipment, plus other renewable heating/cooling technologies and fuels (e.g., solar space and water heating, ground and air source heat pumps).
  7. Clean Organic Waste Management– helps the state’s wastewater treatment, agriculture, food processing, and waste management sectors to re-use organic waste. This includes anaerobic digestion, which turns waste into biogas.
  8. Sustainable Fuel Production–  re-uses agricultural and organic waste feedstock, especially as a substitute for petroleum fuels imported from out-of-state.

Here’s what some environmental groups have to say about the State’s energy plan

Conor Bambrick, air and energy director for Environmental Advocates of New York:

“The State Energy Plan sets clear benchmarks and standards that will operationalize Governor Cuomo’s prior commitment to reducing climate pollution 80 percent by 2050…The Governor and his team deserve credit for such an aggressive plan.

There will be no way to achieve these goals, however, if the state continues to make bad decisions that stall progress and exacerbate our climate problems, such as re-firing outdated fossil fuel plants and raiding carbon abatement programs like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

[Public] comments focused largely on issues like climate change, wind and solar power, and the need for the state to reduce climate pollution across all economic sectors. It’s an enormous level of engagement…We applaud people for taking time out of their lives to make their voices heard!

We will also work with the [NYS] Legislature to codify them [the State’s greenhouse gas reduction objectives]. The Assembly passed legislation to do this (A.6072), but Senate leadership has failed to bring the bill up for a vote. It is time for these goals to be set into law.”

And Jackson Morris, of the Natural Resources Defense Council, noted in a blog post yesterday:

“This is great for the climate, no doubt about it. But it’s also what New York needs to further build its economy. Plans like these, when designed well and thoughtfully implemented, create jobs and save consumers serious money on energy.

New York’s experience in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is a case in point. The program, which includes nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, has helped cut greenhouse gas pollution from power plants by more than 40 percent since it was first implemented in 2005.

At the same time, the region’s economy has grown faster than the rest of the country’s, adding thousands of new jobs in fields like energy efficiency and renewable energy, and saving customers hundreds of millions on their energy bills already, with billions more to come.”