New York has some of the most aggressive electrical grid decarbonization goals of any state. In 2019, Governor Cuomo signed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), a broad legislative mandate that requires the state to source 70% of its electricity from renewable resources by 2030 (70 by ’30 goal) and achieve 100% zero-emissions electricity by 2040. Meeting the 2030 goal requires a significant increase in renewable energy procurement from offshore wind, solar, and hydropower, as well as reforms to the regulatory structure of the state’s electricity markets. On June 18, 2020, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the state’s Department of Public Service (DPS) published a report outlining how existing regulatory and procurement processes under the state’s clean energy standard (CES) can be used to meet the 2030 requirement and set the state on a path to meeting the 2040 goal, while proposing new policies and modifications to the CES to align the program with the CLCPA.

The New England states, much like New York, have ambitious climate change goals and strategies that require greater deployment of zero-carbon electricity sources. The table below outlines the economy-wide greenhouse gas reduction commitments in New England and New York. Since other sectors such as transportation and buildings will need to move to clean electricity, rather than burning fossil fuels electricity, it is crucial that the electric gird decarbonizes as soon as possible. The report notes that “decarbonization of the generation sector and electrification of other sectors – all while ensuring efficiency and cost-effectiveness – must be carried out simultaneously and vigorously.” Decreasing emissions from buildings and transportation through energy efficiency, electric vehicle (EV) adoption and home electrification will be critical, which will also require an increase in renewable electricity through growing offshore wind, solar, and hydroelectric resources. Many of the suggested market reforms laid out in the NYSERDA report are relevant to New England, especially as both areas plan for a dramatic increase in offshore wind and are concerned with the environmental justice issues of existing natural gas infrastructure. Meeting decarbonization goals will not be easy, but New York, as detailed in this report and mandated in the CLCPA, is a taking a wide-ranging and holistic approach to decarbonization from which other states and regions can learn.

Progress To-Date and Roadmap to a Cleaner Grid

NYSERDA lays out the progress that New York has made toward meeting its 2030 goal. The graph below illustrates that:

1. Even though New York expects increased electrification of home heating and cooling through air- and ground-source heat pumps, as well as increased demand for electricity due to EV adoption, overall electric demand is projected to decrease by 6% between 2020 and 2030 due to increased energy efficiency and behind-the-meter solar, such as residential rooftop solar panels.
2. Non-renewable generation will have to decrease from roughly 75% of total generation today to 30% by 2030 (orange wedge). Below, we estimate that non-renewable generation will retire in straight linear fashion, however, retirements are likely to be stepwise as large fossil plants are required to come offline before 2030.
3. Approximately 25% of New York power generation in 2018 came from renewable energy (dark blue wedge), a sizeable portion that counts toward the 2030 goal.
4. New York needs additional renewable energy procurement beyond existing contracted renewable resources (light-blue wedge) including the 1,826 megawatt (MW) Empire Wind and Sunrise Wind projects and the 6 gigawatts (GW) of community-scaled on-site solar through the state’s NY-Sun program, both expected to be operational by 2025. This leaves a gap of roughly 43,000 GWh, or 28% of projected 2030 load, of new renewable energy (green wedge) that the state must supply in order to meet its 2030 target, a substantial but achievable goal. This remaining renewable generation is split between the mandated 9 GW of offshore wind by 2035 as required by the CLCPA and new renewable generation that has not been built or contracted.

Existing Clean Energy Standard Challenges and Recommendations

In the report, NYSERDA details challenges that the state faces and presents a number of recommended changes to the state’s procurement processes for renewable resources to ensure that the state meets its 2030 goal.

Concluding Thoughts and Next Steps

In order to stave off the worst effects of climate change, the science indicates that we must decarbonize our electricity supply as quickly as possible. In fact, as we increasingly rely on the electric grid to power transportation and heating, it becomes even more important that those sectors electrify using renewable electricity. New York, like New England, has ambitious grid decarbonization goals, with this report illustrating that the transition to a clean energy future will require long-term planning, proactive state-wide policy, flexible renewable energy development timelines, and a focus on environmental equity and justice.

Opportunities to Take Action:

NYSERDA is currently taking comments on the report through August 18, 2020.

by Stefan Koester, Policy Analyst