Bioenergy, Project Development, Wind Power

New York Increases Funding for Renewable Energy

The Public Service Commission of New York has approved increased funding for wind, solar and biomass energy sources, as well as energy conservation.

NEW YORK, New York – The PSC voted unanimously to provide $750 million over five years to develop clean energy, of which renewable energy projects will receive 10 percent. The new funding level is almost double the spending approved for 1997-2000. Wind energy will be allocated $47.5 million over the five years to develop large-scale wind farms and to encourage the use of small turbines on farms and rural homesteads. The support is expected to see construction of 200 MW of wind capacity in the state, sufficient for 84,000 homes. “New York needs more clean, renewable electric power resources,” says David Wooley of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). “This action will boost wind energy, create jobs and help make our electric power supplies more secure and affordable.” “Wind energy development makes our electric power supply more secure by reducing dependence on imported fossil fuels and insulating us from price spikes caused by shortages,” he adds. “It also provides an economic stimulus for rural areas and reduces air pollution.” The funding for renewable energy is four times greater than previous levels. Funds from the PSC’s 1996 order helped establish the state’s first two large-scale wind farms that went on line last fall in Madison and Wyoming counties. New York ranks higher than California in potential for wind energy, and industry officials estimate that wind could supply 5,000 MW of electricity and meet 10 percent of the state’s electric power consumption. The decision renews and expands funding for the Energy Smart Programs administered by the State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA). A charge on electric bills has been raised from less than 0.001¢/kWh to 0.15, which is equivalent to 75¢ a month on an average household electric bill, but Wooley says spending on renewable is likely to reduce electricity bills since energy efficiency and renewable energy avoid shortages of electric power and natural gas that create price spikes in electricity markets. “Distribution utilities, the state power authorities have important responsibilities to develop renewable energy resources,” he adds, and the PSC action should be viewed as part of a broader set of state policies needed to secure clean and affordable electric power supplies for New York. “Regulatory action is needed to broaden opportunities for consumers to make wind energy part of their everyday electric power supply,” he explains. “State income tax credits would create a thriving small wind turbine industry here.” Eight states, including Texas, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Connecticut, have established Renewable Portfolio Standard policies that gradually increase the amount of renewable energy in the power mix. An RPS encourages renewable energy investment by reducing the uncertainty regarding growth in retail electric demand for renewables, and Wooley says the New York legislature should enact an RPS. It should also mandate net metering and a tax credit for small wind turbine owners. Every 100 MW of wind development generates $1 million in property tax revenue and creates 500 job-years of employment. If New York were to develop 2,000 MW by 2010, the result would be $20 million a year in tax revenues to rural communities and 10,000 job-years.