Road Map to Clean Energy and Climate Initiatives in New York’s 2014 State of the State Report

Curbing global warming emissions and building the clean energy economy are critical to New York State’s future and the health and well-being of all New Yorkers. In this week’s State of the State event, Governor Cuomo announced some significant new clean energy and climate initiatives.

In case you didn’t have time in listen in, or to pore through the 219-page State of the State report that the Governor’s office released after the speech, or check out the various other energy tomes that the State has issued in the last week, here’s a road map to some of the highlights.

For starters, the State of the State report correctly noted some of the State’s major and impressive clean energy accomplishments over the last year, including:

  • Expansion of the highly successful NY-SUN solar energy program, which has already led to the development of some 300 MW of solar power in New York –an exponential increase over the last five years.  As my colleague Pierre Bull writes, just the other day, the State announced its plans to expand the program, with a one billion dollar investment leading to 3,000 MW of clean solar power over ten years — a stunning ten-fold increase over current levels, and enough to power 465,000 New York homes, cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2.3 million tons annually — the equivalent of taking almost 435,000 cars off the road — and create more than 13,000 new solar jobs.
  • The launch of New York’s one billion dollar Green Bank to work in partnership with the private sector to remove clean energy financing market barriers;
  • Establishment of the goal to install 2,500 new electric vehicle charging stations by 2018 — an important step toward cleaning up our transportation system; and
  • Initial steps toward the development of New York’s vast and as yet-untapped, offshore wind resources. We hope to see more action on New York offshore wind in 2014!

Moving forward, the State of the State unveiled a number of new clean energy and climate resiliency initiatives for 2014, including the following.

First, the Governor announced a unique and interesting new program called NYPrize, which is a $40 million competition to help build community microgrids for neighborhoods of 40,000 people.  As the report explains, these new energy systems will combine local clean power sources with microgrids — standalone energy systems that can operate as an “energy island” in the event of a power outage — that will enable communities to maintain access to electricity and heat.  This could be an important community climate resiliency strategy, both showcasing clean distributed energy technologies and protecting vulnerable residents from future superstorms.

Second, the Governor announced a great new school and community “solarizing” program called Community Solar NY, which, as my colleague Nathanael Greene reports, will help New York’s 5,000 public schools finance and install solar power systems on their roofs, reducing energy costs and creating a healthier environment.  Led by the New York Power Authority and the New York Energy Research & Development Authority, this initiative will also use solar schools as demonstration hubs to “solarize” entire neighborhoods, rallying the entire community around the benefits of solar, with possible financial reward to solar schools based on how many local residents are inspired to go solar.

Finally, the State of the State included a whole series of new initiatives aimed at addressing “the new reality” of climate change.  Pointing out the “new normal” of more frequent and severe extreme weather events — with three major storms impacting New York State within just eighteen months, the Governor’s plan includes $17 billion in proposed projects to strengthen New York’s communities against extreme weather, including $1.4 billion for much needed projects to harden and improve electric power systems, upgrade protections for waste water treatment plants and systems, $1.9 billion for coastal protection projects and further support for natural infrastructure protections such as wetlands and beach restoration. My colleague Eric Goldstein has the details here.

As always, announcements are only the first step and implementation is where the rubber hits the road.  The details will matter and follow-through is essential, and there’s much more work on clean energy progress in New York.  But today’s State of the State holds great promise for a stronger, healthier New York.

This article was originally published on NRDC Switchboard and was republished with permission.

Lead image: New York welcome sign via Shutterstock

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I first joined NRDC in 1988 after working for a federal judge for two years. In my early years, I had the chance to work on a wide range of great cross-cutting issues at NRDC, ranging from working to improve New York City’s sewage system and to reform its zoning code in my early years; fighting water pollution in the Hudson River; and bringing scores of enforcement cases across the country. In the second half of my NRDC career, I have focused on energy issues, with a focus on renewable energy, energy efficiency and power plant siting. In 2007, I left NRDC to become head of the Environmental Protection Bureau at the New York State Attorney General’s Office. I had the privilege to serve the Attorney General and the State of New York for three years, and to work on a diverse and challenging set of environmental issues across New York State and nationally. I recently returned to NRDC to help move forward our clean energy and global warming agenda at the federal level.

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