Challenges and opportunities as New York strives to become carbon-free by 2040
In his most recent “State of the State” address, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo laid out plans for New York’s Green New Deal – an ambitious initiative that leverages various renewable energy technologies, including solar and battery storage, to make the Empire State’s energy infrastructure 100% carbon-free by 2040.
Interest in a Green New Deal is not unique to New York – at the federal level, Representative Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Markey recently introduced a resolution which addresses a wide variety of sectors, from energy to healthcare and employment.
Governor Cuomo’s proposal, which he has branded as ‘New York’s Green New Deal,’ focuses solely on the state’s energy targets – such as installing 1.5GW of energy storage by 2025 (and 3GW by 2030) – and expands the ambition of several environmental goals by:
- Moving New York’s Clean Energy Standard from 50% to 70% by 2030.
- Doubling the original target of 3GW of solar capacity by 2023 to 6GW by 2025.
- More than tripling offshore wind capacity from 2.4GW by 2030 to 9GW by 2035.
If passed, New York’s Green New Deal is expected to create 2,600 short- and long-term jobs in the process.
Because of the accelerated timeline and aggressive targets, New York’s Green New Deal continues to draw a lot of attention – even in a state that already ranks among the top 10 for cumulative solar power.
However, the Governor’s proposal is particularly striking given New York’s current clean energy landscape – in 2018, the state installed 281MW of solar photovoltaic (PV) projects and has around 1GW of total installed solar. In order to meet its 2025 target, the state will need to install an additional 1GW of solar capacity every year – for the next 5 years.
The question is, will New York succeed?
Is New York prepared to meet these clean energy goals?
Elements of New York’s Green New Deal will need to pass the legislature to ensure long-term commitment. However, the political will is clearly there – as evidenced both by the Governor’s recent address and by the numerous state and federal incentives that currently exist, including the 30% Federal Investment Tax Credit and New York state-level solar incentives, which consist of solar rebates, net metering, feed-in tariffs, and Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs).
The requisite technology also exists, with solar PV power consistently delivering measurable savings, short payback periods, and predictable returns in a market plagued by historically high grid electricity prices.
However, New York still needs to resolve several key debates to most effectively meet its 2040 sustainability goals.
Challenge 1: Clean energy incentives and financing
Any investment of this scale requires massive amounts of funding. Fortunately, $1.2 billion in financing is already currently available, with a proposed doubling of the state’s NY-Sun Incentives and $400 million in incentives slated for New York’s Energy Storage Roadmap.
New York’s willingness to devote so many resources to renewable energy development is admirable. States should encourage green investment in solar solutions and other clean energy technologies as much as possible. It’s also important that elected officials balance between improving the energy system of the future, while limiting the shorter-term impact on utility rates (and, in some cases, taxes).
Challenge 2: Utility-scale vs. distributed solar on homes and businesses
Another ongoing debate centers around how much support for solar solutions should go to utility-scale projects versus commercial solar and residential solar PV installations. For most energy generation technologies, ‘utility-scale’ has been the traditional go-to option, as they benefit from economies of scale.
However, solar PV has already proven highly successful as a distributed energy technology that can scale quickly, affordably, and organically. This is especially true when using on-site energy storage to reduce peak demand charges by leveraging stored solar energy – or even boost the resilience and sustainability of a site’s energy supply.
In addition, third-party solar developers bring competition and innovation. This enables bottom-up development simultaneously across the entire state – as opposed to staggered, top-down deployment overseen by a centralized authority.
Challenge 3: Grid-scale vs. behind-the-meter solar battery storage
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has already allocated $40 million of solar storage financing, with plans to distribute another $400 million across large-scale utility storage projects, and behind-the-meter energy storage within the commercial and residential markets. These projects will be further boosted by financing support from the NY Green Bank.
It’s positive that a large chunk of the support will go towards homes and businesses installing ‘behind-the-meter’ solar and storage on their own properties. That enables them to manage their own energy needs – including whether to store daytime solar electricity for nighttime use.
Greater behind-the-meter support also delivers two additional benefits:
- The entire grid moves towards a truly decentralized model, which is precisely what distributed energy solutions like solar are designed to do.
- The utility network becomes more redundant, helping to reduce both the frequency and severity of grid failures.
New York: Looking to a future powered by sunshine
If New York can deliver on the ambition of its Green New Deal, it will join a growing list of states committed to a zero-carbon future powered by sunshine, wind, and other sustainable technologies. In fact, New York could soon have the most aggressive, legally-binding renewable energy targets in the country – surpassing the previous record-holder, California.
At Centrica Business Solutions, we hope to play an active role in helping New York reach its 2040 carbon-free targets. If New York is ultimately successful in this shared mission, everyone will be a winner.
You don’t have to wait for New York’s Green New Deal to take effect in order implement renewable energy solutions like solar for your business. Contact our team of solar experts today to learn how our commercial solar solutions can lower your energy expenses now and boost the sustainability of your business when you generate your own renewable power – and what solar incentives are available to lower your upfront costs, speed up your payback period, and monetize your energy.