Last week, New York legislators endorsed Governor Andrew Cuomo’s ambitious clean energy goals, adopting the Climate Leadership Community Protection Act that targets an aggressive expansion of on- and offshore wind development and the integration of solar and battery storage resources onto the electric grid.  When implemented, the new legislation will require the complete decarbonization of the State’s electric system by 2040, net-zero emissions by 2050 with the use of carbon offsets and includes nearer-term targets for solar, batteries and offshore wind.  Governor Cuomo is expected to sign the bill into law soon.

Expanding on Governor Cuomo’s previous clean energy goals, the new legislation sets targets of: 6 gigawatts of solar capacity by 2025, 3 gigawatts of energy storage by 2030 and 9 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2035.  The latter is by far the most ambitious target of any state in the country.

As interim steps, the law requires:

  • 2030: at least 70 percent of the State’s electricity be generated by renewables (defined broadly as hydroelectric, wind, solar and certain bio-mass resources), an increase from the previous 50 percent target;
  • 2040: the electric grid must operate with 100 percent zero-emission generation; and
  • 2050: cut all greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent compared to 1990 levels and eliminate 85 percent of the State’s economywide emissions by 2050, the most stringent economywide carbon target in the country.[1]

The State already has relatively low-carbon generation compared to other states, thanks largely to four nuclear power plants and the largest hydroelectric fleet of any state in the Eastern Interconnection.[2]  In 2018, 5 percent of New York’s power was generated by solar and wind energy; but total emissions-free generation accounted for over 50 percent, with 32 percent nuclear and 22 percent hydropower.[3]  The remaining 41 percent was generated by natural-gas fired resources, largely downstate.[4]  However, with the planned retirement of Indian Point,[5] the State is expected to lose approximately 2,000 MW of nuclear generation capacity by 2021.  The other three upstate nuclear plants are also likely to retire, but not until 2030.[6]  As such, the State’s push to become a cleaner electric grid will be a challenge because these carbon-free MWhs will first need to be replaced before making incremental progress towards 100 percent carbon-free.

Also, with onshore wind development largely expected in Western New York, and load centers primarily downstate, a significant build-out of large-scale regional transmission lines will likely be required.[7]  Such transmission has historically been difficult for the state to plan, site and develop.[8]  Approximately 80 percent of the State’s over 11,000 circuit miles of bulk transmission lines entered service before 1980.[9]  Over the past two years, however, the State’s grid operator – the New York ISO – has selected three major transmission lines as part of two competitive public policy transmission solicitations following the New York Public Service Commission’s establishment of a Public Policy Transmission Need.[10]  Once complete, the projects will add the largest amount of free-flowing transmission capacity to the New York bulk power system in more than 30 years.[11]

A potential benefit of offshore wind – among others – is its proximity to New York City and Long Island.  According to an initial New York ISO assessment, the injection of up-to 2,400 MW of offshore wind downstate may be feasible considering a variety of additional injection points.[12]  Additional reviews and studies will be required given the increased State goals to identify impediments to increasing the offshore wind target.  Separately, NYSERDA is expected to announce the winners of its first offshore wind solicitation for up-to 800 megawatts of capacity soon.

New York has joined a growing list of states and other jurisdictions with 100 percent clean energy requirements, including: California, Nevada, Hawaii, Washington, New Mexico, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico,[13] though none as early as 2040.  Despite some early excitement at the federal level about the Green New Deal with the new U.S. Congress, new U.S. energy legislation is not expected in the near-term.  And at the federal agency level, the current U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is intent on weakening earlier attempts at clean energy and greenhouse gas reduction initiatives, including through its recent Affordable Clean Energy Rule.  With inaction at the federal level, it falls primarily to the states to advance clean energy and greenhouse gas measures.  When implemented, the Climate Leadership Community Protection Act will solidify New York as one of the leaders in clean energy policy.


[1] A 22-member Climate Action Council composed of heads of various New York state agencies, and members appointed by the Governor, the Senate, and the Assembly will create a scoping plan.  Every four years, the council will issue a comprehensive report on state greenhouse gas emissions and progress, and adjust its plan as needed.

[2] See The New York ISO Power Trends 2019, at: https://www.nyiso.com/documents/20142/2223020/2019-Power-Trends-Report.pdf/0e8d65ee-820c-a718-452c-6c59b2d4818b?t=1556800999122.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Press Release: Entergy, NY Officials Agree on Indian Point Closure in 2020-2021, Entergy, Indian Point Energy Center (June 21, 2019), at: http://www.safesecurevital.com/entergy-ny-officials-agree-on-indian-point-closure-in-2020-2021/.

[6] See Order Adopting Clean Energy Standard, CASE 16-E-0270, Aug. 1, 2016, at: http://documents.dps.ny.gov/public/Common/ViewDoc.aspx?DocRefId=%7b44C5D5B8-14C3-4F32-8399-F5487D6D8FE8%7d.

[7] The New York ISO Power Trends 2019 at 19, 36 and 61-62. See also NYISO Interconnection Process (June 21, 2019), at: https://www.nyiso.com/interconnections.

[8] Id. at 18.

[9] Id.

[10] See Press Release: NYISO Board Selects Transmission Projects to Meet Public Policy Need, Apr. 8, 2019, at: https://www.nyiso.com/-/press-release-nyiso-board-selects-transmission-projects-to-meet-public-policy-need; and Press Release: NYISO Selects NextEra Transmission Project to Increase Access to Hydro Power, Oct. 2017, at: https://www.nyiso.com/documents/20142/3067023/NYISO-Selects-NextEra-Transmission-Project-to-Increase-Access-to-Hydro-Power.pdf/a23ec9bc-4d0d-6369-49cc-e4a897764eb4.

[11] New York ISO Power Trends 2019 at 60.

[12] NYISO, Offshore Wind Injection Assessment (Dec. 1, 2017), at: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=2ahUKEwjFuuC5xoXjAhVIh-AKHcQBBK4QFjAAegQIAxAC&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nyserda.ny.gov%2F-%2Fmedia%2FFiles%2FPublications%2FResearch%2FBiomass-Solar-Wind%2FMaster-Plan%2F17-25n-Offshore-Wind-Injection-Assessment.pdf&usg=AOvVaw07Px9LCSdSmLap0vj0seiC.

[13] Sierra Club, 100% Commitments in Cities, Counties, and States (June 25, 2019), at: https://www.sierraclub.org/ready-for-100/commitments.