Through maintaining a strong clean-energy portfolio and establishing other initiatives to uphold our low-carbon goals, New York has proven itself as a leader in the United States’ environmental goals. As we celebrate Earth Day, it’s an appropriate time to look back on the initiatives that have made New York a clean energy leader and what steps we need to take to maintain these low-carbon goals.
In August 2016, the State successfully passed Governor Cuomo’s Clean Energy Standard (CES), marking a new milestone in New York’s quest to lower carbon emissions. Under the CES, New York upholds that by 2030 50 percent of instate energy will be supplied by renewable sources in order to reduce carbon emissions by 40 percent (from 1990 levels).
The Zero Emissions Credit, which was approved along with the CES, helps support this mission by protecting New York’s three upstate nuclear plants from premature shutdown. These plants, along with downstate Indian Point, provide nearly 30 percent of the state’s total electricity and prevented 22 million metric tons of carbon in 2013 alone.
New York boasts a diverse energy portfolio, including 25 percent of its instate energy generated from hydropower, wind, solar or other renewable sources. Plans to increase our renewable energy percentage are currently in discussion, including an offshore wind development and ways to make solar power more accessible to New York consumers.
However, with the impending shutdown of Indian Point in 2020 and 2021, New York will lose its largest clean-energy source. To maintain our clean energy goals, we need to reassess New York’s current challenges and develop a long-term energy plan to meet the needs for our future.
Before looking ahead to 2030 or beyond, we need to plan for 2021. Following Indian Point’s closure, New York will lose 2000 clean-energy megawatts, which supply 25 percent of power to New York City and the surrounding region. While some of this energy can be supplied through renewable sources, the bulk of this energy has to come from baseload natural gas to provide energy 24/7.
New York’s power infrastructure poses another challenge to our clean energy future. Much of our current infrastructure dates back to the 1980s, making it incompatible with modern technology used by renewable sources. Upgrading to a smart grid system would help conserve energy usage and help cut down on carbon emissions.