New York Renewables Push Gets Fresh $250 Million

Renewable energy developers in New York state found a gift under their Christmas tree from Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week. He announced $250 million to back new electricity generating projects in the state.

Actually, it’s customers of the state’s investor-owned utilities who should get the credit for this present; under New York’s renewable portfolio standard, they pay a surcharge on every kilowatt-hour of electricity they use, and the state uses that money to expand renewable-energy generating capacity. The surcharge is expected to bring in $3 billion through 2024.

new york state rps

High Sheldon wind farm, Wyoming County, N.Y. (image via Invenergy)

This central procurement method of pursuing RPS targets is different from what most states do; more commonly, states require individual retail sellers of electricity to meet minimum targets for renewables or make penalty payments.

In 2004 when New York instituted its RPS, it was at 19.3 percent renewables (a number that, unlike in California, takes into hydroelectric production), with a goal of 25 percent by 2013. Now it’s aiming for 30 percent by 2015.

As of the end of last year, New York had conducted seven of these “Main Tier” (or utility-scale) competitive solicitations, and had contracts with electricity generators for 56 large-scale projects, according to an annual report [PDF] put out by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. Forty-six of the projects were in operation, providing 1,456 megawatts of new renewable energy capacity and the other ten, totaling 384 MW, were under development or construction. The state figures it will need about 9.8 million megawatt-hours of production through the RPS procurements by the end of 2015 to reach its 30 percent renewables target, and as of the end of last year was at nearly 4.7 million MWh, or just under halfway there.

“As New York State looks to upgrade and improve its energy infrastructure, renewable energy will play an even greater role in providing power that is more reliable, efficient and environmentally sustainable,” Gov. Cuomo said in a statement announcing the latest solicitation. “Through the RPS, the state is investing in its future. These projects will not only help diversify New York’s renewable energy portfolio, but also provide economic development opportunities across the state.”

Under the new request for proposals issued, developers have until Jan. 24, 2013, to get in their bids for projects that use wind, hydroelectric, solar, biomass or other clean-energy resources. Weighing the bids comes down to two factors: bid price (70 percent) and expected economic benefits to New York. The most heavily weighted factor in the economic benefits category is long-term New York state jobs.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

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