Upholding the Vision: How New York State Can Continue Advancing its Green-Grid Aspirations
The Office of the New York State Comptroller (NYSOSC) has put forth a comprehensive approach to streamline parallel processes crucial for achieving a carbon-free grid by the year 2040. As New York State strives to meet the rigorous transmission requirements mandated by the 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), it faces a challenging journey ahead.
According to a report from the NYSOSC, headed by Thomas P. DiNapoli, renewable sources accounted for around 29% of the state’s electricity generation in 2022. Within this share, hydroelectric generation contributed approximately 75%, while wind and solar collectively made up the remaining 25%. However, the ambitious targets set by the CLCPA demand greater progress. The Act outlines objectives such as achieving 70% renewable electricity generation by 2030, installing 6 GW of distributed solar by 2025 and incorporating 3 GW of storage by 2030, among others.
A critical analysis conducted by the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) revealed that fulfilling the CLCPA’s 2030 renewable electricity goal necessitates a remarkable expansion of installed renewable capacity. This requires adding an astounding 20 GW of capacity over an eight-year span, more than tripling the 2022 capacity of approximately 6.5 GW.
The NYSOSC report emphasizes three intertwined processes pivotal to the development of renewable electric generation resources. These processes operate in parallel, allowing developers to engage in one even before completing the others. Notably, permitting and grid interconnection are prerequisites for all new-generation sources.
The three processes are incentives, permitting and siting, and interconnection. Incentives, particularly in the form of renewable energy certificates (RECs), stimulate the market by incentivizing progress toward renewable goals. The permitting process ensures that projects are situated in compliance with state and local laws and regulations. The interconnection process guarantees the availability of transmission and distribution infrastructure to meet consumer demand. By streamlining these three concurrent processes, the report contends that the frequency of sluggish or abandoned projects can be reduced, a crucial step in attaining the state’s objective of a carbon-free grid by 2040.
Several challenges have impeded progress, including inconsistent incentive provision, project cancellations, and protracted timelines due to siting and operational delays. Variability in funding, ranging from $400 million to $66 million, has hindered consistent advancement, preventing the state from achieving the outlined renewable electricity goals.
The NYSOSC report indicates that funding commitments increased under New York’s Clean Energy Standard (CES), from $360 million in 2016 to $1.4 billion in 2017, leading to more projects being contracted. According to NYSERDA, the current pipeline of developments, once completed, will cater to 66% of New York’s projected electricity needs.
However, challenges persist in the form of delayed siting and operationalization, leading to extended project timelines. The report notes that only one renewable electricity generation project was approved through Article 10 of the New York State Public Service Law since the end of 2018.
To address these issues, the Office of Renewable Energy Siting (ORES) was established in 2020, aiming to expedite the approval process. With a mandate to determine application completeness within 60 days and issue final permits within a year, ORES has already permitted 13 renewable electric generating facilities since June 2023, totaling 2.1 GW of generation capacity.
Nonetheless, ongoing vigilance is essential to prevent irregularities in permitting and interconnection. Reforms overseen by the NYISO aim to accelerate the assessment of proposed renewable electric facilities’ impacts on the state’s transmission grid. Despite challenges, recent progress is promising; projects with over 8 GW of renewable capacity, including offshore wind projects, successfully navigated the NYISO interconnection process in 2023. While 457 developments remain in the interconnection queue, the increased rate of approvals this year offers a positive outlook, leaving the NYSOSC optimistic about the path ahead.