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Report: New York Won’t Meet Its 2030 Climate Goals

But there’s still a way to turn away from the abyss, if we want it.

9:39 AM EST on November 27, 2023

The Ravenswood Generating Station. (Hell Gate)

In 2019, when New York committed to getting 70 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030, and then 100 percent by 2040, the state was being ambitious, but with good reason. From catastrophic flooding in New York City to devastating upstate storms, the climate crisis has made a transition to renewables an imperative, and outside of a series of hydroelectric projects that were built in the early part of the 20th century, New York's renewable energy mix was sorely lacking. Since the passage of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), New York has broken ground on a few important renewable projects, like a power line bringing hydroelectricity from Quebec and the construction of wind farms off the coast of Long Island, all while the state's leaders have assured New Yorkers that it will hit its legally mandated 2030 goal. 

But a new report, obtained exclusively by Hell Gate, shows that at the current building pace, New York is going to fall far short of its 70 percent renewable goal, even in the best-case scenario. 

Mind The Gap, a report from Strategen Consulting that was commissioned by the Public Power New York Coalition, found that even with a high rate of successful private-sector renewable energy projects and in a low energy-demand scenario (where New Yorkers conserve more electricity), the state will reach just 61 percent renewable energy by 2030. A low-success build-out, along with a high-demand scenario (where New Yorkers use a lot more electricity), would get New York to just 45 percent renewable energy by 2030, the study found. "Time-consuming and costly interconnection processes, as well as rising inflation, supply chain issues, and high interest rates, are impeding project deployment and hampering the state’s clean energy goals," the authors of the study write. 

Recent headlines haven't given New Yorkers much optimism for our privately owned renewable energy buildout, as several projects are currently being reassessed by energy companies after state regulators denied a rate hike for wind farm operators, and the governor vetoed a bill that would make building a wind farm much easier. 

Graphic from "Mind The Gap" report

While time is running short for New York to hit its climate goals, there's still one arrow left in its quiver to try to speed up the energy transition: the Build Public Renewables Act (BPRA), passed earlier this year, which enabled the state's public power authority to begin building its own renewable energy projects if the private sector fails to hit its legally mandated targets. 

"We'll never meet our legal obligations unless we are able to take this seriously and build out renewable energy generation where the state has authority over where it's built, how it's built, and who is benefiting," said Patrick Robbins, the coordinator of the New York Energy Democracy Alliance, part of the coalition that commissioned the study. Robbins noted that besides not having to please investors with eye-popping profits, publicly-owned renewable energy, like New York's existing hydroelectric infrastructure,deliver lower-cost energy, and can now tap into important federal financing made possible by 2022's Inflation Reduction Act. 

The BPRA mandates that by January 1, 2025, the New York Power Authority will release a report detailing exactly how much renewable energy the state itself should generate to cover the gap in what the private sector has been able to build and New York's climate obligations under the CLCPA. And while the current head of the NYPA, Justin Driscoll, has been cold on the idea of a public renewables buildout, under the language of the BPRA, the report would essentially mandate the authority to build these gap-filling renewable projects, to get New York state to hit its climate goals. 

Even then, getting these projects done by the 2030 deadline will be difficult, and require administrative capacity and expertise in the public energy sector that currently doesn't exist. Robbins thinks that given the climate emergency, the time is right, and that clean energy advocates need to keep the pressure on over the next year to make sure New York gets its public renewables right. 

"None of what we're talking about is a fantasy, and actually, it's necessary. When you look at how much public power has been built over the last century, there's this major spike in the '30s, and then nothing for decades basically," Robbins said. "So there's really no excuse. We just need to build at a scale that is appropriate for where we're at at this moment."

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