Agenda Breakdown: Renewable Energy and Transmission Capacity

By Peter Aronson

Green the Grid is a poetic three words that means a whole lot when it comes to fighting climate change.

Green the Grid means replacing fossil fuels like natural gas and oil, with renewable energy like wind, solar and hydro power. But greening the grid doesn’t stop with power generation; it also means building up transmission capacity.

For 2024, the New York League of Conservation Voters (NYLCV) once again has made greening the grid a top priority. 

“Our ability to mitigate climate change is largely dependent on ambitious action to decarbonize New York’s energy grid within the next decade,” said NYLCV Policy Director Pat McClellan. “And that very much includes building out our transmission capacity so we can deliver all that clean energy to homes and businesses across the state.”

We are pleased that Gov. Kathy Hochul got the new year off to a good start by proposing in her executive budget the Renewable Action Through Project Interconnection and Deployment (RAPID) Act, which would streamline the buildout of transmission infrastructure for a flexible, reliable and clean grid.

While budget negotiations are underway, NYLCV’s policy team is working hard in Albany to ensure the State Senate and Assembly include this measure in their one house budgets. 

[Help our policy team by writing your state representatives to tell them you support the RAPID Act!]

“To address the urgent need to achieve the State’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) targets, build out electric transmission, and improve the interconnection process, Governor Hochul is proposing the RAPID Act,” the administration said in a statement. “The state’s transmission permitting process will now feed into a clear statutory framework that balances transparency and environmental protection with the need for fast decision-making, while continuing to be responsive to community feedback and environmental considerations.”

NYLCV believes placing the Office of Renewable Energy Siting in the Department of Public Service, which the RAPID Act would do, is a wise decision that would create a smarter, more nimble and efficient environmental review and permitting process for major renewable energy and transmission facilities.

NYLCV also supports a sales tax exemption on the sale of battery energy storage systems. These battery systems are critical to meeting our climate goals because, by allowing for the storage of distributed solar energy, they can be used at times of peak electric demand, uneven power generation, and power outages. Many New Yorkers who frequently lose power during storms have invested in diesel-fueled backup generators, which are exempt from sales tax.

“Making it easier for New Yorkers to have reliable backup power is a worthy public policy goal, but there is no reason why New York should encourage the sale of diesel-fueled generators that have large carbon footprints and noxious emission profiles while requiring full sales tax for zero-emission battery storage systems that can do the same job with no negative externalities and have beneficial uses at times other than during power outages,” said McClellan in his testimony before the Joint Environmental Conservation Committee at their budget hearing.

NYLCV supports including legislation to exempt renewable energy project payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs) from the tax cap calculation, appropriate funds to support outreach, education, and assistance in communities hosting renewable energy projects, and create a process for community solar projects to appeal unreasonable local siting laws to the Office of Renewable Energy Siting (ORES).

“New York is, commendably, increasing the rate at which we build new small- and medium-sized solar farms. However, we are still well short of what is required by the CLCPA,” McClellan told the committee. “These changes would increase the development of community solar and benefit local communities that host renewable energy projects.”

In the coming months, when budget negotiations give way to legislative action by lawmakers, NYLCV will advocate for the state to do everything in its power to meet its ambitious clean energy goals. New York is striving to achieve 70% renewable electricity by 2030 and 100% clean energy by 2040. Reaching these goals is dependent on the timely procurement, responsible siting, permitting and transmission of 9 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2035, while increasing the state’s offshore wind goal to 20 gigawatts by 2050. This 2050 total would power almost eight million New York homes.

[Join us in urging Governor Hochul’s administration to grow New York’s offshore wind energy sector: sign the petition today!]

In addition to adding wind power, NYLCV believes strongly that the state needs to ramp up its use of solar power. We encourage Gov. Hochul and the state legislature to streamline regulations and provide financial incentives for consumers so that the state is able to achieve 10 gigawatts of solar power by 2030. This would provide power for almost four million homes in New York State.

“Solar is essential if the state is going to meet its energy goals,” McClellan said.

Other renewable energy goals for the new year include adding electricity produced by anaerobic digesters to the definition of clean energy pursuant to the state’s climate law. Use of anaerobic digesters turns waste – animal, human and food waste – into biogas that can be used to generate electricity. 

And, finally, a goal we will not bend on in 2024 is to ensure the implementation of environmental justice benchmarks in the CLCPA, to make sure at least 35 to 40 percent of clean energy investments benefit disadvantaged communities. Addressing generations of environmental injustice is not an “also do”; it’s an inextricable component of NYLCV’s Agenda and to the broader climate fight. 

To read more about the NYLCV’s energy goals for 2024, please see our 2024 agenda.