In February, Governor Andrew Cuomo introduced new budget legislation that will accelerate permitting, siting, and construction of renewable energy projects in New York State. Known as the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act, this legislation will speed up progress toward the ambitious climate objectives outlined in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. These goals include 70% renewable energy by 2030 and 100% clean energy by 2040, 1,700 megawatts of energy generation through wind by 2024, and carbon neutrality by 2050.
There are four major provisions within the legislation:
#1: Creation of the Office of Renewable Energy Permitting
To centralize, consolidate, and speed up the review and permitting process for the creation of renewable energy facilities, an Office of Renewable Energy Permitting would be formed under the Department of Economic Development. This office would work with relevant State agencies to review the environmental impacts of renewable energy projects, standardize review procedures and mitigation measures for any environmental impacts, and process permit applications in a timely manner. The Office would also work with municipalities to obtain their input, run the public comment process and adjudicate substantive concerns with projects, and ensure that completed permits are acted upon within a year.
#2: Formation of NYSERDA’s Clean Energy Resources Development and Incentives Program
The New York State Energy Research & Development (NYSERDA) would develop a Clean Energy Resources Development and Incentives Program to pinpoint the best sites for renewable energy projects, while prioritizing economic development and natural resource conservation. NYSERDA would quickly begin permitting and construction on the appropriate sites, designing and planning for build-ready sites, and developing model host community benefit agreements and Payment In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT) payments. This program would accelerate the siting of renewable energy projects on the sites that local governments often suggest are ideal for such projects, including landfills, brownfields, and decommissioned industrial sites.
#3: Development of a Host Communities Benefit Program
NYSERDA would also be responsible for developing a Host Communities Benefit Program that would incentivize build-ready site owners and communities to advance renewable energy projects. This would include PILOT agreements, a program through the Public Service Commission for utility bill discounts, and a Local Workforce Opportunities Fund that would provide grants for clean energy training for workers within eligible communities. This would help create new jobs and ensure further job growth within the clean energy sector.
#4: Acceleration of Renewable Energy Transmission
Reliable and cost-effective new transmission lines are essential to bring renewable energy to our communities. The proposed legislation outlines in detail a new system of investing and developing a new grid for more successful transmission. The plan includes a bulk transmission investment program, straight-forward siting process for new infrastructure, increased research across agencies to determine cost-effective strategies for implementation, and the Public Service Commission leading a distribution and local transmission capital program to upgrade current areas in need.
Many of the components in this legislation align with the recommendations made in NYLCVEF’s Breaking Down the Barriers to Siting Renewable Energy in New York State report, which focused on increasing community engagement in renewable energy projects, and streamlining the Article 10 siting process for large-scale renewable energy projects. Governor Cuomo’s legislation reflects several of the recommendations, including:
- Prioritizing environmental impacts of renewable energy projects and thorough assessment of influence on natural habitats. NYSERDA’s new Clean Energy Resources Development and Incentives Program would ensure renewable energy projects are placed in the appropriate locations to mitigate environmental consequences, while the Office of Renewable Energy Permitting would require developers to pay into a mitigation bank to offset any environmental impact their project may have.
- Standardizing regulations to speed up the permitting process for large-scale renewable energy projects, which currently takes years. The Office of Renewable Energy Permitting would provide a streamlined approach for moving renewable energy projects through the permitting process in just one year, once an application has been deemed complete.
- Creating incentives for developers and host communities. The Host Communities Benefit Communities would provide these incentives, while the Local Workforce Opportunities Fund would increase the number of clean energy jobs that go to host communities.
NYLCV is excited about Governor Cuomo’s legislation and dedication to modernizing and expediting the siting process for renewable energy projects. These updated provisions will significantly enhance the clean energy sector and move New York’s Green New Deal and CLCPA objectives forward.