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The word for 2019? MOMENTUM!

If your mission is to promote clean energy in New York – like ACE NY – then you are feeling pretty good right about now. What I mostly feel is: momentum.

Governor Cuomo’s Jan. 15th State of the State speech is a great example.  He again mentioned a Green New Deal for the State, and he provided some important insight into what he means: a renewable energy standard for electricity of 70% by 2030; a goal of 9,000 MW of offshore wind by 2035; and a Climate Change Council to chart the pathway to economy-wide carbon neutrality. All three are really positive wins for clean energy.

The Governor’s written description of his proposed budget – fondly referred to as the Budget Book (starting on page 70) – has more details on what a Green New Deal could entail. For one, the 70% Clean Energy Standard would be supported by a doubling of the NY-Sun goal for distributed solar by 2025, right on target for the goals of the Million Solar Strong campaign, of which ACE NY is an active member.

The super ambitious 9,000 MW offshore wind mandate is an incredible step forward for this nascent industry. It is supported by a $200M investment in port infrastructure, on target for what the New York Offshore Wind Alliance was advocating, recognizing that bringing the offshore wind industry to New York in a real way will require modernized port facilities. What a job creator that will be! We truly applaud the State’s commitment to offshore wind. The Governor recognizes that offshore wind is a key energy industry of the future.

In the midst of these heady goals, renewables developers don’t forget the pragmatic details of developing projects, so we are happy to report that New York State isn’t either: the Budget Book outlines 8 new staff positions at the Department of Public Service – positions sorely needed to effectively process the robust pipeline of renewable energy projects – too many of them stalled -- that the Governor’s Clean Energy Standard has stimulated.

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New Year/New Energy: Ambitious Long-Term Goals Start with Concrete Action Today

The new year brings new hope for building renewable energy in New York State. Gov. Cuomo’s aggressive goal of achieving 50% of our electricity from renewable resources by 2030 puts New York in a Nation-leading role. But we are in danger of coming up short if we can’t get more projects built, making the even more robust target of eliminating fossil-fuel generated power by 2050 elusive.

The Alliance for Clean Energy New York (ACE NY) is excited to welcome the 2019-2020 Legislature to Albany. Our members -- renewable energy developers, energy efficiency companies and environmental groups -- look with anticipation to the new political lineup in the Capital. The Senate’s new leadership and many new members face a challenging and unprecedented opportunity to act. ACE NY member companies are ready and able to invest in New York’s path to a clean energy future through the construction of renewables in the state, such as wind power, solar energy, and offshore wind.

How can we get to 50% clean power by 2030? A successful plan to achieve 50% renewable power has four parts. First, we need to keep the existing renewable energy generators operating and selling their output here. Second, we need to craft and implement a pathway to achieve the ambitious energy efficiency goals assumed in the Clean Energy Standard calculations. Third, we need to ensure that rooftop and community solar will flourish by guaranteeing adequate and predicable compensation. Fourth – and most important – we need to build far more grid-scale renewable energy generation and we need to build it almost 5 times faster than we have for the last decade. This is doable, but will require sustained commitment to the pragmatic details of getting projects not only into the pipeline, but built.

Let’s remember that ambitious long-range goals start with concrete action today. In New York, this requires a more efficient, timely and well-staffed implementation of Article 10 of the Public Service Law to review and permit projects. This, and the actions outlined above, are the necessary complements to the excellent policy foundation provided by the Clean Energy Standard. Our collective success will mean new jobs, a stronger economy, cleaner air, and real steps to a livable climate for all New Yorkers.

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Offshore Wind Lease Auction Blows Old Record Out of the Water

The three easternmost areas (0520, 0521, and 0522) sold today for a collective $405 million. Map: Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
What a difference a few years and visionary leadership can make. This morning, developers finished 32 rounds of bidding on areas of federal waters off the coast of Massachusetts designated for offshore wind power development. The three areas drew a collective total of just over $405 million. Moving from west to east, the winning bidders are Equinor Wind, Mayflower Wind Energy, and Vineyard Wind, with bids of $135 million, $135 million, and $135.1 million, respectively.
The federal government has been holding offshore wind energy auctions since 2013, and in early 2015 offered this same portion of the ocean for auction… but there were no bidders. Until today, the highest bid on an offshore wind energy area was $42 million, for an area off of New York that Equinor (formerly Statoil) won just two years ago.
Zero to hundreds of millions in four years– what happened?!
What has changed to spike such intense competition? Quite a bit, actually. Despite the fact that the U.S. has yet to get a single offshore wind turbine built in federal waters (the nation’s only five turbines stand in Rhode Island state waters), globally speaking the offshore wind industry is booming – and has been growing for decades. The U.S. Atlantic Coast is prime for offshore wind development; it’s home to plenty of demand for power, a strong and consistent wind resource, and a gradually sloping outer continental shelf essential for fixing turbines to the seafloor.
Offshore wind developers worldwide have had an eye on this part of the planet for quite some time – while eagerly awaiting a shift in the political climate.
Back in 2015, while thousands of offshore wind turbines operated to great success around the globe, decision-makers in the U.S. were still grappling with whether to support the concept. There was some policy progress in the Mid-Atlantic, but not a single Northeast state had made a large-scale commitment to offshore wind power development. Massachusetts’s Cape Wind project had just lost its utility contracts after over a decade of legal battles with deep-pocketed opponents unwilling to share Nantucket Sound with wind turbines, and the few developers willing to take the gamble on U.S. development had already acquired a handful of other lease areas – stretching any thinner with such uncertainty would have been tough to justify.
The Block Island Wind Farm is currently America’s only offshore wind power project – five turbines in Rhode Island State Waters. Photo: NWF
Since then, the U.S. offshore wind story has turned from a crawl to a full sprint. The Block Island Wind Farm is up and running, demonstrating what these feats of engineering are capable of: replacing fossil fuel-fired power plants and providing clean, domestic power right when and where we need it most. MassachusettsNew York, and New Jersey have made assertive commitments to develop enough offshore wind power for hundreds of thousands of homes apiece. MassachusettsNew YorkRhode Island, and Connecticut are advancing specific project contracts. It’s a new day for offshore wind power in the Northeast. The opportunity is here and now, and developers are vying to get in the game.
“This historic auction clearly demonstrates investor confidence in America’s offshore wind market, thanks to the leadership of states like Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey that have set long term, large scale commitments to finally bring this critically needed climate solution online… The National Wildlife Federation applauds the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for a successful auction and congratulates Equinor Wind, Mayflower Wind Energy and Vineyard Wind for securing these new leases. Looking forward, we will continue to work with all leaseholders to ensure that coastal and marine wildlife are protected throughout every stage of the offshore wind development process.” -- Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation (See full statement here.)
What's Next?
There’s still a long way to go from here. Developers now need to learn the details of their areas, design projects, secure power contracts and an extensive number of permits, and much more. There are public comment periods every step of the way, and ample opportunity to raise and work through concerns.
The National Wildlife Federation looks forward to working with these new lease holders to ensure that wildlife and habitat will be protected throughout every stage of surveying and development. We will continue to advocate for the swift and responsible development of offshore wind power, and we hope you will join us in speaking up for this important clean energy solution. Offshore wind power can play a key role in transforming our energy profile into one we can be proud of – and it will take all of us pushing in that direction to ensure we seize the opportunity closer to our grasp than ever before.