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Roadmap to New Clean Energy and Climate Initiatives in Governor Cuomo's 2013 State of the State

Kit Kennedy

Posted January 9, 2013 in Curbing Pollution, Green Enterprise, Living Sustainably, Moving Beyond Oil, Solving Global Warming

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This afternoon Governor Cuomo announced a bold set of expanded clean tech, clean energy and climate mitigation initiatives in response to Superstorm Sandy as one of the cornerstones of his State of the State speech.   The text of his speech weighs in at a hefty 285 pages.  For those who don’t have time to dive in, NRDC has highlighted the key new programs on clean energy, climate mitigation and climate resilience in his speech here.  

These include: a new green bank to leverage private financing to advance renewable energy; lowering the cap on power plant greenhouse gas emissions in New York; extending New York’s solar power program; and restoring natural systems like dunes and wetlands to protect against future climate-related extreme weather events.

And for those who want even more details, here’s a fuller guide focused on the clean energy and climate mitigation initiatives announced today.

Green Bank 

As the Governor Cuomo said this afternoon, the States are engaged in a foot race toward the clean energy future – and whichever State gets there first will get the prize.   The boldest initiative announced today is a new $1 billion New York green bank to leverage public dollars with a private-sector match to spur the clean economy.   This exciting new initiative will advance New York’s advantage in the clean energy race.   My colleague Doug Sims – who has been one of NRDC’s key thought leaders on clean energy finance – provides the details here.    (And Doug’s primer on green banks clean energy finance is even cited at footnote 24 of the Governor’s speech!). 

New Cabinet-Level Energy Czar 

In another major positive change, the Governor announced that Richard Kauffman, a seasoned energy and clean-energy finance who has served as a top advisor to U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, will serve as New York’s new energy czar.   Kauffman is the right person at the right time to execute New York’s new climate resilience and mitigation strategies, including leading the launch of the Green Bank and pulling together New York’s diverse clean energy programs.

Reducing Power Plant Greenhouse Gas Pollution in New York State  

In his speech, the Governor stressed again that climate change is real and that the time to act is now.   Acting on recommendations from the NYS 2100 Commission, the Governor announced that New York will be lowering the limits on greenhouse gas pollution from New York Power plants as part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.  As the Governor explained, reducing the State’s greenhouse gas pollution cap will provide an additional $100 to 150 million for New York State to invest in repowering existing inefficient power plants to reduce carbon emissions and assisting communities that lose a big part of their tax base when coal-fired power plants are retired.  In the wake of the suffering inflicted by Superstorm Sandy, this announcement – which could help to forestall the frequency and severity of other future extreme weather events-- couldn’t be more timely.

Solar Power

The Governor announced a ten-year extension of New York’s solar energy program – the New York Sun program –at a level of $150 million a year.   This will allow many thousands more New Yorkers to install solar panels on their roofs, lowering their bills and generating their own clean power.  It will bring us closer to the attainable goal of getting 2,000 MW of power from solar energy by 2020.   As the Governor explained, extending New York Sun will “attract significant private investment in solar photovoltaic systems, enable the sustainable development of a robust solar power industry in New York, create well-paying skilled jobs, improve the reliability of the electric grid, and reduce air pollution.”  We also hope that the New York legislature will move forward to make this important program the law.   My colleague Pierre Bull provides details here.

Electric Cars 

Moving forward with the deployment of both renewable energy and electric cars is important for New York to move beyond dirty fossil fuels.   Today the Governor announced new initiatives to scale up electric cars in New York, from building a statewide network of 3,000 public and workplace charging stations, to funding primarily from investor-owned utilities for incentives for electric car deployment to reforming regulations at the State and local level to facilitate electric car charging and remove other barriers to electric cars.  My colleague Luke Tonachel has explained why 2013 could be a key year for fuel efficiency and electric cars, and today’s announcement could add to the progress.

Clean On-Site Power, Smart Grid and Building Code Resilience Improvements

The Governor also mentioned a number of initiatives to move the State forward on clean “on-site” distributed generation, “smart grid” improvements and improving the resilience of New York’s building code.   As I have explained, these kinds of programs can help make New York’s electricity system more resilient – to help keep the power on in times of high stress such as hurricanes or heat waves and to  help restore power more quickly when it goes down.   The NYS Ready Commission – on which I serve –  is expected to deliver more detailed recommendations on these issues in the future.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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