New York Governor Announces $1 Billion Green Bank And $1.5 Billion Solar Program

New York City officials are thinking more about climate resiliency in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. But adaptation — making the city more resilient to intensifying extreme weather — is only one part of an effective strategy.

Mitigating climate change through clean energy and other carbon reduction efforts is just as important. And New York Governor Andrew Cuomo seems to understand that.

In his State of the State address yesterday, Cuomo outlined plans for a new billion-dollar  “green bank” to leverage private funds for deploying clean energy technologies, announced a 10-year expansion of the state’s solar program by increasing funds $150 million per year, and named a new cleantech czar to oversee the efforts. The cumulative impact could be a massive expansion of renewables and efficiency in New York.

Here’s what the Governor had to say about the Green Bank:

The NY Green Bank leverages private capital in a fashion that mitigates investment risk, catalyzes market activity and lowers borrowing costs, in turn bringing down the prices paid by consumers. Through the use of bonding, loans and various credit enhancements (e.g.,loan loss reserves and guarantees), a Green Bank is a fiscally practical option in a time of severe budget conditions. Many public credit and investment programs require only a small amount of government funds, even holding taxpayers harmless or acting asmoney makers. And along with these benefits, the long-term public and social benefits of a robust and clean economy are virtually incalculable.

And here’s the language on the solar program:

Last year Governor Cuomo created the NY-Sun solar jobs program to bolster the use of solar power in New York, while also protecting the ratepayer. The goal of NY-Sun is to install twice as much customer-sited solar photovoltaic capacity in 2012 as was added in 2011, and to quadruple the 2011 amount in 2013. The NY-Sun program is authorized through 2015. This year, Governor Cuomo proposes to extend the successful NY-Sun program, continuing through 2023 the existing annual funding levels established under the program. The extended solar jobs program will provide longer program certainty to solar developers than current programs, funded through 2015, and is expected to 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.

Solar has the potential to play a huge role in New York’s climate-conscious building strategy. Consider this: Two-thirds of New York City’s buildings could feasibly host solar-electric systems — enough to meet half the city’s demand for peak power. And a lot of that could be developed today at a cost competitive with current electricity rates.

The solar industry has been working hard for many years to expand New York’s solar policies. And this latest announcement from Governor Cuomo shows it’s really starting to pay off.  But actually funding these programs is the real issue. The State of the State address is designed to outline priorities — not always outline a plan for implementation. It remains to be seen if the Governor can fully raise the amount of money needed to meet these goals. The appointment of Richard Kauffman, a former adviser to Energy Secretary Steven Chu, as energy czar will certainly help the process along.

4 Responses to New York Governor Announces $1 Billion Green Bank And $1.5 Billion Solar Program

  1. BillD says:

    This is a common and hopefully positive pattern of states leading the Federal government. Fortunately, states have much ability to provide incentives for green energy and other environmental advances. I’m not happy to be from a state (Indiana) where environmental enforcement is very lax and the utilities, the governor and most of state legislators think that cheap energy from coal is just great. I am trying to make the case that our state will suffer when carbon taxes lead to rapid and perhaps disorderly decarbonization. If they can’t understand the moral issues, maybe they can at least be made to understand that there is a risk that depending on fossil fuels will lead to economic costs.

  2. wili says:

    With more than half of the world’s population now in urban areas, and much more than half of the GHG’s produced in them (or to support their electric use…), it is past time for the cities of the world to take the lead in fighting climate changing and in adjusting to the increasingly hellish world we are in the process of creating. This particularly so in the face of the fecklessness of the our and many other national governments.

    Great to see one of our greatest cities starting to take a lead here (even if it did take the climate equivalent of being whacked up side the head with a two-by-four for them to start to wake up to the threat).

    If everyone reading this forwards this article to our mayors and city council members, perhaps we can help this kind of serious initiative to spread virally throughout the cities and towns of the country and world.

  3. wili says:

    Oops–I see this is a state not a city initiative. The rest of my post still applies, though.

  4. Dave Bradley says:

    Gak. More failure to admit that the RPS/taxpayer subsidy route to trying to lower by subsidies the cost to make renewable electricity down to the price that pollution based electricity (now sells for 3 to 4 c/kw-hr STATEWIDE most times of theyear) is…a failure by the standards these officials set for themselves. Theree was supposed to be 1138 MW on an average delivered basis of non-hydroelectric renewables operating y 2013. But instead, if we have 400 MW from the 1650 MW of installed capacity, we’d be doing good…. Basically, the RPS has achieved about 1/3 of its goal, there are less than 300 wind turbine manufacturing jobs in NY State, and that’s from $3.5 billion in commercial scale wind installations…..

    The core reason that the NY State RPS goals cannot be achieved is the casino nature of eletricity pricing, and that NO utility in the state will offer 20 year long Power Purchase Agreements. Without a long term fixed price for electricity, wind is at a massive competitive disadvantage to pollution sourced electricity, and it cannot use what should be one of its PRIME advanatges/characteristics – the cost to make wind sourced electricity does not change over time, and the price of natural gas/coal is irrelevant to the cost to make electricity for wind turbines. Casino electricity pricing means that those financing wind arrays have to borrow it at much higher interest rates, and that equity investors have to get higher returns because price insecurity raises the risk of going belly up. And almost all of the operating cost of wind turbine electricity is the cost of money……

    But instead of fixing a broken renewable energy pricing system that probably IS supposed to fail (and thus allow fracking sourced natural gas to reign supreme, at least until the gas starts running out….., they are doubling down on this crappy system. Maybe it goes with the plan to put 3 new megacasinos in midstate NY, these being defacto taxes on working class and poorer people, rather than increasing the marginal tax rate on deca- and centi-millionaires and billionaires, too. Which is how the state’s Systems Benefit Charge (SBC), alias the funding for the NY renewable Portfolio Standard, works.

    There are two things that can be done in NY state to increase the demand for renewable electricity. One is to have LIPA and NYPA to issue some massive Request For Proposals (RFPs) every year for the next 20 years unit allthe pollution sourced electricity (nat gas, coal nukes) are shut down. The other is to set up a Feed-in Tariff system through the state owned municipal electricity systems (LIPA and NYPA) until all the pollution based generators are shut down. Oh, we cold wait for our Senators and Congresspeople to introduce a simple modification to the 1978 PURPA law, but obody seems to give a rat’s patooti over this.

    So we also get this ridiculous $150 million/yr in Solar PV susdies, which will DELIVER around 3 MW and change of electricity (average delivered basis) per year (30 MW of capacity). Or we could get 18 MW on a delivered basis from commercial based wind turbines… I know, we should be doing erything renewable, but given the reactionary AUSTERITY tilt to Cuomo’ budget, there is no such thing.

    NY State’s addiction to its casino pricing system for electricity is a massive hinderance to renewable energy delevopment. As is the Gov’s slavish promotion of fracking and his failure to promote the one form of renewables in NY State that can put a hurt on nat gas sales and prices – commercial scale wind – has taken its toll.

    We still have close to zip for wind turbine manufacturing jobs in NY State. Massive FAIL on that one, and no desire to fix that sad statistic. So, don’t buy ypthe hype and spin on this one. And some focus on what renewable energy pricing system actually works would also be helpful, both in NY State governmental terms and by the general public…