New York state may soon phase out one of its most ambitious – and controversial – renewable energy development programs.
The state Public Service Commission is considering the creation of a new Clean Energy Fund that would replace its Renewable Portfolio Standard, a program begun in 2004 to boost New York’s renewable energy production to 30 percent of the state’s total generation by 2015.
The program, which is funded through roughly $210 million in state fees charged on electric utility bills annually, is designed to encourage developers to build large-scale clean energy projects such as wind farms by providing generous subsidies.
But both the state and the business community have been frustrated that the RPS, at the end of 2013, had reached not even half the 2015 goal of getting 30 percent of its energy from renewable sources.
In a May 8 filing to create a new Clean Energy Fund, the commission said the goals of the RPS and another state energy efficiency programs “have thus far appeared unattainable.”
The Cuomo administration has been trying to re-shape its clean energy programs so that they do not rely so heavily on utility customer subsidies. As part of that move, Cuomo had created what’s known as the Green Bank, which will fund renewable energy projects more like a private investment bank or commercial bank, although it will be run by the state.
The Green Bank is also part of a larger radical overhaul by the Cuomo administration to change the way electric utilities operate in the state, under a long-term program called Reforming the Energy Vision. Like the Green Bank, the regulatory overhaul is designed to make consumers more active participants in the energy markets instead of using subsidies.
The RPS is set to expire in 2015, and the Clean Energy Fund would be created to bridge the gap between then and when the Green Bank gets to its ideal $1 billion capitalization. According to the commission, the state is planning to keep collecting fees from ratepayers, but the collections are expected to be less than what they are today and will gradually decline through 2020 as the Green Bank is built up. On a typical residential electric bill, the state’s clean energy fees usually total about $4.
“The transition from the current suite of ratepayer supported programs to more market driven delivery mechanisms will decrease the need for ratepayer surcharges,” the commission wrote in a May 8 filing.