Existing wind farms, hydropower plants and biomass generators want New York to pay them for their contributions to meeting renewable energy targets.
If not, they may sell the power they generate to other states or, in the case of wind farms, shut down entirely. Owners of wind and hydro plants lodged their objections to the state’s current framework to achieve a 50 percent renewable electricity by 2030 goal in comments filed this month with the state Public Service Commission.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s ambitious renewable energy goals require the development of new solar, wind and other “green” electricity generating assets. But projections also assume the existing renewables that currently account for about 26 percent of electricity will remain in New York’s market.
Audrey Zibelman, the chair of the Public Service Commission, said she is not concerned about existing renewables leaving New York.
“The more we can create deep and liquid markets around renewables, the more we can help develop these markets, the better that costs can go down and people can actually see the advantages. What I think is very healthy is that we develop deep markets, that we send the right price signals… and we work with the markets to integrate renewables much better and we can get there,” Zibelman told reporters after a commission meeting earlier this month.
The owner of six wind projects that generate 612 MW of electricity said it would be “unjustly discriminatory and unduly preferential” not to pay existing renewable energy resources for contributions to the Clean Energy Standard. If New York state doesn’t provide any incentives, Noble Environmental Power will have to look to other states that are searching for cleaner sources of energy, the company wrote in comments supporting a rehearing of the policy.
The company “could also determine to mothball their units until market conditions improve or even permanently shutter them,” they wrote.
Theoretically, the price signals sent by New York policymakers would support the company “dismantling the existing wind turbines and selling their respective sites to new generators which could re-erect similar turbines” and get state incentives.
The Clean Energy Standard does include a “maintenance tier” that could pay for some older, existing assets which demonstrate that without support they would close. That tier is more limited than the proposal put forward by the staff at the Public Service Commission. Only hydroelectric run-of-river facilities below 5 MW, wind and biomass generators in operation before Jan. 1, 2003, are eligible.
Groups requesting the Public Service Commission reconsider its stance on existing wind and hydropower resources also cite Massachusetts’s new renewable energy law. The measure, signed by Gov. Charlie Baker a week after the commission’s Aug. 1 order on the Clean Energy Standard, allows Massachusetts to obtain renewable energy from existing hydropower assets, including those in New York.
That qualifies as a new circumstance that can trigger the commission to reconsider its decision on the Clean Energy Standard, wrote an attorney for the Pace Energy and Climate Center.
Zibelman said she would like to see more states follow New York’s lead on renewable energy and did not have concerns about the Massachusetts law.
Another point of contention among stakeholders is whether new, large-scale hydropower developed in the state or imported from Canada should qualify for incentives. Opponents say subsidizing a well-established technology such as hydropower would detract from emerging renewable technologies, while advocates say the lower cost of hydropower would ease the burden on ratepayers.
Concerns were also raised about a lack of support for biogas facilities. New York City, in comments supporting a re-hearing, says the commission should consider an enhanced incentive because of the methane emissions reduction benefits from biogas facilities.
It’s not clear when the Public Service Commission will decide on whether to make any changes to the Clean Energy Standard order. The next meeting is set for Dec. 15.
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