Environmental groups in New York had several victories in 2014 – hydrofracking was banned, solar power expanded, the ivory trade outlawed. Groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council have applauded Gov. Cuomo’s recent decisions. But Richard Schrader of the NRDC wants a clearer plan.
“I think the key next step is one of really targets, right, creating a targeting plan,” says Schrader. “New York should really ensure that it’s going to get 50% of all its electricity from renewable sources by 2025.”
Schrader says the state is currently at about 25% from renewables.
Cuomo has already announced several policy items from today’s speech. The focus has been on economic development, especially in upstate. Wes Gillingham of Catskill Mountainkeeper says expanding renewable energy is a kind of economic development.
“You would have people scrambling to produce enough solar panels and the components for wind mills and all of that infrastructure that’s needed to create a shift over to a more renewable energy paradigm,” says Gillingham.
Groups like Gillingham’s want New York to decentralize its power grid so hundreds of small power producers can send electricity into it.
“And that would include small projects in parking lots and rooftops and then it also helps startup more industrial scale renewable projects to get on board and sell their energy directly to customers,” says Gillingham.
But that would take a change to the laws that govern New York’s power grid. The state’s Public Services Commission is in the middle of an initiative called Reforming the Energy Vision. The goal is to create a more efficient, cleaner, modern energy system.
Gillingham says the result could transform the way electricity is distributed in New York State.
“We have a grid that can handle increased production, spread out across the grid, versus it coming from a power plant or a major industrial wind farm,” says Gillingham. “And the more that we do that, the easier the transition to renewables will.”