Is New York doing enough about climate change?
By Andrew More, Director of Business Development - January 27, 2022
New York’s 2022 State of the State address has climate change and cleantech firmly in its sights.
New subway infrastructure, a ban on new fossil fuel car sales after 2035, and electrifying school buses in the works for New York
New York plans to retrofit hundreds of schools and first responder facilities as well as electrify 2 million homes by 2030
Billions earmarked for solar, energy storage, and offshore wind projects, while $3 billion green bond and net-zero portfolios on the table
80% — that’s how much lower New York City’s fossil fuel consumption is forecast to be by 2030. The Empire State’s cutback in fossil fuel use is just one of a host of energy announcements that emerged from Governor Kathy Hochul’s 2022 State of the State Address. At over 230 pages, the Address touches on a range of clean energy and green initiatives from transportation to home electrification.
Building retrofits and electrification
A key pillar of New York’s energy plan has to do with upgrading buildings, specifically the electrification of 2 million homes in the state by 2030. Making sure these homes have the capability to house fully electric heating systems and appliances marks a concerted effort to transition from fossil fuel powered equipment. Part of this push includes greater support for geothermal heating, on-site solar, and heat-recovery ventilation systems as well as upgrading New York’s appliance efficiency standards.
Larger buildings are also in the cross-hairs, with New York mandating energy benchmarking to make it easier to track the impact of energy efficiency improvements over time. All new building construction must also demonstrate zero on-site emissions (i.e., from the construction process) by 2027. New York has also announced grid hardening and energy resiliency measures for first responder facilities, including LED lighting retrofits for 100 police precincts. This initiative will eventually encompass 450 fire stations and police precincts in the state, with an emphasis on on-site solar, energy storage, and efficiency upgrades.
Similarly, $59 million has been allocated for the Clean Green School program, which aims to promote environmental sustainability in 500-600 New York schools: the program will eventually grow to cover 1,000 schools serving one million students.
Under the 2019 Climate Act, New York is obligated to reach 70% renewable electricity and a 40% reduction in total state-wide emissions by 2030. In order to meet this deadline, the state has been investing in mega projects like the Champlain-Hudson transmission line that will boost the Empire State’s use of hydropower from Quebec. New York is also developing a blueprint to either retire or refurbish the oldest and most emissions-intensive fossil fuel generating facilities in the region by 2030. New York has also been tasked by the 2022 State of the State address to create at least three virtual power plants using state assets by the end of the year. And the state is also setting aside $27 million to support pilots and demonstrations of locally-owned microgrids and district energy systems
To help power New York’s notable expected rise in electricity demand, Hochul announced the expansion of the NY-Sun program to achieve at least 10GW of distributed solar capacity by 2030, creating 6,000 jobs in the process. The threshold for solar projects that are subject to prevailing wage requirements (i.e., regulations ensuring wages are commensurate with other construction sectors) will be lowered to 1MW from 5MW.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul presents the 2022 State of the State Address in Albany
Similarly, the state’s wind power solicitation combined with $500 million in offshore wind infrastructure is energizing New York’s renewables sector. With a minimum target of 9GW of offshore wind capacity by 2035, New York is doubling down on green generation.
This offshore wind push is expected to create 2,000 jobs, while the 2022 wind procurement launch alone resulted in at least 2GW in new projects, enough to power 1.5 million homes. And the state’s first offshore wind project is slated to start construction in early 2022. Governor Hochul also revealed that the state is doubling down on its Energy Storage Roadmap, with a minimum of 6GW of energy storage to come online by 2030. In a related development, New York is looking to foster a technology development and manufacturing center through partnership with BatteryNY and Binghamton University.
With an eye to greening state finances and portfolios, Governor Kuchal announced an executive order for New York’s government to prioritize green procurement, while the state is also working on creating the first green purchasing program for local governments in the United States. New York has also stated that it will be prioritizing green bonds over non-labelled bonds for all state authorities. Governor Kuchal also reaffirmed that New Yorkers will be voting on the issuing of a $3 billion green bond (originally reinstated by former Governor Cuomo in 2021) as part of the November 2022 ballot.
State authorities, public benefit companies, and the State Insurance Fund — which hold around $40 billion in assets — have committed to achieving net-zero portfolios by 2040. The New York Common Retirement Fund has also announced its plans for a net-zero portfolio: at over $267 billion, the fund is one of largest public pension funds in the United States.
Shifting commuters from cars to public transit is an important step in reducing emissions, and while New York (especially NYC) already has some of the highest rates of public transit use in the country, more is being done to expand access and ridership. For example, the 2.4 kilometre extension of the Phase 2 project for the Second Avenue subway will increase daily ridership by 100,000. The 14 mile (22.5 km) Interborough Express is another megaproject that will improve transit access in Queens and Brooklyn, with the potential to connect up to 17 subway lines and increase annual ridership by 2 million.
The construction of a new two-rail tunnel under the Hudson River as part of the Gateway project will also boost ridership capacity. The tunnel is of additional importance as it will allow the 110 year old existing rail tunnel to close for repairs. The tunnel was heavily damaged by flooding during Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and in 2021 by Hurricane Ida, highlighting the need for climate resiliency.
All new passenger vehicles sold in the state must be zero-emission by 2035
With regards to personal vehicles, over $1 billion has been allocated through various programs to improve EV charging infrastructure and foster zero-emission vehicle adoption. To aid this transition, legislation has been signed to allow the Public Services Commission to review electricity rates for fast charging infrastructure to encourage greater private investment.
As for the vehicles themselves, New York has announced that all new passenger vehicles sold in the state must be zero-emission by 2035. New York’s government is keen to be a vanguard for zero-emission vehicle adoption (including mulling congestion charging), calling for all 50,000 school buses in the region to be electric by 2035. Such a move would result in a reduction in emissions equivalent to removing 680,000 combustion cars from the road. 2035 is also the deadline for New York to completely electrify the state vehicle fleet.
The climate change and cleantech goals outlined in New York’s 2022 State of the State address are certainly encouraging, but more still needs to be done to accelerate the adoption of clean technology. At EnPowered we are working hard to make it easier for energy solution sellers to help their customers pay for energy projects with Payments — our on-bill payments platform. Reach out today to discover how you can unlock stalled projects, sell more, and help reduce emissions and expenses at the same time.