Keep New York’s Older Wind Farms Spinning and Dams running

By Julie Tighe | June 17, 2019

New York’s effort to lead the nation, and the world, by getting 70 percent of our power from renewable resources by 2030 is not going to happen without support from government. That means giving a little bit of extra help to make sure we keep turbines at existing wind farms spinning and water spilling over the (hydroelectric) dams.

That’s why the New York League of Conservation Voters is supporting legislation to create a second tier of Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) supports for legacy renewable energy. This legislation will also be included in our 2019 State Environmental Scorecard, in which we will count legislators’ support of this bill as part of their score.

The State Senate was right to pass this important piece of legislation, and now it is up to the Assembly to pass it and the Governor to carry it across the finish line.

The current standards provide support for new renewable energy projects, but legacy resources like hydropower and older wind farms still provide power to the grid and will be at risk without legislation creating a second tier of RPS supports. These legacy renewable resources will account for 24 percent of the state’s entire renewable energy capacity by 2024. Without these supports – which would be substantially less than those provided to Tier 1 facilities– these older facilities would not be able to compete on the open market. That means they face the potential of shutting down, or selling their clean power to neighboring states, and it means New York loses a sizable chunk of its renewable portfolio just when we need it most.

Tier 2 projects were first movers in New York’s efforts to combat climate change. They helped start the renewable energy revolution and navigate through a time of unpredictable prices, consumer preferences, and changes in technology. They set a solid foundation for New York’s entire renewable industry. They shouldn’t be cast aside now.

These existing energy generators are cost-effective, and those savings are passed down to New Yorkers. And, not only would paying a lower rate help keep valuable renewable resources in New York, we can also calculate our energy supply with greater accuracy when relying on established, tried and true facilities.

Tier 2 renewable energy facilities have provided security and livelihood for thousands of Upstate New Yorkers, creating jobs in manufacturing, installation, maintenance, and more. These facilities will keep growing with the support of sound policies out of Albany, and their employees will grow with them. If this legislation does not pass, we leave behind the New Yorkers who have relied on the industry for years, while the rest of the state moves forward, not to mention the local governments that benefit financially from these facilities.

Let’s be clear: meeting New York’s ambitious goals will not be easy, but it must be done. Without smart legislative support for existing renewable resources, the state will not be able to meet its RPS levels by 2030. The math is simple. As contracts reach their ends within the next five years, resources that currently contribute to our RPS will no longer count and become ineligible to meet the state’s renewable goals. And while New York is withdrawing support from existing facilities, our closest competitors like Massachusetts and Connecticut provide renewable credits for all sources, regardless of their age. This further reduces New York’s competitiveness and risks our ability to reach 30 percent renewables, not to mention 70 percent.

This legislation, championed by Senator Kevin Parker and Assembly Member Michael Cusick — will keep New York among the international leaders of sound environmental policy. We must get this legislation passed before the Legislature leaves town so the Governor can sign it promptly.


Julie Tighe is President of New York’s League of Conservation Voters.