Orange County Partnership - News

Position Paper: NY Scrambles to Meet Lofty Energy and Climate Goals

There’s no shortage of challenging news these days. The unprecedented pandemic and the continual impact it has on our business community, schools, workplaces and neighbors can understandably feel all-consuming.  


Outside of these large events that often consume our daily lives, significant and profound regulatory developments are occurring in Albany that will have long-lasting implications for the energy security, reliability, and affordability for the Orange County region and all New Yorkers.


Right now, our policymakers and regulators are putting together the blueprint and plans to implement the sweeping Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA). Under that law, New York faces an uphill task of drastically cutting its carbon emissions by generating 70% of its electricity with renewable energy in less than nine years. Federal data from the Department of Energy confirms that only 8% of our state’s power comes from solar and wind. What further complicates this challenge is that Downstate New York is almost entirely dependent on natural gas today to meet our power needs after our largest source of emissions-free power—Indian Point—was shutdown.


New York also faces a conundrum with a congested electric grid. Our state regulators point to the fact that we really have two electric grids where Upstate and Western New York have 90% of our emissions-free power but it can’t get down to Orange County and Downstate because we simply don’t have enough transmission lines to bring the power where it is needed most.


Dependable, affordable, and available energy service is critical to attracting new companies and investment in the Orange County region. We also hear that in addition to competitive electricity rates and service, the private sector is increasingly interested in environmentally sustainable options that will reduce their emissions footprint.


So, the key question from a business and economic development standpoint is where do we go from here? It’s becoming increasingly clear that we have to find additional sources of clean energy and build new large-scale electric transmission lines to transport the clean energy required by state law.


Fortunately, the Orange County Partnership notes that there is a promising option that’s ready to go and under consideration by regulators which can help New York go a long way towards meeting its 70% renewable energy requirement—the Champlain Hudson Power Express (CHPE). CHPE is part of a group of other projects under consideration by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority vying to bring additional renewable resources into Downstate New York.


There are several important benefits the CHPE project could provide. First, it has already received the requisite state and federal permits it needs which means this project could be in service soon and its targeted for 2025. Next, it expands on a proven a renewable resource from our partners in Canada that can send baseload, 24/7 emissions-free power into our state that could provide nearly 20% of the clean energy requirements under the CLCPA. In fact, if CHPE is selected the resulting carbon emissions reduction will be equivalent to removing approximately 44% of the cars from NYC streets. This means New Yorkers could start actualizing meaningful environmental benefits with reliability of around-the-clock renewable power far in advance of the 2030 deadline.


Project backers have also estimated CHPE will create 1,400 high-paying construction jobs that will provide billions in local and state revenues and help decrease wholesale electricity prices with a forecast reduction of $17 billion for consumers across 30 years. A recent agreement was also announced by the sponsors that would provide frontline communities with $40 million in workforce development and job training funding to help our residents acquire skills to be part of New York’s green energy transition.


We have to be realistic about the road ahead. Meeting our energy needs and New York’s decarbonization requirements is going to take a lot of work and we need our policymakers to be solutions-oriented in helping us get to “yes”—while keeping the needs of businesses and our communities in mind. It will take innovative thinking and frankly New York will need it all and a balanced portfolio to get there in a responsible way. Approving CHPE would be a smart, common-sense step that could help us make progress towards meeting that future.