New York’s climate goals are some of the most ambitious in the nation: by law, the state needs to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and shift to a completely clean, emissions-free electricity economy by 2050, and get to 70% renewable generation by 2030. And to reach that goal, state agencies and private companies have been ramping up renewable energy sources like wind and solar farms. Solar One has been involved in this change almost since its inception, playing a role in getting New York’s first net metering law passed, which paved the way for a renewable revolution, and our Here Comes Solar, Green Design Lab and Workforce Training programs have all been playing roles in this historic transition ever since, as have our staff who work on NYSERDA’s Clean Energy Communities program at the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability.
Sounds pretty promising, doesn’t it? However, there’s a catch. Most of the renewable generation being developed in New York is located upstate, where space is plentiful and land is relatively cheap. But the need for power is greatest in NYC, and the transmission lines tasked with moving the power down to us just can’t handle that many electrons.
In September, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced two huge transmission-line projects to help bridge that divide, a step that environmental advocates hope is a sign that she is accelerating the state’s efforts to address climate change and environmental inequities.
One line, called Clean Path New York, will stretch 179 miles from Delaware County in the Western Catskills to a substation on the East River. Another, the Champlain Hudson Power Express, will run a buried cable from Canada down the Hudson River to Queens. The Champlain Hudson line will be built and owned by the global investment firm Blackstone, while the Clean Path will be controlled by the New York Power Authority and private developers. The developers have agreed to 25-year contracts.
The state has not released details of the projects’ costs or expected effect on New Yorkers’ electricity bills. What is known is that the projects will cost billions of dollars, much of it funded by private companies, and amount to the state’s largest infrastructure investments in years. Together with recently greenlit offshore wind projects, the transmission lines set the state on track to meet its 2030 goal of getting 70 percent of the electricity consumed in the state from renewable sources.
But the path remains murky to the state’s tighter 2040 target of using 100 percent energy from renewable or nuclear sources.
Pulling off a transition to renewable energy will require the state to navigate political, economic and technological challenges.
The transition will also take careful economic planning, energy analysts caution: In a future where everything from home heat to transportation is powered by electricity, the price and reliability of that electricity will matter more than ever.