Worth the Wait: Cuomo Administration Establishes Ambitious State Climate Pollution Reduction Goals

June, 25, 2015
David Gahl
Director of Strategic Engagement
ClimateEnergy EfficiencyRenewable Energy

After a series of delays, the State Energy Planning Board finally approved the Final State Energy Plan at a meeting in Albany today, outlining ambitious targets for reducing climate pollution, and encouraging renewable energy and energy efficiency.

The Final Plan was worth the wait. The Pace Energy and Climate Center is pleased to see that many of our recommendations on ways to improve the draft State Energy Plan were adopted.

For instance, in our comments we called for the establishment of interim targets to help keep the state on track toward meeting its 80 percent reduction by 2050 climate pollution goal established in Executive Order 24. The Plan delivered.

The State Energy Plan announced new targets for the reduction of climate pollution and set a 40% reduction goal from 1990 levels by 2030. This ambitious goal puts New York among states leading the fight against climate change. 

The Final Plan also revisited “Intensity Targets,” another Pace recommendation.  The draft plan said “investments in clean energy strategies will help New York to reduce the intensity of its carbon emissions from the energy sector by 50 percent by 2030 (measured in CO2 emissions per Gross State Product from 2010 baseline) putting New York on a pathway to achieve an 80 percent reduction in total emissions by 2050.”  

The problem with an energy intensity target is that it does not ensure any level of actual emissions reductions. Intensity is a factor of emissions and economic growth. If the economy grows faster than emissions – which is has been the case – an intensity target offers a false sense of progress. The State Energy Planning Board dropped this approach in favor or straight tonnage reduction goal. 

Cuomo’s administration also announced targets for 50% renewable electricity generation by 2030.

In addition to ambitious goals for reducing climate pollution and increases in renewable electricity production, the State Energy Plan also outlines a significant objective for increased energy efficiency, calling for a 600 Trillion BTU increase in energy efficiency.

Such an increase is the equivalent of a 23% increase in building efficiency.

The State Energy Plan provides a unified narrative on the overarching policy changes – Reforming the Energy Vision and the Clean Energy Fund – along with a myriad of other individual programs. The State Energy Plan outlines 43 individual programs undertaken by the administration aimed at hyper-charging New Yorks progress to a brighter energy future.

Such smaller programs aim to harness the market changes catalyzed by REV and the Clean Energy Fund, to catapult New York towards its environmental goals while transforming the entire energy market.

With ambitious goals now on the books, we’ll be looking to see whether the Cuomo Administration’s Clean Energy Fund proposal, which deploys funds collected from ratepayers for public policy purposes, supports this ambitious agenda. The latest plan is just another example of Pace Law School students and Climate Center staff helping to drive clean energy outcomes in New York State.