Distributed Energy Resources

N.Y. Governor proposes amendment to speed permits for renewable projects

A proposed budget amendment in New York would transform the state’s permitting process for renewable energy projects.

The amendment, proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo Feb. 21, would create a new office to speed renewable energy permits and create an office to select and prepare permitted “build-ready” projects that would be put out for auction to the private sector.

The amendment also contains provisions to speed the construction of transmission projects that would aid the development of renewable energy in the state.

If adopted, the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act would create a new Office of Renewable Energy Permitting to streamline the process for siting large-scale renewable energy projects. The new office would come under the jurisdiction of the Department of Economic Development, the state arm of the Empire State Development Corp.

The new office also would develop draft permits for public comment that would include upfront mitigation measures and be charged with ensuring that complete applications are acted upon within one year or within six months for some former commercial and industrial sites.

The new office would also create a program through which the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) would collaborate with the Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Public Service to develop build-ready sites for renewable energy projects.

The amendment would also create a Clean Energy Resources Development and Incentives Program within NYSERDA that would be responsible for advancing the build-ready projects and prioritizing the development of existing or abandoned commercial sites, brownfields, landfills, former industrial sites, and abandoned or otherwise underutilized sites.

NYSERDA in consultation with the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Department of Public Service would pursue site control and pre-construction development activities for potential renewable energy projects.

When sites are fully permitted and developed, NYSERDA would competitively auction the developed sites, bundled with contracts for renewable energy payments, to private developers that would build and operate the projects.

Under the amendment, NYSERDA would also develop a Host Communities Benefit Program for build-ready site property owners and communities to receive incentives to host renewable energy projects. NYSERDA would take a consulting role in the development of payment in lieu of taxes agreements.

The amendment would also create a new program to be established by the Public Service Commission to provide for utility bill discounts for residents of clean energy project host communities, and NYSERDA would create a new Local Workforce Opportunities Fund with clean energy workforce training grants for host communities.

The amendment would also accelerate the investment and development of transmission projects designed to move the energy produced by renewables projects by relying on and leveraging the New York Power Authority’s “unique capability” to build new transmission projects by itself or in partnership with others.

The amendment also calls for the streamlining of the siting process for transmission projects built within existing rights of way and charges NYSERDA, in consultation with the New York Power Authority, the Long Island Power Authority, the state's grid operator and utilities, to conduct a study to identify cost-effective distribution, local and bulk electric system upgrades and file the study with the Public Service Commission.

And the amendment directs the Public Service Commission to establish a distribution and local transmission system capital program for each utility in whose service territories local upgrades are deemed necessary.

The amendment is designed to support the governor’s Green New Deal, which aims to achieve a zero-carbon emissions electricity sector by 2040.

Under New York’s Constitution, the governor has the right to amend or supplement his budget bill with 30 days of submission and, with the consent of the legislature, to submit budget amendments after the budget has been adopted.