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But target includes existing hydro -- New York's green mandate

Continuing his policy of not waiting for federal action to ensure clean air in New York state, Governor George Pataki is directing the state's electric utility regulator to implement a Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) that requires investor-owned utilities to buy a quarter of the energy they sell to consumers from renewable resources by 2012. He announced the plan in his State of the State address to the New York State Assembly on January 8.

On the surface, the New York RPS is the most ambitious of any state RPS in the country -- beating by 5% the California RPS target adopted in August of 20%, with a minimum 1% annual net increment, by 2017. The New York plan, however, allows utilities to count current and perhaps future purchases from hydroelectric facilities, which accounts for 17-18% of electric generation in the state, while the California RPS will not allow hydro to help meet annual goals. For New York, that leaves an 8% gap that utilities have until 2012 to fill.

The governor left the decision on how to design and implement the RPS to the state's Public Service Commission, which says the renewables power could come from any number of sources, although it is too early to know which. "It's now up to us to institute the proceedings for the RPS design," says David Flanagan of the PSC. He adds that the only instructions the governor provided were the timetable and the proportional amount of energy that must come from renewable resources. He does not know when the proceedings will begin, or how long before the RPS becomes effective, but he did say the PSC intends to "move as expeditiously as possible."

Like Texas

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) believes the New York RPS will look very much like the one Texas began implementing in 2001, which is thought by many in the wind industry to be the most carefully crafted of 14 state portfolio standards. The final design, however, is far from decided, Flanagan says.

Ryan Wiser of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, attributes the success of the Texas RPS to strong political support and regulatory commitment, predictable long term purchase obligations, credible enforcement, certificate trading to track and verify compliance, and favourable transmission rules (Windpower Monthly, December 2001). In 2001 alone, developers built wind projects in Texas exceeding 900 MW.

With New York needing up to 7100 MW of new generation to meet electricity load growth over the next three years, most of the power plants with applications before the PSC for approval are fuelled by natural gas, not by renewable resources. But wind power advocates, such as AWEA's David Wooley, say the wind potential in New York approaches 5000 MW. "This RPS mechanism would result in at least 2000 [MW], and probably much more," he predicts. The state currently has just 48 MW of installed wind capacity. The newest plant is the 30 MW Fenner project completed by Atlantic Renewable Energy in October using turbines supplied by GE Wind.

Executive order

The PSC regulates the state's six largest investor-owned electric utilities, which serve about 6.2 million customers. Pataki has already required the state's two largest public utilities -- the Long Island Power Authority and the New York Power Authority -- to buy up to 100 MW of renewable resources each. To ensure a market for the power, he issued an executive order for state government agencies to buy 10% of their energy from renewables by 2005 and 20% by 2010 -- and in August he granted $17 million to five New York wind projects totalling 315 MW (Windpower Monthly, September 2002).

Pataki, a Republican, earlier last year approved a wide-ranging energy plan that included the consideration of a state RPS by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (Windpower Monthly, July 2002). That plan proposed some level of RPS, but not until 2020.

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