In The News

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration is facing some key decisions about emissions from power plants and how best to promote technologies to meet growing electricity demand in the coming decades.

While the state’s goal of hitting 70 percent renewable electricity by 2030 appears to be within reach, there are looming questions about how to fully decarbonize generation by 2040 under the requirements of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. That's a particular concern because some technologies that could fill in when renewables aren’t running appear to be prohibited in 2050 under the law.

Still, some advocates say there is reason to be cautiously optimistic as the state continues to forge ahead with its aggressive climate goals over the next 30 years.

“We have all the technologies we need to get to the 70 by 2030 goal,” said the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Chris Casey. “Getting to the 2040 goal — there are some challenges there with the last little bit of decarbonization but that shouldn’t hold us back from moving quickly in this direction.”

Removing planet-warming emissions from electric generation is an essential part of the state’s climate change response. It will support reaching net-zero emissions in 2050 as buildings and transportation move away from fossil fuels to rely on electricity.

Two recent studies by outside consultants examined the most economic mix of resources needed in the electric sector to meet the state’s goals. Both concluded there’s a place in 2040 for some technology not yet available at scale that can be tapped when wind and solar are not running for long stretches.

“If you don’t have some other technology to meet the load during the sustained low wind and solar periods, you need to vastly overbuild [those renewables], so even when they’re low you’re getting enough energy,” said Brattle’s Sam Newell, who worked on modeling what the electric system would look like in 2040 to meet the state’s goals. Brattle did so for the New York Independent System Operator.

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