It wasn’t such a heavy lift for the overwhelmingly Democratic Legislature in 2019 to pass the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, and it was easy for then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo to pick up his pen and sign it into law. Executing the vision of delivering 70% of the state’s electricity from zero-emissions sources by 2030 is proving hard work indeed. New York State needs far more power from far more sources in short order. Unfortunately, unwise decisions already made complicate the effort.
In April 2021, the Indian Point nuclear plant in Westchester County, which had reliably provided about a quarter of New York City’s energy needs without emitting any greenhouse gases, shuttered. Politicians cheered; in fact, it was a setback, forcing further reliance on fossil-fuel-burning plants to carry a growing electrical load.
The Albany climate law sets targets that are more ambitious than those in just about any other state — yet new renewables here are coming online at a snail’s pace. New York Focus, a nonprofit news outlet, pointed out the stark disconnect: While California, Texas and other states are ramping up solar and wind farms at a rapid clip, New York put just three such facilities online last year. The two years prior, none: “Altogether, New York will need to build wind, solar, and energy storage 10 times faster for the rest of this decade than it did in the last.”
It’s true that many, many projects delivering many, many megawatts are in the pipeline, but all have significant hurdles to overcome. Nor are we assured that the transmission lines bringing the energy where it’s needed will be ready in time.
Power-hungry New York is idealistically moving to electrify everything under the sun. Realistically, it needs all the energy it can possibly get from all the zero-emissions sources — wind, solar, hydropower and, yes, nuclear — and a robust grid to deliver it. Generate the power or we’ll make a mockery of the law, and usher in a bleak era of green blackouts.
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