This post has been updated to more accurately reflect the Empire Center's political affiliations.
- New analysis from Empire Center, a nonprofit think tank located in New York's capital of Albany, shows the state's new Clean Energy Standard will cost consumers more than $3 billion across the next five years while having little impact on greenhouse gas emissions and ignoring needed grid upgrades.
- This summer, state regulators approved a standard directing the state to get half its power from renewable sources by 2030, while guaranteeing income for three struggling upstate nuclear power plants.
- The plan will have "a barely discernible impact on global greenhouse gas emissions," the report concluded, adding that regionally emissions could rise if changes are not made to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has hailed the state's CES as a necessary move to reduce emissions, and supports for three struggling nuclear plants as an essential part of the carbon-free strategy. But the Empire Center analysis questions those findings, suggesting regional emissions could rise without some policy changes.
“The Clean Energy Standard shapes up as a massive unlegislated tax increase, imposed through utility charges,” Empire Center policy analyst Ken Girardin said in a statement. According to the report, the CES will add almost $3.4 billion to New York utility bills in the next five years, and then 50% renewables mandate does not provide for necessary improvements to the grid.
"The PSC also failed to consider the added conventional generating capacity needed to back up renewables when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing," the report says.
Empire Center bills itself as non-partisan, a label some policy-watchers dispute. According the the Center for Media and Democracy, the center is a project of the Manhattan Institute, a free market think tank, and a member of the State Policy Network, a group of "mini Heritage foundations" that push conservative policies nationwide.
The group questions the overall impact of the clean energy standard, arguing that without changes to the multi-state RGGI compact, the end result will be lower emissions from New York, resulting in greater pollution within the region.
"Reductions in carbon emissions from New York power generators could be offset by an increase in emissions in eight other RGGI states," the Center said. "Even accepting the premise that forced renewable usage is justified, it would have made more sense to steer utilities toward a fixed amount of renewable capacity or generation, rather than an arbitrary fraction of an unknown future demand."
In addition to the renewables standard, New York directed almost $1 billion to the Fitzpatrick, Ginna and Nine Mile plants over the first two years of the program, in order to keep them from closing down. The plants are expected to produce 27.6 million MWh of carbon-free generation per year, making their operation essential to meeting Cuomo's goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions 40% from 1990 levels by 2030, and 80% by 2050.