There were many topics that New Yorkers were expecting Governor Andrew Cuomo to hit during his State of the State address on Wednesday, including gun regulation, education reform and economic development.
One topic that was not front and center was cleantech. But early in the speech, Cuomo called cleantech a “footrace” in which he wanted New York to win. To get there, the Governor announced a $1 billion Green Bank to leverage public dollars with private-sector matching funds to spur the cleantech economy in the state. The Bank will be funded by a portion of money from the energy efficiency portfolio standards, renewable portfolio standards or system benefit charge to attract the private investment.
He also announced the state would expand the NY-Sun solar jobs program by $150 million annually through 2023 to increase solar panel installations for homes and businesses.
Along with solar, the Governor also gave a nod to electric vehicles by initiating a program that will be called Charge NY.
To help win the cleantech race, Cuomo named Richard Kauffman as the state’s first cabinet-level energy czar. Kauffman was most recently a senior advisor to the U.S. Department of Energy’s secretary, Steven Chu.
Of course, annual State of the State or Union speeches are big on rhetoric but aren't always followed up by big action. Cuomo did not specify where funds from a Green Bank would go or just how much muscle would go into a state electric-vehicle charging network.
However, naming a cleantech czar is a solid step in the right direction. Cuomo also spoke forcefully about climate change and said that the state needed more distributed sources of electricity, laying out his intention to transform the public service commission from a “toothless tiger” into a body with more enforcement powers. His detailed State of the State plan calls for utilities in New York to accelerate their investment in smart grid, increased incentives for distributed generation, new rate structures and increased microgrid deployment.
The Long Island Power Authority, which received a great deal of criticism during and after Sandy, will be privatized and regulated under the newly emboldened PSC. The privatization plan comes with a three- to five-year rate freeze. “We need to redesign our power systems,” said Cuomo, who repeated his contention that 100-year storms seem to come every few years these days and that infrastructure at all levels needs to be improved. “The time to act is now.”