Governor Andrew Cuomo announced new energy efficiency standards for New York on Friday, calling for investor-owned utilities to achieve annual efficiency savings equal to 3 percent of sales by 2025.

The new target would accelerate energy efficiency by more than 40 percent over current forecasts and reduce energy consumption by 185 trillion Btu. The state also committed $36.5 million to train more than 19,500 New Yorkers for clean energy jobs.

"Energy efficiency is the most cost-effective way for New Yorkers to lower utility bills, curb harmful emissions and battle climate change," said Governor Cuomo, in a statement.

The energy efficiency plan should help the state achieve nearly one-third of its climate goal to reduce emissions by 40 percent by 2030. 

New York’s Public Service Commission also approved a series of measures last week as part of the state’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative. Now in its fourth year, REV is a sweeping overhaul of utility and energy regulations meant to enable more distributed energy on the grid.

One of the changes will allow distributed energy storage projects of up to 5 megawatts to connect to the grid, which the commission says will expand the integration of larger energy storage technologies.

“New York is sending strong signals to the storage industry to come to invest in New York, and those signals are coming in [the form of many] different changes, and this is one of them,” said Anne Reynolds, executive director of the Alliance for Clean Energy New York.

Regulators also improved upon the application and contract process for Standardized Interconnection Requirements, which should help developers connect distributed generation projects to the distribution system more efficiently.

Another rule will make it easier for neighboring farms to form community distributed generation projects, including the use of anaerobic digesters to produce electricity. Previous rules required at least 10 farms to work together in order to start a project.

“Now you can have just two or three or four farms get together and do distributed wind, or digesters or solar,” said Reynolds. “I think it’s going to be interesting to see if now you can have small farm cooperatives — two neighboring dairy farms having a solar project together.”

Another measure approved last week will create a utility energy registry to give the public online access to customer-load data for the state’s major utilities. Starting in mid-2018, the project is intended to foster “increased awareness of energy use patterns” and promote conservation. Officials included a new privacy standard for data collected from apartment buildings as well.

The commission also approved a request from New York State Electric and Gas to implement time-based rates for a smart energy community project in the Ithaca area. On a pilot basis, about 12,000 customers with advanced metering infrastructure will be charged at least 2.5 times more for energy consumed during peak hours. Regulators said the change should send “a clear price signal to customers…to manage their energy usage.”

Earlier this month, Cuomo announced that up to $15 million would be available for projects that help advance and improve the resiliency of the electric grid, as part of an effort to lower energy costs and combat climate change. The state has already awarded $9.6 million through 22 contracts solicited in 2016 that focus on smart grid technologies.

In January Cuomo unveiled a series of clean energy proposals, including a pledge to deploy 1,500 megawatts of energy storage by 2025 as the state works toward 50 percent renewable energy by 2030. The target came just a month after he signed a bill to create a storage deployment program.

The 1,500-megawatt goal comes with $200 million in funding from NYSERDA's Green Bank and another $60 million from NYSERDA's Clean Energy Fund. But so far, REV hasn't produced final tariffs to compensate storage for the locational value it provides to the grid.

Despite ongoing efforts to boost clean energy and efficiency in the state, many critics say New York should be doing more. More than 1,500 activists descended on the state capitol on Monday to blast Cuomo for not doing more to combat climate change. One of the protestors was actor and gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon, who announced a platform calling for 100 percent renewable energy last week.

Reynolds says the enthusiasm of climate activists in New York has pushed Cuomo to move forward on clean energy initiatives in recent years.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done in terms of implementation," she said. "But the goals are really strong, and this latest energy efficiency announcement was the missing piece in getting us toward those goals.”


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