Legislation

NY Build Public Renewables Act and NY Utility Democracy Act

Overview

The Public Power NY Statewide coalition has introduced two bills to move New York State to the 100% renewable, democratically controlled, publicly owned energy system we need in order to lead the nation on climate. Our energy system is currently divided into three distinct sections: generation, transmission, and distribution. Passing both the NY Build Public Renewables Act and the NY Utilities Democracy Act will bring all of New York State’s generation, transmission, and distribution under public ownership.

Currently, the New York Power Authority (NYPA) cannot legally own or build new utility-scale renewable generation projects. As NYPA is the largest publicly owned utility in the country, with a track record of providing the most affordable energy in the state, it makes sense for NYPA to be at the forefront of our renewable energy transformation.

The NY Build Public Renewables Act (S6453A/A1466B):

  • The New York Power Authority (NYPA) will be enabled to build and own new renewable generation, and will phase out its existing fossil fuel plants as quickly as possible.
    • New York remains at 5% wind and solar, and 29% renewables overall. We do not have enough renewable projects in the pipeline to meet the CLCPA-mandated target of 70% renewable energy by 2030.
    • NYPA is the largest public utility in the country, and already provides 25% of New York’s energy, around 80% of which is renewable hydroelectric power, which is the most affordable energy in the state. But, NYPA is currently restricted by its charter from owning more than six generation projects over 25MW.
    • The Build Public Renewables Act would remove this restriction, allowing NYPA to scale up new large-scale renewables faster, cheaper, and more democratically than private developers can.
  • NYPA will be enabled to sell low-cost renewable energy directly to all customer classes wholesale.
    • Disadvantaged communities and low-income customers will be prioritized and automatically enrolled to receive the lowest-cost NYPA power on an opt-out basis.
  • NYSERDA’s Regional Clean Energy Hubs will foster public engagement on NYPA’s climate and resiliency plans, renewable energy siting, and research, and connect New Yorkers with energy efficiency programs and incentives, green jobs and training opportunities, and more.
    • This will help overcome siting challenges by democratizing the siting process and increasing coordination between NYPA, NYSERDA, and ORES.
  • The bill will be revenue neutral for the State and may be financed through a combination of NYPA’s low-cost bond issuances and progressive electric rates, ensuring the renewable transition is as affordable as possible.
    • It would generate $48.6-$93.5 billion in additional economic activity by 2030, and ensure more of the dollars we spend on energy stay in New York. Right now, $36 billion of the $61 billion we pay annually for energy flows out of state because we are so reliant on fossil fuels from other states, and we are relying on foreign-owned companies like Ørsted to build offshore wind.
  • It will create between 28,410 – 51,133 good jobs. All NYPA projects will pay prevailing wage, remain neutral to unionization, and will be subject to project labor agreements.
    • Right now, many jobs in renewable energy are non-union. This bill would ensure that green jobs are well-paying union jobs, and would create a just transition for fossil fuel industry workers.
  • A Data for Progress poll found 81% of Democrats and 68% of all likely voters support this bill.

The NY Utility Democracy Act will:

  • Initiate the process for transitioning all of New York State’s distribution utilities into public ownership within two years. 
  • New York State will, through either purchase or eminent domain,acquire all assets of all energy and gas utilities across the state.
  • Set a timeline for scaling down all gas infrastructure across the State while equally setting a timeline for scaling up renewable infrastructure to meet this new demand. 
  • Initiate the process of drawing and creating new utility territories based on principles of environmental justice, equity, and energy democracy. 
  • Create democratically elected utility boards to oversee the operations of the distribution utilities. 
  • Create an observatory oversight body including environmental justice advocates, community based organizations, labor, good governance, environmental advocates, independent policy and engineering experts to provide oversight to the democratically elected boards ensuring they are fulfilling all aspects necessary for New York State to adhere to the CLCPA standards. 
  • By removing the profit motive, rates for all utility territories will go down, and new utility rates will become progressive “green” rates scaling up for increased energy usage for wealthier customers without overburdening low-income customers in energy inefficient buildings. 
  • Rate cases will be determined by the democratically elected board, and intervenor funds will be made available to environmental and ratepayer advocates.
  • Eliminate incentive to build unnecessary infrastructure; incentivize maintenance and resiliency projects like undergrounding and microgrids by mandating public cost-benefit analyses of all spending proposals
  • Prevailing Wage and Project Labor Agreements codified in all 
  • Ensure all newly created utilities coordinate with NYPA, NYSERDA, and ORES to manage New York’s energy infrastructure in the most efficient way for ratepayers, workers, safety, and service. 
  • Allow customers to opt out of smart meters; any smart meter data that’s collected will not be shared with law enforcement, ICE, or any private companies.

Together these two bills bring New York State’s energy infrastructure on target to meet the 70% renewable by 2030 and 100% renewable by 2040 targets set by the CLCPA. As with the creation of NYPA by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1931, New York State has always led on energy issues. In order for New York State to lead again, in the era of the Green New Deal, the time is now to pass the NYPA Bill and the Public Power NY bill bringing New York the 100% renewable, democratically controlled, publicly owned energy system we need.