'Historic' Climate Victory for New York - Pager Power
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‘Historic’ Climate Victory for New York

‘Historic’ Climate Victory for New York
May 12, 2023 Rosie Ranson

The state of New York has passed legislation that will boost the state’s output of renewable energy and is a significant step towards the public ownership of utilities.

The legislation, which is part of the state’s new budget, calls for the public power company to produce 100% of its electricity from clean sources by 2030. As fossil fuels are phased out, it also permits the public utility to construct and own renewable energy sources. 

“This will enable us to build renewable energy projects with gold-standard labour language, ensuring that the transition to renewable energy benefits working people and their families,” Patrick Robbins, an organizer with the grassroots Public Power NY Coalition. [1]

Figure 1: Woman and Men Protesting on Brooklyn Bridge. [2]

The New York Power Authority (NYPA)

NYPA was established in 1931 and is the largest state public utility in the country. Over 80% of the electricity produced by NYPA is hydroelectric, which is a significant portion. By 2030, the state will be required by this new legislation to phase out the six natural gas-fired plants that NYPA runs throughout New York City. 

All state-owned buildings that typically get electricity from the NYPA will be powered entirely by renewable energy, according to the Build Public Renewables Act (BPRA). By 2035, all municipally owned buildings, including a lot of hospitals and schools, as well as public housing and transportation, will have to transition to renewable energy.

More than 1,000 customers, ranging from electric cooperatives, businesses, and non-profits to local and state government buildings, will receive low-cost electricity from NYPA. Additionally, some of its power is sold on the wholesale market, where utilities can buy it. According to the law, NYPA must provide lower utility rates for renewable energy to clients with low to moderate incomes. [3]

Boost to the Local Community

Tens of thousands of green jobs are anticipated to be created by the law, which is also expected to shut down some of the state’s most polluting oil and gas plants which are mostly located in lower-income neighbourhoods. These will be replaced by pollution-free renewable power, according to Public Power NY, a state-wide grassroots movement.

The recently passed law also ensures that union jobs are created for renewable energy projects, guarantees pay rate protection, provides retraining opportunities, and ensures that workers who have lost or would lose their jobs fill the new roles. According to a study by the think tank Win Climate, the law will save households between $904 and $3,000 per year once it is in effect, but supporters pointed out that it will take two years to take effect. [4]

Looking to the Future

The law represents a significant advance for both New York and advocates of national climate policy [5]. Ziesche, an organizer for Public Power New York, expressed the hope that people would view this as an example and a cause worth fighting for in their areas. She mentioned that out-of-state political alliances have already started contacting Public Power NY for assistance with developing their campaigns. “Energy is something that belongs to us, and it feels very powerful to take your power back in this way.” [6]

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[1] Uteuova, A. (2023) New York takes big step toward renewable energy in ‘historic’ Climate win, The Guardian.
[2] Lara Jameson, July 2021. Woman and men protesting on Brooklyn Bridge, from Pexels.com.  Last accessed on 12th May 2023. Available at: https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-and-men-protesting-on-brooklyn-bridge-8899181/
[3] Conley, J. (2023) ‘big win’: New York to build publicly owned clean energy, Electrify New Buildings, ‘Big Win’: New York to Build Publicly Owned Clean Energy, Electrify New Buildings.
[4] Hu, A. (2023) After a four-year campaign, New York says yes to publicly owned renewables, Grist.
[5] Aronoff, K. et al. (2023) Green New Deal advocates just won big in New York. here’s how they did it., The New Republic.
[6] Leffer, L. (2023) New York gets a state-level Green New deal, Gizmodo.


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