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The CLCPA is a New York State law passed in 2019. It is designed to set a course for reducing 85% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and to offset or capture the remaining 15%. This is an enormous set of changes to be achieved in the space of a generation. The law sets targets for the fast growth of clean energy starting right away – a necessary commitment because burning fossil fuels is dramatically changing the climate and threatening our way of life. The CLCPA is New York’s roadmap to addressing the problem and moving us towards a healthier, more sustainable economy.
How will the sweeping shift away from fossil fueled systems be implemented over time? What is the timeline and how will these changes unfold?
Early phases of the plan focus on voluntary efforts by individuals and businesses, with the support of state programs, designed to guide and assist people through these processes. New York has opened an Office of Renewable Energy Siting to oversee site approvals and has commissioned a study by utilities companies on grid upgrading needs. New York has also developed a program to purchase and prepare large-scale renewable energy sites on already disturbed land, and auction these sites to developers, in order to reduce pressure on farms and forests.
Like any law, the Climate Act can only be implemented through policies and programs. These are being developed by the state-appointed Climate Action Council which is co-chaired by the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation and the President/ CEO of NYSERDA. The Council has set up working groups and advisory panels on all the topics covered by the new law, bringing together supporters and critics from a wide range of perspectives including the electric utilities, manufacturing and transportation industries, unions, farmers, and historically marginalized communities. After a year and a half of public meetings supported by in-depth research, the Council negotiated a menu of policies that is now in circulation for public comment as the Draft Scoping Plan.
To achieve the goal of zero emissions for large multi-family homes and commercial buildings by 2035, the timeline requires that by 2030 we electrify 1-2 million homes with cold climate heat pumps. To accomplish this shift to electric heating and cooling, the period of 2023-2027 is critical. The Draft Scoping Plan proposes requiring all new construction to be electric, since this can be easily accomplished. It also proposes prohibiting new gas-hookups in existing buildings. To achieve Climate Act mandates, we must also replace 3 million gas vehicles on the road with electric vehicles and divert all organic waste from landfills by 2030.
To achieve these goals by accelerating the market uptake of clean energy, programs of financial incentives and technical assistance have been developed and are being continuously reviewed and improved. These changes are unprecedented and many remaining questions will be answered as policy is developed. Consumers will be guided throughout this process and will ultimately see financial benefits.
Who designed this plan? How has the public been consulted?
The plan has been designed by the Climate Action Council with inputs from wide ranging interests and experts. Most of the recommendations have been adopted by consensus. Public input has been extensively taken into account through dozens of public hearings, some lasting 4 – 5 hours, as well as the review of thousands of written comments. From utilities and the trucking and shipping industries to farmers and urban disadvantaged communities, representatives of diverse interests and concerns have been coming to a common table and laying out their views and priorities in public, transcribed and recorded meetings. These recordings can be found here. The Draft Scoping Plan can be found at www.climate.ny.gov. The degree of consultation and transparency in this process is a monumental organizational accomplishment.
How will it be paid for? Will I see changes in my taxes?
It’s important to recognize the unprecedented costs associated with worsening climate change through extreme weather and the resulting public health impacts. The projected cost of inaction exceeds the cost of action by over $90 billion. Eliminating fossil fuel combustion provides public health benefits by reducing co-pollutants (such as fine particulates) and improving air quality. We will see an estimated $50 – $120 billion in savings between 2020 and 2050 due to air quality improvements and impacts on health, alone. NYSERDA estimates that the net cost of implementing the Climate Act will be approximately $15 billion by 2030; it is important to understand that these net costs are small relative to the economy’s size (0.6%-0.7% of Gross State Product).
This work will be paid for by a variety of private investments and state incentives including many from NYSERDA that are funded by initial small surcharges on electric bills; however, any additional cost upfront will be offset by an eventual decrease in utility bills. Increasingly, banks are assisting in this process by creating low interest loan products for home and small business energy upgrades. Guiding policies are being developed in 2022-23, but the obvious resources for covering these costs are private and public investment, government incentives, loans and grants. Because energy efficiency saves you money and renewable energy can be priced lower than a conventional electric bill, many of the changes needed by homes and small businesses will pay themselves back and ultimately result in savings. Because homeowners and businesses can make these transitions over the course of several years,, they can plan to replace a heating system, appliance or vehicle with a renewably powered option when it’s time to get a new one anyway.
What are the choices for a homeowner or business to power, heat and cool their buildings as we transition away from fossil fuels?
The use of renewable energy is an increasing portion of the electricity moving through the grid; consumers don’t have to figure it all out themselves.
Rooftop solar power, with or without battery storage, can provide most if not all the power needs for a building that has southern sun exposure without too much shade. For others – and for renters – another option is community solar. Community solarUnlike traditional solar, where panels are installed on your roof or property, community solar is installed at an offsite location. You can subscribe to the community solar project and receive credits on your regular electric bill for the clean energy produced. Resources: Hudson Valley Community Power Solar for All (low income) Buyer’s Guide to Community Solar in NY (2017) Community More is a group of solar panels with access to the local electricity grid. Once the panels are turned on and generating electricity, clean energy from the site feeds into the local power grid. Depending on the size and number of panels the project has, dozens or even hundreds of renters and homeowners can save money from the electricity that is generated by the project. By subscribing to a community solarUnlike traditional solar, where panels are installed on your roof or property, community solar is installed at an offsite location. You can subscribe to the community solar project and receive credits on your regular electric bill for the clean energy produced. Resources: Hudson Valley Community Power Solar for All (low income) Buyer’s Guide to Community Solar in NY (2017) Community More project, you earn credits on your electric bill every month from your portion of the solar that’s generated by the project, accessing the benefits of solar without installing panels on your home.
The most cost-effective way to heat and cool your home is with a heat pumpThese transfer heat from outside rather than converting it from fuel. Resources: • Air Source Heat Pump Buying Guide
and community solarUnlike traditional solar, where panels are installed on your roof or property, community solar is installed at an offsite location. You can subscribe to the community solar project and receive credits on your regular electric bill for the clean energy produced. Resources: Hudson Valley Community Power Solar for All (low income) Buyer’s Guide to Community Solar in NY (2017) Community More. Rather than burning fuel, heat pumps use electricity to draw heat into or out of a building, from the ground (geothermal) or the air (air source heat pumps). This is a well established technology that provides virtually all home heating and cooling in some countries. In the US, heat pumpThese transfer heat from outside rather than converting it from fuel. Resources: • Air Source Heat Pump Buying Guide
technology has been refined to meet the needs of cold climates such as ours. https://www.nyserda.ny.gov/ny/sun-pumped For information on heat pumpThese transfer heat from outside rather than converting it from fuel. Resources: • Air Source Heat Pump Buying Guide
installation, visit this website.
If you have baseboard electric heat or a more expensive heating fuel, like propane or oil, the savings from switching to a heat pumpThese transfer heat from outside rather than converting it from fuel. Resources: • Air Source Heat Pump Buying Guide
can be significant.
Solar energy is an accessible renewable option for powering your heat pumps. Solar energy can be installed through solar panels on individual buildings or through a community solarUnlike traditional solar, where panels are installed on your roof or property, community solar is installed at an offsite location. You can subscribe to the community solar project and receive credits on your regular electric bill for the clean energy produced. Resources: Hudson Valley Community Power Solar for All (low income) Buyer’s Guide to Community Solar in NY (2017) Community More option. Pairing solar energy with a heat pumpThese transfer heat from outside rather than converting it from fuel. Resources: • Air Source Heat Pump Buying Guide
is a great way to maximize your energy efficiency, but you can also benefit by switching to just one of these options. Many solar energy companies partner with heat pumpThese transfer heat from outside rather than converting it from fuel. Resources: • Air Source Heat Pump Buying Guide
companies and will help guide you through the process of installing both of these renewable options.
What do we know about the reliability and affordability of the available technologies?
NYSERDA partners with contractors who are trained and certified to deliver the highest quality energy efficiency services for your home. Approved heat pumpThese transfer heat from outside rather than converting it from fuel. Resources: • Air Source Heat Pump Buying Guide
contractors can assess which type of heat pumpThese transfer heat from outside rather than converting it from fuel. Resources: • Air Source Heat Pump Buying Guide
is right for your home, conduct a quality installation, and provide routine maintenance on your system as needed. Heat pumpThese transfer heat from outside rather than converting it from fuel. Resources: • Air Source Heat Pump Buying Guide
contractors are approved by NYSERDA – solar panels are a standard and widely used commodity subject to rigorous quality control processes by manufacturers. Consumer warranties generally cover 20 – 25 years of power production. Another recommendation is to weatherize your home (the process of protecting a building and its interior from the elements to reduce energy consumption and optimize energy efficiency). Not only does this increase energy efficiency, but will also save you money on heating and cooling. NYSERDA provides a wide range of incentives to assist homeowners in scheduling and coordinating energy assessments to get started on improving the building’s efficiency performance and installing renewable technologies.
The NYS Clean Heat program encourages residents, small businesses, and commercial and multifamily building owners to install cold climate air source heat pumps (ASHP) and energy efficient ground source heat pumps (GSHP) and heat pumpThese transfer heat from outside rather than converting it from fuel. Resources: • Air Source Heat Pump Buying Guide
water heaters (HPWH). The NYS Clean Heat program helps you find contractors in your area who can determine the specific rebates and incentives for completing the installation on your home or business.
Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships works with heat pumpThese transfer heat from outside rather than converting it from fuel. Resources: • Air Source Heat Pump Buying Guide
companies to set strict standards for cold climate heat pumps in order to ensure that your home will be properly heated, even on the coldest days. Recent technologies now provide a new generation of air source heat pumps, utilizing inverter-driven, variable-speed compressors that have come to market over the past five years. These systems have demonstrated radically-improved heating performance under low temperature conditions (near or below 5°F), while continuing to offer highly efficient cooling. As New York continues to invest in more efficient ways of powering, heating, and cooling buildings and homes, the options will increase.
How will we ensure that the electric grid is able to handle the very different flows of power as we shift to renewables? Who is responsible for that? How will it be planned and paid for?
Modernizing the grid to incorporate high penetration of renewable energy is a complex and financially significant undertaking, but it is entirely achievable, as we can see in California and parts of Europe. Our grid needs significant upgrades; NY State is investing in modernization to make the grid more efficient and more capable of taking advantage of clean, renewable energy sources. This is the focus of intense work by the Climate Action Council with the Public Service Commission (which regulates the utilities), the NY Independent System Operator (which runs the day to day grid operations) and the utilities companies themselves, which were directed to conduct an in-depth study of grid modernization needs and pathways. This planning is ongoing. The electric transmission system is already in the process of priority upgrades to bring renewable power from Canadian hydro and offshore wind. Still ahead is policymaking to determine how these upgrades are paid for; it is reasonable to expect cost-sharing by the state, utilities and renewable energy developers. Grid modernization will be an ongoing process, allowing for all parties to learn what works and negotiate fair terms of partnership.
Because renewable energy sources like wind and solar are intermittent, energy storage will be a key part of ensuring that electricity consistently flows through the grid. Battery storage and other technologies that capture renewable electricity when it’s produced and release it to the grid when it’s needed will be used.
What about the safety of electric vehicles, and how do they perform in wintery conditions?
According to recent studies, electric vehicles are actually safer than gas-powered cars. According to the Highway Loss Data Institute, injury claims for electric cars are 40 percent lower than for comparable gas-powered vehicles. Another area of concern among consumers is the misconceptions related to batteries and fires – recent studies have found that EVs are less likely to catch fire than gas-powered cars. Statistically, there are fewer EV car fires than gas-powered car fires.
Electric vehicles continue to show significantly lower collision and property damage liability (or PDL) claim frequencies compared with their gas-powered counterparts. The increases in collision and PDL claim severity associated with electric vehicles have continued to decrease as well, with the collision results no longer statistically significant. Read more about these findings here.
Links to more information regarding recent safety studies, tests, and analyses are provided below.
You can compare safety and ratings of specific electric vs. gas vehicles here. Consumer Reports also offers more detailed information on the safety ratings and tests performed on EVs vs. gas vehicles.
Electric vehicles are available in a variety of models. Certain models of EVs are more conducive to withstanding wintery, icy road conditions through all-wheel drive options and higher ground clearance. Models that are geared toward colder climates can also contain battery heaters and other methods of keeping the EV running at maximum efficiency throughout the coldest months (https://www.driveelectricvt.com/blog/winter).
Electric vehicle critics express concern about the cost of battery replacement. How does this fit into the economics of EVs?
Batteries must be warrantied for at least 250,000 miles in New York State – if a battery replacement is needed before this mileage is reached, the cost of replacement is covered. In terms of maintenance costs overall, according to recent analyses, the average internal combustion engine gas powered car today can be expected to last 200,000 miles (according to Car and Driver), which makes maintaining a traditional vehicle about $20,200. Maintaining an EV is approximately $12,200 — an $8,000 difference. When gas cars reach 300,000 miles, the cost for maintenance increases to $30,300. At the same mileage of 300,000, EVs approximate cost of maintenance is $18,300 — a difference of $12,000. Additionally, EVs last an average of 10 years before needing a battery replacement and can last up to 20 years with battery replacement – this is longer than the average lifespan of a gas car.
How can we be sure there is enough charging for electric vehicles?
There are fewer and fewer “charging deserts” than ever before and there are more charging stations being built at a rapid rate. Plugshare.com is a good resource for finding charging stations; you will see that there are quite a lot!
New York State has had several generations of programs to offset costs for both highway fast chargers and “destination” chargers that are used in downtowns, parking garages and so on. The Draft Scoping Plan calls for scaling up these programs.
According to Jointutilitiesofny.org, The goal of the Electric Vehicle (“EV”) Make-Ready Program (“EV Make-Ready Program”) is to support the development of electric infrastructure and equipment necessary to accommodate an increased deployment of EVs within New York State by reducing the upfront costs of building charging stations for EVs. Through this EV Make-Ready Program, entities seeking to install or participate in the installation of Level 2 (“L2”) and/or Direct Current Fast Charging (“DCFC”) chargers can earn incentives that will offset a large portion of, or in some cases, all of the infrastructure costs associated with preparing a site for EV charger installation.
NYSERDA offers options for EV charging station programs that provide incentives and discounts on the installation of charging stations. Incentives and discounts vary based on the program option you choose, so you can select the option that is most cost-effective for you.
Big solar installations sometimes land on farms and forests, and we need those too. What are the options for communities that want to make sure their natural resources and views are protected?
More information on the details of solar farm installation can be found here. While the placement and design of solar farms attempts to mitigate disturbances, it is important to note that there is still much work to be done. Until the energy grid is updated, there will be financial incentives for developers to place solar and wind farms on flat lowlands near electric distribution, which may be near distressed farmlands. Over 35 communities in the Hudson Valley have already participated in a process of map analysis to identify the renewable energy sites that will most likely win community support while avoiding farm and forest lands. Scenic Hudson, a non-profit organization in the Hudson Valley, has created a mapping tool to help communities in this process. As more communities begin to participate in these processes of map analyses, the placement of solar and wind farms can and will become more strategic.
What are the options for businesses that currently use fossil fuels to produce electricity and heat for their operations, including industrial processes?
There has been lots of work done by the Climate Act Advisory Panel on Energy Intensive and Trade-Exposed Industries in providing financial support and guidance in this transition. State investments in technology development and technical assistance have been implemented to ensure that New York’s businesses are supported in their operations as they transition to cleaner technologies. The possibilities are illustrated by current programs like the Flexible Technical Assistance (FlexTech) Program. This program offers financial support for completing an energy study to identify and evaluate opportunities to reduce energy costs and incorporate clean energy into capital planning.
What will happen to people who are employed by fossil fuel companies?
New York’s economy does not have the kind of major fossil fuel employers that more actively oil- and gas- producing states have. By making this transition and following the guidelines of the plan, we will see a net gain of 189,000 jobs in New York State by 2030. In other words, we will see a major increase in jobs and job opportunities as we continue to make the transition toward zero-emission standards.
The largest job losses in this transition will be in gas pumping and delivering fuel oil; these industries will contract while renewable energy industries expand. The opportunities to transition into the clean energy economy – installing solar, wind, geothermal, air source heat pumps, performing building energy efficiency upgrades, selling and maintaining electric vehicles and more – are virtually unlimited and are already supported by diverse training programs. People in sunsetting industries such as fossil fuel need to be prepared to learn and adapt; If they are, the opportunities are vast.
To mitigate any economic impact and ensure that current and formerly employed power plant workers benefit from the transition to clean energy, the plan supports displaced workers as much as possible by establishing continuing education, registered apprenticeships, certifications, and licensing in clean energy trades and professions. Assistance and support for companies and organizations is also provided to help transition the workforce to clean energy jobs. In the transition away from fossil fuels, we will see the largest wage increase in middle wage positions ($28-$37 an hour).
How will these changes impact renters and non-homeowners?
While renewable energy will ultimately result in money saved, the transition away from non-renewables will be an initial investment. Most of this money will be funded through state initiatives and incentives. Landlords will be financially and instructionally supported in implementing changes and following guidelines. Renters will continue to pay rent and utilities as usual. Additionally, many upgrades to HVAC will also include indoor air quality and other improvements in the comfort quality of your home.Short-term costs are inevitably affected by other factors such as supply chain, cost of conversion, etc., but long-term costs will decrease.
What about low-income households that don’t have any extra resources?
The Climate Act requires the state to invest or direct resources to ensure that disadvantaged communities and low-income households receive at least 35, with the goal of 40 percent, of overall benefits of spending on clean energy and energy efficiency programs, projects or investments in the areas of housing, workforce development, pollution reduction, low-income energy assistance, energy, transportation, and economic development.
Programs are being developed to help everyone afford the changes they are being asked to make, and to make jobs in the clean energy economy widely available. For example, Empower NY is a program funded by NYSERDA that actively reaches out to low income neighborhoods, through social service agencies and community based organizations, with an aim to help people access free home energy upgrades. To see if you are eligible for low or no cost home and appliance upgrades, visit NYSERDA’s website. Income qualified families with a HEAP award letter dated October 1, 2021 or later, and a valid Client Identification Number (CIN) or Case number may be eligible for the installation of clean heating and cooling heat pumps in addition to other EmPower measures. Your contractor will assist you in completing any necessary paperwork to receive the heat pumpThese transfer heat from outside rather than converting it from fuel. Resources: • Air Source Heat Pump Buying Guide
incentive. Later this year, a new follow-on program, Clean Energy Hubs, will bring together energy outreach and education experts with social service agencies and community based organizations to reach more widely into the communities that most need energy savings.
The Climate Justice Working Group and Climate Justice Advisory Panel played an important advisory role in the Climate Action Council process, focusing on the needs of disadvantaged communities in the plan for transitioning to renewable energy. Their work will ensure that while we move the state toward a carbon neutral economy, all New Yorkers will reap the economic and environmental benefits of this transition. All meetings are recorded and can be found here.
I am open to using more renewable sources of energy, but I don’t want to make all these changes at once or be told how I should go about it. Can I do this at my own pace and in my own way?
There is no expectation for how or when you begin to implement these changes. At some point in the coming years, state building codes are likely to remove polluting fossil fuel technologies from being newly installed, most likely starting with new construction. Over the next twenty years, most homes will need to replace their heating and cooling systems, and renewable options will grow in availability and affordability over that period. We recommend an approach that begins with learning about renewable technologies so that, when your conventional car or fossil fuel boiler needs to be replaced, you have a plan and are confident in going forward with a renewable option. For example, Marbletown, New York has made a commitment to shift to 100% renewable energy and helps community members plan using a ten step process to tackle each component of your energy system. More information about Marbletown, NY can be found HERE.