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New York Could Be Completely Fossil Fuel Free by 2030

J. Mijin Cha

In the discussion around our energy future, fossil fuel advocates continually claim that renewables will never be able to meet our power needs. This assertion is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more we choose to invest in fossil fuels over renewable energy, the longer we delay our inevitable transition to a clean energy economy.

If, instead, we refocused our energy development on expanding renewable energy production, we could transition to a clean energy powered economy within the next few decades. Far from being unrealistic, a new study looked at the economic and technical feasibility of powering New York State through wind, water and solar (WWS) and found that it would be possible for the state to be completed WWS powered by 2030.

Even the most ambition renewable energy development plans currently include some fossil fuel use in the energy mix. The study is the first to provide a comprehensive energy plan that is powered 100 percent by renewable sources. The plan forecasts that by 2030, New York could meet its energy needs by:

  • 10 percent by onshore wind
  • 40 percent by offshore wind
  • 10 percent concentrated solar
  • 10 percent solar PV plants
  • 6 percent residential rooftop PV
  • 12 percent commercial/government rooftop
  • 5 percent geothermal
  • 0.5 percent wave
  • 1 percent tidal
  • 5.5 percent hydroelectric (most of which already exists)

The plan would also create up to 4.5 million construction jobs for the state and 58,000 permanent jobs once construction is completed. None of these technologies are new and the onshore wind capacity called for in the plan is less than twice what is currently installed in Texas. Strong energy efficiency standards would also decrease the demand for power and taking everything together, New York State could be completely powered by clean sources by 2030- just 17 years from now.

The plan also pays for the new energy infrastructure over 15 years just by the reduction in air pollution costs to the state and the global warming costs to the U.S. from state emissions. Annual electricity sales shorten the payback period to roughly 10 years. Not to mention the lasting economic benefit to the state because nearly all of New York’s energy would now be produced in state.

To put the timeline in perspective, fracking was developed over decades and with substantial financial support from the government and the private sector. In contrast, in less than two decades, New York could completely transition to being powered by clean energy with a plan that would pay for itself in just 10 years.

We are running out of reasons for why we can’t invest in a clean energy future…