GUEST VIEWPOINT: Connect New York State’s Two Power Grids to Drive Economic Development in NYC and Statewide

Michael Oates | June 23, 2021

Michael Oates

The New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA) faces a major decision that could greatly impact all of New York’s economic recovery from COVID. Several energy and transmission developers are competing for a NYSERDA energy program with varying amounts of in-state investment. The choice is clear: Go big and choose New York jobs.

In his 2020 State of the State, Gov. Andrew Cuomo laid out an ambitious vision: expanding New York’s renewable energy to reduce the state’s carbon emissions to zero by 2040. This nation-leading goal would fundamentally transform the state’s energy system and its underlying economy.

But the governor’s vision faces an old problem: the tale of two energy grids. The Hudson Valley and upstate New York have abundant sources of renewable energy and the real estate needed to build new clean energy facilities. Yet it lacks the demand to meet its supply. Simultaneously, downstate has a vast energy demand, but neither the room nor transmission to deliver enough renewable energy to meet needs. Thus, it relies almost entirely on fossil-based power generators.

The result: Hudson Valley and upstate economic development and job creation have been stifled, and environmental justice in New York City has been ignored. Families across New York City continue to live next to dirty, outdated power plants, and face higher rates of asthma than surrounding areas.

That’s why Gov. Cuomo initiated the process of delivering renewable energy into New York City. If done right, the program could harness clean energy from across New York State for delivery in New York City. In so doing, the state can boost the entire state’s economy while advancing environmental justice.

The state program calls for 3,000 megawatts (MW) of new, clean, renewable energy transmission. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also has stated that the city is prepared to purchase its entire municipal load from this program—an additional 600 MW. And real estate leaders face requirements to significantly reduce building emissions by 2030.

That’s why state decision makers should use this moment to go big and invest in the entire 3,000 MW of renewable transmission. What’s more, they should prioritize homegrown, New York renewables.

From groundbreaking to operation, communities across the Hudson Valley and upstate New York could gain thousands of private-sector clean-energy jobs thanks to this program. These include high-tech construction and operation jobs at new transmission, wind and solar facilities. New York could see billions of dollars in local economic investment and tax revenue, especially in regions that have long experienced significant economic need.

Unlike most issues that dominate Albany, connecting the two grids isn’t a zero-sum game. In fact, upstate will only win when downstate wins.

As New York works to build back better from the fallout of COVID, NYSERDA must use this program to revitalize local communities. Republicans and Democrats alike can support it, while upstate and downstate communities will benefit from it.

Editor’s Note: The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors, Inc.

Michael Oates
Michael Oates is President and CEO of the Hudson Valley Economic Development Corp. of Poughkeepsie.