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February 13, 2014

New York Launches Green Bank to Promote Clean Energy Financing

The New York Green Bank, a renewable energy financing program proposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo in his 2013 State of the State address, launched this week with a request for proposals aimed at overcoming market barriers to clean energy development.

Last December, Governor Cuomo announced the allocation of approximately $210 million to fund the Green Bank, including approximately $44 million from the sale of emissions allowances through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (“RGGI”). Cuomo intends to increase the capitalization of the Green Bank to $1 billion in the years ahead.

Instead of providing loans or subsidies directly to energy providers or consumers, the Green Bank seeks to partner with financial institutions in order to spur private investment in clean energy development. For instance, the Green Bank could assume a portion of the default risk associated with clean energy loans or leases in return for a fee, or purchase smaller clean energy loans and bundle them into volumes that could be resold on secondary capital markets. The Green Bank’s initial request for proposals therefore requires the involvement of at least one private sector financial party, either alone or as a part of a team with other energy industry participants.

The Green Bank provides a list of renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency improvements potentially eligible for financial support, but has also invited applicants to propose projects involving other technologies that “demonstrate a potential for increased deployment of energy efficiency or renewable energy and/or a potential for greenhouse gas reductions in New York State.” Nuclear energy, municipal solid waste combustion, and adulterated biomass or biofuels are not eligible for participation.

For more information on renewable energy financing and development, contact Scott Furman.

January 17, 2014

Solar Power in Governor Cuomo’s 2014 State of the State Report

By: Devin McDougall — Filed under: Administrative Law, Climate Change Law, NY-SUN, NYSERDA, Photovoltaic, Renewable Energy & Energy Development, Solar — Posted at 4:43 pm

Unlike in 2013, in his 2014 State of the State speech Governor Andrew Cuomo did not explicitly mention solar power. However, the 2014 State of the State Report, published in conjunction with the speech, indicates that solar power will remain a policy priority in the coming years.

The report reiterates Governor Cuomo’s goal of “[e]ncouraging New York State to become a national leader in solar energy.” New York’s primary public policy program to promote solar is the NY-SUN program, launched in 2012 and administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). SPR attorney Scott Furman recently negotiated the design and installation of one of the largest NY-SUN projects in New York City – a 1.059 MW project on the roof of the Manhattan Beer Distributors facility in the Bronx. The project is slated for completion in 2014.

The report also states that in 2014, the Cuomo Administration will, under the auspices of NY-SUN, launch a new program called “Community Solar NY,” which will seek to expand access to solar power in communities that are currently underserved.

A flagship initiative for Community Solar NY will be the “K-Solar” program, which will provide financial incentives and technical assistance to K-12 school administrators interested in installing solar power systems on school property, such as rooftops. As the report notes, “[o]f the nearly 5,000 public schools in the state, many are prime candidates for solar energy but have not been able to navigate the bureaucratic channels to finance it through potential energy savings.”

In addition, the report notes that the Cuomo administration will aim to use a successful solar project at a school as a jumping-off point to “solarize” the surrounding neighborhood. For example, to incentivize schools to reach out to the communities in which they are located, “NYSERDA [could provide] a financial reward to the school for every surrounding home that installs solar as well.”

Finally, in a recent filing with the Public Service Commission, NYSERDA requested an additional $864 million for solar energy incentives extending through 2023, which would bring total NY-SUN program funding to approximately $1 billion.

For more information on solar in New York, please contact Scott Furman or Devin McDougall.

June 18, 2013

Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) Raises Record Amount in Latest Carbon Allowance Auction

By: Willis Hon — Filed under: Climate Change Law, Emerging Issues, Renewable Energy & Energy Development — Posted at 7:38 pm

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (“RGGI”) raised a record $124.4 million in its June 5, 2013 carbon emissions auction, with the clearing price of emissions allowances reaching a three-year high of $3.21 per ton of carbon dioxide (“CO2”).  The increase reflects expectations that the nine-state, cap-and-trade regime for power plant CO2 emissions will impose more stringent emissions limitations in 2014, as proposed earlier this year.

RGGI is the first market-based regulatory program in the United States aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, originally established in 2005 by a Memorandum of Understanding between seven states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. RGGI held its first carbon auction in September 2008, with emissions allowances selling for $3.07 per ton.  Between 2010 and 2012, however, the combination of relatively modest emissions caps, reduced electricity demand due to the economic recession, and an increase in lower-carbon power generation spurred by low natural gas prices depressed the price of RGGI emissions allowances and raised questions about the future of the program.

In response to those trends, in February 2013 RGGI concluded a two-year program review with a series of proposed changes to the trading program, including a 45 percent reduction in the regional CO2 cap from 165 million tons in 2013 to 91 million tons in 2013.  RGGI also released an Updated Model Rule implementing those proposed changes, which must be implemented by each RGGI state this year.  After 2014, the RGGI cap is expected to decrease 2.5 percent each year from 2015 to 2020, requiring additional emissions reductions from regulated entities.

The next RGGI carbon emission allowance auction is schedule for September 4, 2013.  For more information on RGGI and state and federal climate regulation, contact Jeffrey Gracer.

February 8, 2013

Court Rejects SEQRA Challenge to Hudson River Park Trust’s Lease for Natural Gas Pipeline

By: Ed Roggenkamp — Filed under: Environmental Impact Review, New York Environmental Law, Renewable Energy & Energy Development — Posted at 10:01 am

In an order dated January 16, 2013, Judge Eileen Rakower of the New York State Supreme Court dismissed an Article 78 petition challenging the Hudson River Park Trust’s lease of an easement for a portion of a natural gas pipeline entering Manhattan through Hudson River Park.  The lease – along with the pipeline’s route into Manhattan – was challenged by several environmental groups and individuals, who argued that the Trust was required to conduct an environmental review under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (“SEQRA”) of the pipeline and its connection to Con Edison’s pipeline network.  The petitioners also argued that leasing an easement beneath the Park violated the public trust doctrine and provisions of the Hudson River Park Act that restrict the uses to which certain areas of the Park may be put.

Judge Rakower first noted that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) had analyzed the environmental impacts of the proposed pipeline under the National Environmental Policy Act and issued an Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”).  That EIS concluded that the local pipeline connection to Con Edison’s network was outside of FERC’s jurisdiction, but nevertheless gave some consideration to the cumulative impacts of connection to Con Edison’s network.  After issuing the EIS, FERC approved the route of the pipeline through Hudson River Park. The Trust then negotiated the challenged lease with the pipeline developer. 

Judge Rakower concluded that, under the federal Natural Gas Act, FERC had exclusive jurisdiction over the siting of the pipeline, and that any challenges to the siting decision – or the Trust’s lease of the right-of-way through Hudson River Park in accord with that decision – must be brought in federal court.  Judge Rakower also ruled that state-law environmental review of the pipeline under SEQRA was preempted by the Natural Gas Act.  The court therefore dismissed the petition.

For more information on the Court’s decision, contact Elizabeth Knauer.

February 1, 2013

Governor Cuomo’s 2013 State of the State Address Indicates Bright Future for Solar in New York

By: Devin McDougall — Filed under: New York Environmental Law, Renewable Energy & Energy Development — Posted at 6:23 pm

On January 9, Governor Andrew Cuomo delivered his 2013 State of the State Address and outlined several key policy initiatives to facilitate the increased deployment of solar power in New York.  The address announced the governor’s intent to (1) extend the state’s NY-Sun solar program at $150 million annually for the next 10 years, (2) appoint a cabinet-level “energy czar” to coordinate the administration’s energy policy, and (3) create a $1 billion “NY Green Bank” to leverage public monies with private sector funds in order to increase investment in renewable energy projects in New York.

“The economy of tomorrow is the clean tech economy,” the governor observed in his address.  “We all know it, it’s a foot race – whatever state, whatever region gets there first wins the prize, and we want it to be New York.”

The 2013 State of the State Report that accompanied the address provides further details.  To start, the NY-Sun program, originally announced in Cuomo’s 2012 State of the State Address, is designed to increase the state’s solar generation capacity.  To that end, NY-Sun has thus far taken the form of a variety of legislative and administrative policy measures, including tax credits, grants, and permitting reforms. NY-Sun presently is authorized through 2015; Cuomo proposes to extend the program’s present funding levels through 2023.

The governor has recruited Richard Kauffman to join his cabinet as the state’s new “energy czar.” Kauffman, whose formal title will be Chairman for Energy Policy and Finance for New York State, previously worked as senior advisor to U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, and is a leading expert on private sector investment in renewable energy.

Cuomo’s proposed NY Green Bank would “serve a coordinating role to enhance the collective strength of all State clean energy programs,” which together spend $1.4 billion annually.  According to the report, the Green Bank would seek to move beyond these programs’ present reliance on “one-time subsidies” by using tools like “bonding, loans and various credit enhancements (e.g, loan loss reserves and guarantees)” to “leverag[e] private capital” and “catalyz[e] market activity.”  As the report notes, Connecticut passed legislation creating a similar entity, the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority, in 2011.

Individuals and small businesses in New York can take advantage of the NY-Sun Initiative in several ways.  For example, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) administers the NY-Sun Competitive Photovoltaic Program, which provides grants supporting the development of qualifying photovoltaic projects.  In 2013, NYSERDA will accept grant applications in two rounds, with deadlines of March 14th and August 29th.  Additionally, the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) recently initiated New York’s first feed-in tariff program, the Clean Solar Initiative Feed-In Tariff.  Under this program, LIPA will pay a fixed rate to owners of qualifying photovoltaic generation systems for every solar kilowatt-hour generated over a fixed term.

October 24, 2012

Municipal Art Society and Landmarks Commission Publish Guide to Promote Solar Panels, Energy Efficiency for Historic Rowhouses

By: Devin McDougall — Filed under: New York City Environmental Law, Renewable Energy & Energy Development — Posted at 10:16 am

On October 19th, the Municipal Art Society and the New York City Landmarks Commission (LPC) published an in-depth guide (“Guide”) to increasing the energy efficiency of historic rowhouses in New York City by employing measures such as the installation of rooftop solar panels. The guide provides resources for rowhouse owners seeking to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings in ways consistent with the special regulatory requirements applicable to historic buildings.

Increasing the energy efficiency of historic buildings is an important component of decreasing the overall greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) of New York City and meeting PlaNYC’s goal of a 30% reduction in such emissions by 2030. Presently, over 75% of the city’s GHG emissions come from buildings, and over 50% of the city’s building stock consists of buildings constructed before 1940.

Generally, any exterior change to a designated historic building, such a landmarked building or a building in a New York City historic district, is subject to the approval of the LPC, even if a permit from the Department of Buildings is not required. The Guide provides useful details on a variety of measures to improve energy efficiency with minimal architectural impact, such as weatherizing buildings, using energy-efficient heating and lighting controls, and installing basement and roof insulation.

The Guide also discusses the installation of solar panels on historic buildings, a project with the potential for a significant aesthetic effect. However, the Guide notes that most solar panel installations for flat or low-slope roofs, such as those often found on historic rowhouses, are approved by the LPC at the staff level, without need for a public hearing before the full commission.  Hopefully this recent publication will encourage LPC staff to streamline the approval process for solar installations that meet applicable guidelines.


April 18, 2012

New York Seeks To Foster Offshore Wind Projects

By: Ed Roggenkamp — Filed under: Emerging Issues, Renewable Energy & Energy Development — Posted at 3:02 pm

Two recent events signal New York’s continuing interest in promoting offshore wind development.  First, on March 30, 2012, New York signed a Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) intended to streamline offshore wind development in the Great Lakes.  The MOU was also signed by Pennsylvania, Illinois,  Michigan, Minnesota and several federal agencies with regulatory authority touching on Great Lakes wind development, including the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”), the Army Corps of Engineers, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (“NOAA”) and the White House Council on Environmental Quality (“CEQ”).  The MOU signatories agreed to work together to create and publish a regulatory roadmap for offshore wind development in the Great Lakes within 15 months, with CEQ serving as the primary federal point of contact.

Second, on April 3, 2012, the Renewable Energy Task Force of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management-New York (“BOEM-NY”) convened a meeting to discuss New York’s ongoing activities regarding offshore wind development in the Atlantic, including the progress of studies intended to support a forthcoming proposal to amend the state’s Coastal Zone Management Program to include Atlantic wind development.  The Task Force also discussed the New York Power Authority’s request that BOEM grant a commercial lease on the outer continental shelf to the Long Island-New York City Offshore Wind Collaborative, and the process and timeline for BOEM’s leasing decision and environmental impact review.

For more information, please contact Michael Bogin

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