Legislation

NY Build Public Renewables Act and NY Utility Democracy Act

Overview

The Public Power NY Statewide coalition will be introducing two bills this year to move New York State to the 100% renewable, democratically controlled, publicly owned energy system we need in order to lead the nation on climate. Our energy system is currently divided into three distinct sections: generation, transmission, and distribution. Passing both the NYPA Bill and the Public Power NY Distribution Bill will bring all of New York State’s generation, transmission, and distribution under public ownership.

Currently, NYPA cannot legally own or build new utility-scale renewable generation projects. As NYPA is the largest publicly owned utility in the country, with a track record of providing the most affordable energy in the state, it makes sense for NYPA to be at the forefront of our renewable energy transformation.

The NY Build Public Renewables Act will:

  • NYPA is enabled to own and build new renewable generation, storage, and transmission.
  • NYPA will provide 100% renewable energy directly to all state and municipal leased and owned properties and transportation by 2025. It will phase out its existing non-renewable generation as quickly as possible.
  • After meeting the state and municipal leased and owned properties and transportation, NYPA is enabled to sell 100% renewable energy directly to customers through usage of any utility’s transmission or distribution infrastructure.
    • All for-profit supply side ESCOs will be banned.
    • CCAs and community energy projects will continue to exist and are encouraged.
    • Excess renewable energy NYPA produces will be sold directly to end-use consumers who will be automatically enrolled in this program on an opt-out basis. This enrollment will prioritize low-income households first. NYPA’s generation rate will be the same as lower than their current utility’s rate.
    • NYPA is forbidden from ever shutting off a residential customer’s service for non-payment and from charging punitive late fees.
  • Coordinating with ORES, NYPA is allowed to make the first offer to build or buy any new or existing renewable energy project. If NYPA chooses to match the price, it will then own that project.
    • Goes for any new renewable energy facility, project, or any utility scale renewable energy created by a new facility or project excluding community energy projects.
  • The bill will be revenue neutral for the State and may be financed through a combination of bond issuances and progressive generation rates.
  • NYSERDA Community Energy Hubs will be formed to foster public engagement on climate and resiliency plans, renewable energy siting, utility proceedings, research, green jobs and training opportunities, etc.
  • Within 2 years of passage, NYPA must release a 10-year climate and resiliency plan outlining what renewable projects it plans to build and how it plans to comply with the CLCPA.
    • There will be annual public hearings on this plan, and all reports and data will be made public.
  • All NYPA projects will pay prevailing wage and will be subject to project labor agreements.
  • A hiring hall will be created within NYPA for hiring and re-training existing utility and fossil fuel workers for jobs in renewable energy development or maintenance.

While the NYPA bill does a lot of things, it does not bring about the needed democratic governance and public ownership throughout the electric sector that is needed for New York to achieve the 100% renewable, democratically controlled, publicly owned future we need. Therefore, the NYPA bill will work in concert with the Public Power NY Bill.

The NY Utility Democracy Act will:

  • Initiate the process for transitioning all of New York State’s distribution utilities into public ownership within two years. 
  • New York State will, through either purchase or eminent domain,acquire all assets of all energy and gas utilities across the state.
  • Set a timeline for scaling down all gas infrastructure across the State while equally setting a timeline for scaling up renewable infrastructure to meet this new demand. 
  • Initiate the process of drawing and creating new utility territories based on principles of environmental justice, equity, and energy democracy. 
  • Create democratically elected utility boards to oversee the operations of the distribution utilities. 
  • Create an observatory oversight body including environmental justice advocates, community based organizations, labor, good governance, environmental advocates, independent policy and engineering experts to provide oversight to the democratically elected boards ensuring they are fulfilling all aspects necessary for New York State to adhere to the CLCPA standards. 
  • By removing the profit motive, rates for all utility territories will go down, and new utility rates will become progressive “green” rates scaling up for increased energy usage for wealthier customers without overburdening low-income customers in energy inefficient buildings. 
  • Rate cases will be determined by the democratically elected board, and intervenor funds will be made available to environmental and ratepayer advocates.
  • Eliminate incentive to build unnecessary infrastructure; incentivize maintenance and resiliency projects like undergrounding and microgrids by mandating public cost-benefit analyses of all spending proposals
  • Prevailing Wage and Project Labor Agreements codified in all 
  • Ensure all newly created utilities coordinate with NYPA, NYSERDA, and ORES to manage New York’s energy infrastructure in the most efficient way for ratepayers, workers, safety, and service. 
  • Allow customers to opt out of smart meters; any smart meter data that’s collected will not be shared with law enforcement, ICE, or any private companies.

Together these two bills bring New York State’s energy infrastructure on target to meet the 70% renewable by 2030 and 100% renewable by 2040 targets set by the CLCPA. As with the creation of NYPA by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1931, New York State has always led on energy issues. In order for New York State to lead again, in the era of the Green New Deal, the time is now to pass the NYPA Bill and the Public Power NY bill bringing New York the 100% renewable, democratically controlled, publicly owned energy system we need.