NY Public Service Commission expands, strengthens RPS

By Anna Austin | November 19, 2010

The New York Public Service Commission has expanded the state’s renewable portfolio standard by modifying some provisions of the policy, which was established in 2004 and calls for 30 percent renewable electricity by 2015.

First, renewable energy projects put into service after Jan. 3, 2004, that are not already part of the RPS program will be eligible for consideration for participation by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. NYSERDA is now authorized to conduct future solicitations for RPS Main Tier resources once a year at a minimum to enhance the ability of the solicitation process to respond in a timely manner to market opportunities.

To diminish the amount of clean wood sent to landfills, that wood can now be separated from construction and demolition debris at approved material reclamation facilities and is eligible for use as a biomass resource fuel in the RPS program. 

Dan Seif, associate for U.S. Renewables Group, said the company is pleased with the commission’s decision to allow clean construction and demolition wood sourced from material recovery facilities (MRFs) to be eligible to receive renewable energy credits (RECs) under the program.

U.S. Renewables Group owns and operates a 52-megawatt power plant in Niagara Falls, N.Y., that uses woody biomass and tired-derived fuel. The company has a long-term REC agreement with NYSERDA.

“This [provision] should help reduce the flow of such material to landfills and thereby avoid associated landfill methane releases,” Seif said. “The greenhouse gas emissions benefit of this decision could be significant, and we expect it will lead to further investment in MRFs around the state, leading to more jobs in the sourcing and sorting of clean C&D wood.”

The commission also expanded its RPS rules regarding the eligibility of certain "behind-the-meter" energy transactions for RPS program incentives. A behind-the-meter transaction is one where energy is supplied directly to the consumer and is used on the consumer's premises without ever passing through a utility or a public authority transmission or distribution system. Previously, behind-the-meter energy consumption did not qualify for Main Tier RPS program benefits, primarily because of the lack of independent, verifiable or automated mechanisms to measure the energy transactions.

Now, New York’s RPS includes behind-the-meter transactions so long as the measurement and verification of the in-state energy consumption is performed in a manner that satisfies NYSERDA's reporting requirements.

Seif added that the decision further aligns the New York RPS Program with other leading renewable energy states, including California.  “The NY RPS Program is well short of its targets, and we appreciate that the commission has shown flexibility to find concrete solutions to improve the RPS outcomes.”