ALBANY, New York — New York established a $5 billion clean energy fund on Thursday intended to encourage renewable sources of electricity such as wind and solar while reducing the state's reliance on fossil fuels linked to climate change.
The money, which is set to be spent over 10 years, will be used to subsidize solar energy, spur energy research and development and incentivize private investments in clean energy projects. It will also support programs that increase energy efficiency in homes and businesses.
The initiative is part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's plan to generate half of the state's energy from renewable sources by 2030. The Democrat announced the fund last week during his annual state-of-the-state address, and it was formally approved by the state's Public Service Commission Thursday.
"This state has both the ingenuity and the ambition to really start addressing climate change," said Commission Chairwoman Audrey Zibelman. "We're not going to get there by accident. We need a plan."
The commission is now working out the details of how the state will increase its use of renewable energy to meet Cuomo's 2030 goal, up from 26 percent now. The plan will include mandates for energy companies and the energy fund is seen as a way to help ease the transition.
The new fund will take the place of several existing incentive programs. Like them, it will be generated by surcharges on consumer utility bills, though the Commission says the new program will require $90 million less in subsidies.
Over 10 years the state expects the fund to save consumers $39 billion in utility costs.
Just before Thursday's vote the Commission received a letter from Senate Leader John Flanagan asking for the vote to be put off. Flanagan, a Long Island Republican, said that while the Senate's GOP majority "generally supports" the goals of the program, he wanted the details to be vetted by lawmakers during the state budget process. He said the fund, and the programs it will support, "would be strengthened by a real cost-benefit analysis and genuine opportunity for public input."
The commission chose to go along with the vote after Zibelman said the plan had been thoroughly studied and that there was no reason to delay its launch.