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A New Era of Public Power: A vision for New York Power Authority in pursuit of climate justice

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Credits: climate + community project

In 2019, New York State lawmakers passed the most ambitious state-level climate legislation in the country—and among the most ambitious in the world. The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) mandates that New York’s electricity sector become greenhouse gas emission free by 2040 and achieve an 85% reduction in all emissions by 2050.

 

Crucially, it also establishes that 35–40% of the investment-led benefits to decarbonizing the state’s energy system go directly towards disadvantaged communities: communities that have borne the social, environmental, and public health costs of the fossil fuel energy system, the climate crisis, and economic insecurity. This report proposes that the New York Power Authority (NYPA)—the largest state-owned energy provider in the United States—play a key role in implementing this ambitious, and equitable, climate plan.

We show that NYPA is uniquely positioned to carry out CLCPA mandates in alignment with the rapid and just decarbonization goals of the law. NYPA’s public ownership structure also opens up new and more equitable financing opportunities for the entire state. Furthermore, because it is a publicly owned energy provider, its activities can be democratically accountable to New Yorkers, particularly those historically burdened by the impacts of energy infrastructure and climate crisis.  

As both the owners and customers of NYPA, New Yorkers have the opportunity to demand, build, and benefit from a more democratic and equitable energy system. The NYPA energy transition investments proposed in this report could create somewhere between 28,410 and 51,133 total direct and indirect jobs and between $48.6 billion and $93.5 billion of additional economic activity by 2030.

 

For NYPA to realize its full potential to achieve the CLCPA timeline and equity goals, this report proposes that New York should:

 

  • Ban ESCOs and make NYPA a public option energy provider
  • Expand NYPA’s development of renewable energy and phase out fossil fuels
  • Expand efficiency and electrification efforts
  • Invest in equitable transmission and storage infrastructure
  • Increase democracy in NYPA
  • Set high labor standards for green jobs in New York