One-fourth of New York state residents commute by public transit, five times the national average.
New York state stretches from the Great Lakes to New England and from Canada south to the Atlantic Ocean beaches of Long Island. It includes the densely populated New York City metropolis, rolling agricultural lands, and rugged mountains. The state’s climate ranges from the temperate, ocean-moderated southeast to interior plains where Arctic winds sweep in from the Great Lakes and Canada. Because of its large population, New York’s total energy consumption ranks among the highest in the nation, but its energy intensity and per capita energy consumption are among the lowest. The state’s energy efficiency results in part from the New York City metropolitan region’s widely used mass transportation systems. More than half of New York City workers use public transit, and more than one-fourth of state residents do, which is five times the U.S. average.
The commercial sector leads state energy demand, followed by the residential sector and the transportation sector. New York’s key businessesâ€”construction, food processing, electronics manufacturing, financial services, professional services, education, and health careâ€”are not among the most energy-intensive industries, and the state’s industrial energy consumption is close to the national median.
More than half New York’s energy is supplied from other states and Canada. New York has developed a state energy plan to reduce greenhouse gases by 40% from 1990 levels and obtain half of all electricity from renewable sources, both by 2030. State emissions from electricity generation have declined since 2000 because of increased natural gas use and because of compliance with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a program to reduce power plant emissions in nine northeastern states. In 2013, New York had the lowest carbon dioxide emissions per capita of any state in the nation.
About four-fifths of net renewable generation in New York comes from hydroelectricity, with small but growing amounts from wind, biomass, and solar sources. The state is home to the largest hydroelectric power plant in the eastern United States, the 2.4-gigawatt Robert Moses Niagara plant, and produces more hydroelectric power than any other state east of the Rocky Mountains. New York is also among the top states using landfill gas and municipal solid waste to fuel electricity generation.
New York’s Robert Moses Niagara hydroelectric plant is the largest hydroelectric power plant east of the Rocky Mountains.
New York is consolidating its renewable portfolio standard (RPS), energy efficiency portfolio standard (EEPS), and other clean energy mandates under a program called Reforming the Energy Vision (REV). REV is intended to create a flexible utility business model that offers increased incentives for renewable and distributed electricity generation as well as consumer incentives for efficiency and distributed generation. The REV program details were being developed during 2016. The REV sets state goals for 2030 of obtaining half of all electricity sold in the state from renewable sources, reducing energy-related greenhouse gas emissions 40% from 1990 levels, and reducing energy consumption by buildings 23% from 2012 levels. The program sets a further goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050. As part of the REV development, a clean energy standard (CES) is replacing the state’s expired RPS. The CES may recognize some nuclear power as an eligible clean energy source that reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
Most new renewable electricity has been obtained competitively from utility-scale projects by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. Most new power is from wind. The state’s first wind farm began operating in 2000. More than two dozen wind farms are operating or are in development around the state. New York has an estimated potential for nearly 140,000 megawatts of onshore wind energy, particularly around Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, on peaks of the Adirondack Mountains and the Catskill Mountains, and along the Long Island shoreline. Some areas off the Long Island coast are also considered suitable for large-scale wind farms. Other new renewable electricity is being obtained from biomass and biogas resources and from hydroelectric facility upgrades. In 2010, New York regulators set a goal of obtaining about 8.5% of new renewable generation from small, customer-sited facilities, such as solar photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal systems, fuel cells, anaerobic digester systems, and wind installations. Customer systems are generally limited to normal customer load, up to 200 kilowatts of capacity. The state offers consumers incentives for those installations.
In 2014, as part of the state’s NY-Sun initiative, New York set a target of installing 3,000 megawatts of solar PV systems by 2023. At the end of 2015, 457 megawatts of solar PV capacity were installed in New York under NY-Sun, and 493 megawatts were in development. New York also encourages customer-sited solar installations, such as rooftop solar, through net metering. With its variety of support programs, the state was fifth in the nation in new solar capacity installed in 2015. Solar PV systems still provided less than 1% of New York’s net electricity generation, but solar generation increased by 60% from 2014. The 32-megawatt Long Island Solar Farm is the largest solar PV generator in the eastern United States, but most solar installations in New York are small. Four-fifths of the state’s 2015 solar generation came from customer-sited solar panels.
New York depends on natural gas, nuclear, and hydroelectric generators for most of its electricity.
New York electricity generators include both regulated electric utilities and independent power producers with diverse energy sources of generation. Natural gas, nuclear power, and hydroelectricity typically provide nine-tenths of net electricity generation, with wind, biomass, coal, and petroleum making up the balance. In 2015, about two-fifths of net electricity generation came from natural gas, one-third from nuclear power, and one-fifth from hydroelectricity.
New York’s electricity usually flows east and south because half of the state’s power demand is in the New York City region, but only about two-fifths of net electricity generation originates there. New York sometimes imports electricity from neighboring states and Canada, but demand has declined since the 2008 recession. Only about 10% of New York households use electricity for heating, and New Yorkers per capita are among the lowest electricity users in the nation. The New York grid operator says in-state generating resources can meet expected demand, but maintaining capability to exchange electricity with neighboring grids remains vital to power reliability and system efficiency. More than half of New York’s in-state generating capacity can burn either fuel oil or natural gas. To avoid blackouts, New York regulators require units with this dual-fuel capability to be ready to switch to fuel oil in the event of a natural gas supply disruption.
The electric power sector, residential sector, and commercial sector consume most of the natural gas used in New York. More than half of New York households heat with natural gas. Western New York has historically produced small amounts of natural gas, but most natural gas consumed in the state is supplied by pipelines from other states and Canada. An increasing share of New York’s natural gas comes from Pennsylvania. The Marcellus Shale, a formation extending under parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, and Maryland, is the largest natural gas field in the United States. There has been no development of natural gas shale resources in New York, and the total amount of retrievable natural gas under the state is unclear. In late 2014, citing health and environmental concerns, the state government banned hydraulic fracturing, a technique used to produce shale gas. New York had maintained a moratorium on the technology since 2008 while state officials explored safety and environmental regulations.
Virtually all major interstate pipelines from the Gulf Coast and Canada reach New York, both to supply in-state customers and to ship supplies onward to Connecticut and Massachusetts. With Pennsylvania natural gas production growing more than seventeen-fold since 2009, pipeline companies are expanding their capabilities to ship Marcellus Shale natural gas to customers in New York and New England. New York has more than two dozen natural gas underground storage facilities, mainly in depleted gas fields. Along with storage in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, those facilities are key to meeting northeastern winter heating demand.
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