NY’s Governor Cuomo Signs Law Introducing One-Stop Shop for Renewable Energy Project Permitting

On April 3, 2020, with the passage of the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act, New York adopted sweeping changes to the siting of large-scale renewable energy projects.[1] The new law will streamline and accelerate the permitting and construction of renewable energy projects, and is intended to help New York achieve the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act’s climate and energy goals, including that 70% of the State’s electric generation will be produced by renewable electricity by 2030.

The law creates the Office of Renewable Energy Siting (the “Office”) to oversee and accelerate the development of renewable energy facilities across the State by introducing a single forum for the permitting review process. The Office consolidates the environmental review and permitting of major renewable energy facilities. The Office will establish uniform standards and conditions for the siting, design, construction, and operation of wind and solar facilities.

Instead of seeking a permit pursuant to the existing Article 10 of the Public Service Law, a process which often takes several years, applicants seeking a permit for large renewable energy projects will now undergo a streamlined review under section 94-c of the N.Y. Executive Law. The Office will provide draft permits for public comment and consult with local municipalities about proposed projects. Projects must still comply with local regulations, unless the Office determines that the regulations are unduly burdensome. The Office will issue final decisions on permit applications within one year; for projects on certain former industrial and commercial sites, decisions will be issued within six months. Any large-scale renewable energy project that is currently undergoing the Article 10 process may elect to participate in the new process.

In addition, in order to foster and encourage renewable energy projects on underutilized sites, the law directs the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (“NYSERDA”) to identify “build-ready” sites, such as abandoned commercial land, brownfields, landfills, and former industrial land, and secure permits, property interests, agreements, and other authorizations for the development, construction, and operation of a renewable energy facility. “Build-ready” sites then be auctioned to developers, who will build and operate the renewable energy projects.

The law also provides incentives to property owners and communities that will host major renewable energy facilities. NYSERDA will develop incentive programs, and the Public Service Commission will provide utility bill discounts or other benefits to residents of host communities.

Finally, the law establishes a program to help prioritize the planning, investment, and development of grid infrastructure, which will allow for renewable energy power to be delivered throughout the State. The law directs the Department of Public Service to conduct a comprehensive study identifying cost-effective distribution and local and bulk electric system upgrades. Following the study, the law directs the PSC to establish a distribution and local transmission capital program and develop a bulk transmission investment program.

The Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act represents a significant step to enable New York to achieve its renewable energy goals, while still maintaining the State’s commitment to environmental protection and community participation.

For questions about the new law or the siting of large-scale renewable energy projects in New York, contact Jennifer Coghlan or Dan Chorost.

[1] The complete text of the Act, which was passed as part of the State budget, is available at at Section JJJ.