We are seeing some early ballpark figures for New York state’s transition to clean energy: The bill appears to be around $44 billion.

It’s an estimate found in the New York state Department of Public Service’s “First Annual Informational Report on Overall Implementation of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.” 

The CLCPA is the law passed in 2019 that requires New York state to meet certain clean energy targets.

The report presents the cost incurred, so far, for the implementation of the act. 

James E. Hanley, the energy and environment fellow at the Empire Center for Public Policy, a fiscally conservative think tank and government watchdog group based in Albany, calls the $44 billion estimate “mysterious."

“What went through my mind (when I read the report) is the estimated cost of the overall CLCPA is between $280 and $340 billion. So this is pushing up on 15% of that estimated budget, and we don’t really have anything to show for it.” 

Hanley pointed out that the state is at the very beginning of actual CLCPA policy implementation.

“The biggest benefit they show so far actually comes from the Zero Emissions Energy Credits (ZECs) that we pay to keep our nuclear power plants online,” Hanley said. “The strange thing is they treat that as emissions reductions, but those aren’t emissions-reductions because nuclear plants didn’t replace any polluting fossil fuel plants.”

According to the CLCPA, 70% of New York state’s energy by 2030 needs to come from renewable sources. Nuclear is not considered renewable energy, though it is carbon-free. 

It’s still not clear how the cost of the state’s climate transition will be born: Will electricity bills increase even further? Will New Yorkers see additional taxation? 

Hanley expects the costs will be spread out.

“It’ll probably be mixture of it. The subsidies (for heat pumps, for example), probably, a lot of them, will come from tax dollars but there’s also a lot going to be billed into utility rates,” Hanley said. “And the report does explicitly show that utility rates are going up because of the CLCPA.”

Environmentalist and attorney Raya Salter is both a founder of the progressive Environmental Law & Policy Center and a member of the New York State’s Climate Action Council. She told Capital Tonight that the Department of Public Service (DPS), which issued the report, stated it wouldn’t answer the big question of “what is this going to cost me?"

“In particular, the rounded $44B projection is a spitball of sorts - there are so many additional inputs (including innovation curves and savings but also costs) that could go in. But it's the kind of reporting that we are going to need a lot more of and I appreciate the report's commitment on page 30 to work to find ways to make the data more transparent and accessible,” Salter stated in an email.