Big Hydro Fights to Be Part of New York’s Clean Energy Targets

  • Hydro-Quebec and Brookfield ask for hydro subsidies in filings
  • New York wants half of its power from renewables by 2030

Big hydroelectric suppliers are lobbying to be included in New York’s new clean energy plan that’s promising subsidies for money-losing nuclear plants.

Hydro-Quebec and Brookfield Renewable Partners LP say their hydroelectric plants should get the same subsidies for carbon-free electricity as those being given to wind, solar and nuclear generators, according to filings made this week with the New York State Public Service Commission.

“We are convinced that our supply has cost and reliability advantages and can help New York in meeting its renewable energy goals,” said Gary Sutherland, a spokesman for Hydro-Quebec.

Last month, the commission voted on a plan, backed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, to get half of the state’s power from renewable-sourced electricity by 2030 in order to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels. As part of the program, the state will provide credits to subsidize nuclear facilities as well as solar, wind, biomass, and small hydro plants. Parties had until Aug. 31 to file petitions to the plan.

“In general, the more recognition there is for the carbon-free attributes of nuclear and hydro, the greater the potential there is for competition for wind and solar,” said Paul Patterson, an analyst for Glenrock Associates LLC.

Other states have grappled with how to account for large hydro as part of their renewable energy goals. California, which last year passed a mandate to get 50 percent of its electricity from solar power and wind farms, doesn’t include big hydro as part of its target.

Run-of-the-river hydroelectric facilities that have a capacity of 5 megawatts or less would qualify under the clean energy standard, said Jon Sorensen, a spokesman for the commission. The agency will consider the petitions for rehearing, he said.

New York is the fourth-largest hydropower producer in the U.S., drawing energy from state-owned generators at Niagara Falls and on the St. Lawrence River, as well as smaller projects, some public and some private, according to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.

Hydro-Quebec said New York could lose its annual deliveries of 7 million to 10 million megawatt-hours if it doesn’t get compensation for “the renewable attributes of its hydro power,” according to an Aug. 30 filing. Other petitioners including a green energy group said they were opposed to the nuclear generation subsidies.

Existing hydro generators should be allowed to compete for state renewable energy credits or be compensated the same as nuclear reactors, Toronto-based Brookfield Renewable said in a filing. Brookfield didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

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