The New York commission noted that the state has adopted "strongly proactive policies to combat climate change and modernize the electric system to improve the efficiency, affordability, resiliency, and sustainability of the system." The state's 2015 State Energy Plan called for the "50 by 30" goal for renewable energy.
In the Commission's words, it determined "that a series of deliberate and mandatory actions to build upon and enhance opportunities for consumer choice are necessary to achieve State environmental, public health, climate policy and economic goals; to enhance and animate voluntary retail markets for energy efficiency, clean energy and renewable resources; to preserve existing zero-emissions nuclear generation resources as a bridge to the clean energy future; to ensure a modern and resilient energy system; and to accomplish its objectives in a fair and cost-effective manner."
As a result, the Commission adopted a Clean Energy Standard or CES consisting of a Renewable Energy Standard and a Zero-Emissions Credit Requirement program. The Commission also adopted supporting structures, which it describes as including:
(a) program and market structures to encourage consumer-initiated clean energy purchases or investments; (b) obligations on load serving entities to financially support new renewable generation resources to serve their retail customers; (c) a requirement for regular renewable energy credit (REC) procurement solicitations; (d) obligations on distribution utilities on behalf of all retail customers to continue to financially support the maintenance of certain existing at-risk small hydro, wind and biomass generation attributes; (e) a program to maximize the value potential of new offshore wind resources; and (f) obligations on load serving entities to financially support the preservation of existing at- risk nuclear zero-emissions attributes to serve their retail customers.As described by Governor Andrew Cuomo, the program will feature a ramp-up of renewable power sourcing. Utilities and other energy suppliers will be initially required to procure 26.32 percent of the state's total electricity load from renewable sources in 2017, increasing to 30.54 percent by 2021. The Commission described the 50 by 30 goal as "not only part of a larger greenhouse gas goal, it is part of the State’s sweeping initiative to transform the way energy is produced, delivered, and consumed" through the REV process.
The Clean Energy Standard order also creates a Zero-Emissions Credit or ZEC requirement, along with a process through which state energy agency NYSERDA will offer qualifying nuclear facilities a multi-year contract for the purchase of ZECs, at a price ultimately derived from the calculations of "social cost of carbon." NYSERDA will ultimately resell the ZECs to New York load serving entities, who will recover costs from ratepayers through commodity charges on customer bills. The Commission described the ZEC mechanism as "the best way for the State to preserve the nuclear units’ environmental attributes while staying within the State’s jurisdictional boundaries. "
As described in the order, the Renewable Energy Standard and ZEC components "are interrelated but the goals are additive," meaning efforts to comply with the RES will not count toward the ZEC requirement, even if the combination will "contribute toward the State's comprehensive greenhouse gas reduction goals."