New York names RE allies to top positions at energy agencies

New York has appointed John Rhodes and Alicia Barton, both strong renewables supporters, to the top positions at its Public Service Commission (PSC) and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) – two bodies that will play a pivotal role in the state’s ambitious renewables and market-reform agendas.

Rhodes will move from his current role as NYSERDA’s president and chief executive to the chairmanship of the PSC, which regulates utilities in the state’s competitive electricity market.

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During Rhodes’ time at NYSERDA, New York embraced a 50% renewables target for 2030 and launched its Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative, which seeks to transform the state’s power market and create a platform that will empower distributed energy resources (DERs) like solar and storage.

Continued leadership from the PSC on the REV process is critical over the next few years, as contentious issues like how to place a value on DERs and who gets to own them are determined.

New York unveiled a 2.4GW offshore wind target earlier this year, and Rhodes has emphasised the state’s need to develop its expansive offshore wind resources in order to meet its 50% renewables target.

Taking the helm from Rhodes at NYSERDA is Alicia Barton, a lawyer who served for a while as chief of operations for the global utility group at now-bankrupt US renewables giant SunEdison, overseeing teams developing utility-scale solar and wind projects around the world.

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NYSERDA is intricately involved in many aspects of New York’s energy transition, including running the largest portion of the state’s recently announced large-scale renewables procurement round, which could open opportunities for 1GW or so of new onshore wind.

NYSERDA took the unusual step of bidding directly for control of the offshore wind zone facing Long Island that was auctioned off late last year by the federal US government. The zone – likely to feed power into New York City – was eventually won by Norway’s Statoil for a record $42.5m, and some in the industry have suggested that NYSERDA’s participation was a significant factor in the price being driven so high.

NYSERDA is currently putting together the state’s “Master Plan” for offshore wind, and the agency will play a key role in helping bring future offshore projects through the development and permitting stages.

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