September 29, 2021
Albany, NY

Governor Hochul Launches Green Boats Program to Spur Electrification of Tour and Charter Vessels on State's Canal System

Governor Hochul Launches Green Boats Program to Spur Electrification of Tour and Charter Vessels on State's Canal System

New York Power Authority Creates Incentive Program to Support Conversion from Fossil Fuels to Electric Propulsion

Pilot Successfully Retrofitted Rochester Area Charter Boat with Electric Motor Manufactured by New York State Company

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced the launch of the "Green Boats" program to advance the electrification of tour and charter boats operating on the New York State Canal system. Through the Reimagine the Canals initiative, the New York Power Authority and New York State Canal Corporation are creating an incentive program to support the conversion of fossil fuel-powered vessels of qualifying tour, rental, and charter boat operators on the Canal system to electric propulsion. To attract interest in such a program, the New York Power Authority recently released a Request for Expressions of Interest ("RFEI") and successfully implemented a pilot project with Erie Canal Adventures in Macedon, Wayne County, by converting one of the company's 42-foot charter boats from diesel to electric power.

"New York is leading the nation in the fight against climate change, and this innovative new program goes hand-in-hand with our statewide efforts to lower emissions and encourage the adoption of electric vehicle technology," Governor Hochul said. "Green Boats will show that electrification is an achievable and realistic goal while simultaneously improving the experience for the operators and thousands of tourists that board these vessels each year on the Canal system. This program will reduce pollution in New York's air and water and keep an important industry afloat."

The upfront cost of converting watercraft to electric motors and batteries remains the single largest obstacle to widespread adoption of clean energy technologies along the Canal system. The "Green Boats" program offers targeted investment and incentives to offset those initial capital costs, accelerating electrification efforts and encouraging decision-making that simultaneously benefits business and environmental interests. Funding amounts will vary depending on the scope of work and the number of vessels per applicant.

The "Green Boats" program will improve the experience along the Canal system by eliminating the noise, pollution and smell caused by vessels' fossil fuel combustion and align with New York State's commitment to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent of 1990 levels by 2030 and 85 percent by 2050.

NYPA President and CEO Gil C. Quiniones said, "We are proud to offer this incentive program that works toward a future that is cleaner and greener and one that will ultimately benefit not only vessel operators and tourists, but also the thousands of people that live in canalside communities. Our investments will demonstrate that electrification is easily within reach and will help galvanize both boat operators and local governments alike to fully commit to the electrification of watercraft in the coming years."

Under the pilot with Erie Canal Adventures, the existing diesel engine of the 42-foot tour boat was replaced with an electric motor supplied by Elco Motor Yachts, an Athens, New York-based manufacturer. The defining features of the tour boat were preserved during the diesel to electric conversion process. Given the pilot's success, Erie Canal Adventures is now considering converting its entire fossil fuel-powered fleet to all electric power.

New York State Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton said, "This program serves the values at the core of the Reimagine the Canals initiative, bringing new technology and a future of brighter possibilities together with the historic beauty and infrastructure of the Canal system. We look forward to helping boat operators reduce their emissions while making their businesses more environmentally and financially sustainable. This program also helps New York reach the Governor's ambitious goals for statewide emissions reductions."

Erie Canal Adventures President Brian Keenan said, "The Green Boats program is a groundbreaking, first-of-its-kind project that will set New York State apart and launch Erie Canal recreation into a sustainable, eco-friendly future. This is a great opportunity to keep the history of the Erie Canal alive while rethinking how we operate on the waterway in a new sustainable manner that meets the needs of today. It's a win for the Erie Canal, for the environment and for our State as a whole."

The use of electric propulsion technologies has tangible environmental and financial benefits, although it often involves higher upfront costs than fossil fuel alternatives. NYPA's support through this "Green Boats" program would help operators on the Canals access the benefits of going electric, which include:

  • Improving the experience of visitors to the Canals by reducing the pollution, noise, and smell caused by fossil fuel combustion on the waterways
  • Enabling operators on the Canals to boost the attractiveness of their services to an audience increasingly concerned about environmental impacts
  • Supporting the air, noise, and water quality goals of communities along the Canals currently subject to the adverse impacts of fossil fuel combustion on the waterways
  • Advancing New York State's goal of reducing emissions in the transportation sector.

Through the Reimagine the Canals initiative, the New York Power Authority committed $300 million over five years to revitalize the Erie Canal corridor as a tourism and recreation destination while simultaneously boosting economic development and improving the resiliency of Canalside communities.

NYPA: A Leader in Boat Electrification

In October of 2020, Maid of the Mist, the iconic tour boat in Niagara Falls that has navigated the waters below the Falls since 1846, launched the first two all-electric, zero-emission passenger vessels in the United States through an innovative collaboration between the New York Power Authority, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historical Preservation, and ABB, a digital technology leader. NYPA provides clean, renewable hydropower for the operation of the vessels and provided technical support throughout the electrification process. NYPA also oversees ongoing monitoring of electricity usage for the boats to ensure they are energy efficient and operated in the most cost-effective manner.

New York State's Nation-Leading Climate Plan

New York State's nation-leading climate agenda is the most aggressive climate and clean energy initiative in the nation, calling for an orderly and just transition to clean energy that creates jobs and continues fostering a green economy as New York State recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. Enshrined into law through the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, New York is on a path to achieve its mandated goal of a zero-emission electricity sector by 2040, including 70 percent renewable energy generation by 2030, and to reach economy wide carbon neutrality. It builds on New York's unprecedented investments to ramp-up clean energy including over $21 billion in 91 large-scale renewable projects across the state, $6.8 billion to reduce buildings emissions, $1.8 billion to scale up solar, more than $1 billion for clean transportation initiatives, and over $1.2 billion in NY Green Bank commitments. Combined, these investments are supporting more than 150,000 jobs in New York's clean energy sector in 2019, a 2,100 percent growth in the distributed solar sector since 2011 and a commitment to develop 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2035. Under the Climate Act, New York will build on this progress and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent from 1990 levels by 2050, while ensuring that at least 35 percent with a goal of 40 percent of the benefits of clean energy investments are directed to disadvantaged communities, and advance progress towards the state's 2025 energy efficiency target of reducing on-site energy consumption by 185 trillion BTUs of end-use energy savings.

Contact the Governor’s Press Office

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