The Democratic governor's administration confirmed Monday that it will task the state's Public Service Commission with enforcing the 50 percent target. About 26 percent of the state's power now comes from renewable sources such as wind and solar.
Cuomo is expected to make reducing emissions and boosting green energy a focus of his state-of-the-state address in January, a speech used to lay out priorities for the state budget and the coming year. The 2015 New York State Energy Plan also calls for a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to 1990 levels.
Environmentalist groups praised the effort to make the renewable energy goal a reality — especially given upcoming climate talks in Paris.
"This is terrific and bold action," former Vice President Al Gore said in a statement. "... And the timing couldn't be better. As we approach the global climate negotiations in Paris in just over a week, actions by state governments like New York State provide essential momentum toward a strong and effective agreement."
The regulations from the Public Service Commission would likely include specific benchmarks as well as penalties for utilities who fail to boost their investments in renewable energy.
Peter Iwanowicz, executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York, said the state's effort to "codify" the renewable energy goal in state regulation is "a game-changer."
"This turns aspiration into reality," he said.