This is one of a series of posts on Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s New York State Green New Deal. As part of his 2019 Justice Agenda he included a “nation-leading clean energy and jobs agenda that will put the state on a path to carbon neutrality across all sectors of New York’s economy”.
Not surprisingly there are no details other than the announcement, no mention of potential costs, and no explanation how all this will affect any of the many impacts that he claims are caused by climate change. There is a proposal to provide the plan to make New York carbon neutral and I will blog on those plans as they become available. In the meantime this post discusses the language used to describe the proposed plan for New York’s path to carbon neutrality in the New York Green New Deal.
In the following sections I list the text from the announcement and my indented and italicized comments follow.
The Green New Deal will create the State’s first statutory Climate Action Council, comprised of the heads of relevant state agencies and other workforce, environmental justice, and clean energy experts to develop a plan to make New York carbon neutral. The Climate Action Council will consider a range of possible options, including the feasibility of working with the U.S. Climate Alliance to create a new multistate emissions reduction program that covers all sectors of the economy including transportation and industry and exploring ways to leverage the successful Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) to drive transformational investment in the clean energy economy and support a just transition.
The composition of the Climate Action Council concerns me because it does not mention anyone from the electric sector such as the New York State Reliability Council, New York State Independent Operator, or any of the transmission companies such as New York Transco. Without the input of the state’s experts I fear that the range of possible options will not comport with reality.
RGGI is noted as a successful initiative to drive transformational investment. Although CO2 emissions have dropped over 50 million tons from a three-year baseline period (127 million tons) before the program was implemented my analyses have shown that RGGI was not the primary factor driving the decrease. I have evaluated how much RGGI investments reduced CO2 emissions and found that there is a range of CO2 emissions with and without RGGI based on assumptions and methodology. The upper bound is an econometric model that estimates that emissions would have been 24 percent higher without the program. RGGI estimates that emissions would have been 17% higher than without a program. If you assume that all the savings in fossil fuel use only displaced natural gas use then emissions would have been only 5% higher. Ironically, the primary reason that CO2 emissions went down is that despite Cuomo’s anti-fracking actions, was fuel switching from coal and residual oil to cheaper natural gas because of fracking.
I believe RGGI should only take credit for emission reductions based on their investments. My review of the 2016 RGGI investment report notes that the annual savings for $436.4 million of RGGI investments were 1.6 million mmBtu, 409,630 MWh of electric energy, and 382,266 tons of CO2. In 2015 NYS electric sector CO2 emissions were 32 million tons. In 2016 RGGI reduced CO2 emissions at a cost of $1,100 per ton. If the New York Green New Deal 100% clean energy by 2040 mandate were to rely on the “successful” RGGI program for those reductions the State is looking at a staggering cost of $35.2 billion.
The Climate Action Council will also identify and make recommendations on regulatory measures, clean energy programs, and other State actions and policies that will ensure the attainment of statewide emission reduction and carbon neutrality goals. The Council will consider programs and measures that can significantly and cost-effectively reduce emissions from all major sources, including electricity, transportation, buildings, industry, commercial activity, and agriculture. The Council will also explore opportunities for the beneficial electrification of transportation and heating of buildings as a means to drive substantial and deep emissions reductions. Finally, the Council will make recommendations to ensure a just transition to the clean energy economy for New York’s world-class workforce and most vulnerable citizens.
On August 6, 2009 Governor David Paterson issued Executive Order No. 24 “Establishing a Goal to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions Eighty Percent by the Year 2050 and Preparing a Climate Action Plan”. Included was the creation of a “Climate Action Council” with a requirement to “prepare a draft Climate Action Plan on or before September 30, 2010”. The goal of the Plan was very similar to the Green New Deal Climate Action Council.
On November 9, 2010, the draft Climate Action Plan was issued. The Executive Summary’s Next Steps section stated:
With this Interim Report, the Climate Action Council is seeking stakeholder and public response to the initial climate action planning work, including input on the mitigation and adaptation policy options. During 2011, work will continue to complete the required analyses of the policy options, which will inform a final Climate Action Plan.
New York State will then need to develop more specific near-term implementation strategies to effectuate policy and practice. The State will need to establish clear targets and evaluate progress toward those targets. A mechanism to update this long-term plan on a regular basis will be needed, as the technology, the state-of-science, and the broader public policy environment will continue to change.
Further, given the strong linkages between GHG emissions and energy policy, strategies to reduce GHG emissions will also need to be considered further in the development of New York’s State Energy Plan as well as in other planning processes, such as State implementation plans for various co-pollutants.
The recently enacted Article 6 of the Energy Law requires the State Energy Plan to include an inventory of greenhouse gas emissions, and strategies for facilitating and accelerating the use of low-carbon energy sources and carbon mitigation measures. Thus, the State Energy Plan will become a mechanism to deliberate and advance appropriate energy policy that fully accounts for the climate change impacts from New York energy production and use.
That was the last act of the first Climate Action Council. No public explanation was ever given why this process stopped. I can only speculate that when the potential costs and level of effort necessary to transition New York State to a reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% were formulated the political reality that it would never fly was discovered.
The Climate Action Council will commence its work immediately in order to support the development of the next State Energy Plan over the next two years and will provide meaningful opportunities for public comment as it develops New York’s first carbon neutrality roadmap.
This Climate Action Council is supposed to work through the State Energy Plan. Unfortunately, if the past is any guide, the Plan will be so vague that it cannot possibly serve as the roadmap to achieve the Green New Deal’s CO2 emissions reduction goal.
The reality that New York policy makers must address is described very well by Robert Hirsh in his paper Electric Power from Renewable Energy: Realities for Policy Makers. The abstract to the paper states:
Current wind and photovoltaic technologies are incapable of providing the all-renewable electric power future that many have envisioned, because of the inherent mismatch between their unpredictable, intermittent nature and society’s demands for electric power on demand. Paths for using these technologies are in combination with electric power storage or as fuel-savers with fossil-fueled power plants. In a cloudless world, photovoltaic costs double if power is needed at night, and when there are clouds, costs escalate dramatically. Electric power from wind turbines varies as the cube of the wind velocity, which can fluctuate from zero to high values over short periods. To make competent national energy policy, the public and policymakers need an unbiased, authoritative analysis of the maximum possible, long-term contributions of renewables to U.S. electric power needs.
In order to have any credibility any roadmap for the Green New Deal must explain how these issues will be addressed in New York State in general and in New York City in particular.