Originally Published December 14, 2021
Update April 22, 2022: I gave verbal comments on the Draft Scoping Plan at the April 26, 2022 Draft Scoping Plan Public Hearing in Syracuse.
Update November 15, 2022: Status update
Update January 25, 2023: Status update
New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act) is a legal mandate for New York State greenhouse gas emissions to meet the lofty net-zero by 2050 goal. It is very likely that implementation of the technology necessary to meet that goal will adversely affect energy sector affordability and risk current reliability standards. Unfortunately, most New Yorkers are unaware of it and only a handful understand the implications. While the Climate Act has been a frequent subject for articles on this website, many of those articles are overly technical for the general public. In order to address the need for a concise resource of the potential impacts of the Climate Act I have developed the Citizens Guide to the Climate Act.
Everyone wants to do right by the environment to the extent that they can afford to and not be unduly burdened by the effects of environmental policies. I have written extensively on implementation of New York’s response to that risk because I believe the ambitions for a zero-emissions economy embodied in the Climate Act outstrip available renewable technology such that it will adversely affect reliability, impact affordability, risk safety, affect lifestyles, and will have worse impacts on the environment than the purported effects of climate change in New York. New York’s Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions are less than one half one percent of global emissions and since 1990 global GHG emissions have increased by more than one half a percent per year. Moreover, the reductions cannot measurably affect global warming when implemented. The opinions expressed in this post do not reflect the position of any of my previous employers or any other company I have been associated with, these comments are mine alone.
The Climate Act became effective on January 1, 2020. It mandates that the Climate Action Council prepare the Scoping Plan that outlines how to meet its targets. Starting in the fall of 2020 seven advisory panels developed recommended strategies to meet the targets that were presented to the Climate Action Council in the spring of 2021. Those recommendations were translated into specific policy options in an integration analysis by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and its consultants. That analysis was used to develop the Draft Scoping Plan that was released for public comment on December 30, 2021. On December 19, 2022 the Final Scoping Plan was approved
The Citizen Guide is intended to provide an introduction to the Climate Act and potential ramifications. A one-page summary has been prepared that can be printed out. There is an annotated summary reproduced below that includes links to more detailed information on particular topics. The Guide is a work in progress so feedback is encouraged.
The Climate Act is an ambitious attempt to reduce New York State greenhouse gas emissions to meet the currently fashionable net-zero by 2050 goal. The implementation plan boils down to electrify everything and rely on wind and solar to provide the electricity needed. In order to reach the aspirational goals changes to personal choice are needed, significant risks to reliability are likely, substantial energy costs increases will occur, but there will be no measurable effect on global warming itself and significant environmental impacts from the massive wind and solar deployments. New York’s greenhouse emissions are less than one half of one percent of global emissions and global emissions have been increasing by more than one half of one percent per year. This fact does not mean that we should not do something but it does mean we should take the time to do it right. The bottom line is that we don’t have the technology today to meet the ambitions of the Climate Act and maintain current reliability standards and affordability. Until we do, we should reconsider the targets and schedule of the law.
The actual name of the Climate Act is the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. It was signed on July 18, 2019 and establishes targets for decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing renewable electricity production, and improving energy efficiency. The Climate Action Council is responsible for preparing the Scoping Plan that will “achieve the State’s bold clean energy and climate agenda”. Starting in the fall of 2020 seven advisory panels developed recommended policies to meet the targets that were presented to the Climate Action Council in the spring of 2021. Their strategies were converted into specific strategies by the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority over the summer of 2021. The integration analysis implementation strategies was used to develop the Draft Scoping Plan that was released for public comment on December 30, 2021.
In order to meet the net-zero goal of the Climate Act, risky emission reduction strategies from all sectors will be required and personal choices limited. All residences will have to be completely electrified despite the risks to safety in the event of an ice storm. In the transportation sector electric vehicles will be required and zoning changes to discourage the use of personal vehicles implemented.
The New York electric gird is a complex system that has evolved over many years. It is highly reliable using proven hardware and procedures. Relying on unprecedented levels of wind and solar that are not proven on the scale necessary and energy storage system technology to account for intermittent wind and solar that has not been tested for the proposed use is an ill-conceived plan that will likely end in a reliability crisis.
The Climate Act did not determine the greenhouse gas emission targets based on a feasibility analysis. The scoping plan claims that “The cost of inaction exceeds the cost of action by more than $90 billion”. That statement is inaccurate and misleading. The claimed benefits are all societal and do not directly offset consumer costs. The plan claims $235 billion societal benefits for avoided greenhouse gas emissions, but I estimate those benefits should only be $60 billion. The Scoping Plan gets the higher benefit by counting benefits multiple times. If I lost 10 pounds five years ago, I cannot say I lost 50 pounds but that is what the plan says.
The cost estimates are poorly documented but I have figured out that the costs of action used for the claim misleadingly exclude the costs in the transportation investments category needed to make the necessary reductions. The semantic justification is that the program is already implemented. Adding $700 billion for that and using the correct avoided cost of carbon means that costs are at least $760 billion more than the benefits.
When the Climate Act eliminates New York’s greenhouse gas emissions the effect on global warming will not be measurable. The expected impact on global warming is only 0.001°C by the year 2100. More importantly, New York emissions are less than one half of one percent of total global emissions while global emissions have been increasing on average by more than one half of one percent per year. Consequently, anything we do will be displaced in a year by countries in the developing world building their energy systems with reliable and affordable fossil fuels. To deny those countries the benefits of plentiful electricity is immoral.
The Climate Act only accounts for fossil fuel life-cycle costs and environmental impacts while ignoring the life-cycle impacts of wind, solar, and energy storage technologies. These “zero-emissions” resources may not have emissions when generating electricity but the volume of materials needed to access dilute wind and solar energy and the rare earth elements necessary for those technologies certainly have environmental impacts when mined and processed. The large number of wind turbines and solar panels will also create massive amounts of waste when they are retired. Furthermore, the cumulative environmental impacts of thousands of wind turbines and square miles of solar panels has not been compared to the environmental impacts of current fossil fuel technology. Finally, it is unreasonable to expect that there will be any changes to environmental impacts due to climate change because the New York effect on global warming is too small to measure.
The Final Scoping Plan was released at the end of the 2022. In 2023 the Climate Act requires DEC to complete a public comment and consultation process before it can promulgate the implementing regulations. At least two public hearings and a 120-day public comment period must be provided before the Department of Environmental Conservation can propose implementing regulations. At the same time the Legislature will consider new laws to implement other recommendations in the Scoping Plan. I encourage everyone to comment on the proposed regulations and laws in 2023. I have listed all the comments here that I submitted for your information.
The official New York State Climate Act webpage describes New York State climate news and developments. Links to articles on the Climate Act at the Pragmatic Environmentalist of New York website, implementation overviews, background technology references and background information are provided in the references.
My colleagues in industry and I all agree on a few things. We believe that most New Yorkers are unaware of the potential impacts of the Climate Act. We are convinced that the costs will be eye-watering. We don’t think that technology is available to maintain current reliability standards and replace fossil fuel sources of energy. The goal of the Citizens Guide is to educate New Yorkers on the law, the costs, and the risks. Any feedback on this attempt to responds to that goal is encouraged at firstname.lastname@example.org.