On May 3, 2022 the Empire Center for Public Policy hosted a panel of climate and energy experts from across the state to explore economic and energy impacts of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act. This post describes my impression of Lights Out: The CLCPA and New York’s Energy Future.
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 climate change 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.
Climate Act Background
The Climate Act establishes a “Net Zero” target by 2050. The Climate Action Council is responsible for preparing the Scoping Plan that will “achieve the State’s bold clean energy and climate agenda”. They were assisted by Advisory Panels who developed and presented strategies to the meet the goals to the Council. Those strategies were used to develop the integration analysis prepared by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and its consultants that quantified the impact of the strategies. That analysis was used to develop the Draft Scoping Plan that was released for public comment on December 30, 2021. The public can comment until June 10, 2022.
The overall question for the speakers was whether the state can meet its energy needs under the new law and what will be the cost to New Yorkers? Six speakers made brief presentations followed by questions and answers addressing those questions. I have described my impressions of the speaker presentations below. If a recording of the meeting is provided, I will update this post.
James Hanley, Senior Policy Analyst, Empire Center for Public Policy gave some brief introductory remarks but focused on his new research. Hanley recently completed an analysis he did for the Empire Center titled Cold and Dark? New York’s Risky Energy Future. It is a good summary of the essential problem that the Climate Act will increase demand at the same time New York is retiring existing nuclear and natural gas-fired generation. He shows that the state is on track for an energy shortage equal to “almost three New York Cities without power”. He explains that wind and solar cannot make up the gap because of their variable output. The Draft Scoping Plan notes that 15 to 25 GW of installed dispatchable emissions-free generation capacity is “needed in 2040 to meet demand and maintain reliability”. However, as Hanley points out, the Plan does not identify a source for this generation capacity. The report is well-researched and gives a good overview of the problems inherent in the net-zero transition.
Panel Discussion: Meeting New York’s Energy Needs Under Climate Act.
Three speakers addressed the question: How do we deliver what’s needed and how soon can we get there?
Donald Chahbazpour, Director of Policy and Regulator Strategy, National Grid talked up the National Grid plan that was recently announced. He explained that there are three components of their plan: energy efficiency, hybrid heat pumps, and a fossil free gas network. Among the benefits expected are that it is more cost-effective and will require 60 GW less electric generation capacity. At some point I will try to do a post on the plan but want to point out a couple of points he made about the natural gas system. The gas peak load is 3 to 4 times higher than the size of the electric peak load. That makes sense because heating makes up such a large proportion of natural gas load. He also said that heating with natural gas is cheaper: thirty cents on the dollar cheaper than electric with natural gas. Part of the National Grid plan is to use renewable natural gas and he admitted that will be more expensive than natural gas. The last statistic that I wanted to mention is that he gave a number for the daily conversion rates necessary to meet the Scoping Plan for just New York City. I did not get the exact number but it was so large that it was clearly unreasonable.
Gavin Donohue, President of the Independent Power Producers of New York is a member of the Climate Action Council. He said his top issue with Climate Act was that there was no funding mechanism. He also made the point that there is no dispatchable emissions-free resource available today so the schedule is ambitious. Gavin has been arguing since the beginning that reliability is critical but he pointed out that it still has not received adequate attention. He made another point that is often overlooked. New York City has special considerations that have not been addressed. He claimed that one hidden cost is that 25% of homes will require electric service upgrades. Donohue also made the point that the Climate Action Council does not make the final decision on the strategies. At the end of the year the Scoping Plan goes to the Governor and legislature for them to pick policies for implementation in 2023.
Ken Pokalsky, Vice President of the Business Council of New York, was the third speaker on the panel. He pointed out that most business owners are unaware of implications. When told about it they go through the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. He explained that New York businesses are finally starting to get involved.
Panel Discussion: Consumer Effects Of Climate Act;
The second panel discussion addressed costs, benefits and consumer impacts. Due to a scheduling problem, there were only two speakers.
Michael Butler, Mid-Atlantic Regional Director of the Consumer Energy Alliance discussed consumer effects. His presentation is available. He made the point that the reason that emissions have gone down so much is because of natural gas. Therefore, he argued that it is inappropriate to ban natural gas at this time. He also commented on Pennsylvania’s recently joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative by executive decree. He thinks that the Pennsylvania governorship will flip Republican next election and that will end the state’s membership in RGGI
Commissioner John Howard, New York State Public Service Commission, made some interesting points and his answers to questions were very illuminating. If there is a recording, I will do a post just on his remarks. One of the great mysteries to me has been how this will affect rate payer costs. He said that he thought the existing REC, ZEC, OREC programs and possibly some other similar programs currently add 10% to consumer bills. He emphasized the four tenets of Public Service Commission concern are safe, reliable, just and reasonable electricity for all rate payers. He noted that New Yorkers are intolerant of blackouts for any reason. After claiming that peaking power plants have significant health impact, he said he thought that they would be needed much longer than many want. By the way I am working on a post about that issue to follow up my latest post describing the New York City peaking power plant controversy. One of his best comments was that he said that unelected bureaucrats should not be in control of the scoping plan. He clearly he has figured out that there are issues with the ambition and schedule of the Plan.
I asked the penultimate question.
We have heard a lot about costs today and the large number of pages in the scoping plan and appendices. I am a numbers guy and want to point out that in addition of the upwards of 600 pages in the text documentation there are two spreadsheets with over 100 tables provided. Based on my analysis of those spreadsheets there are no control measure cost numbers provided. I think the Scoping Plan should describe, list the costs, and estimate the emissions reductions for all the control measures. What do you think should be provided?
Commissioner Howard responded. He basically said that it does seem that they are obfuscating the costs. He also said that people should be outraged that those numbers are not available.
Unfortunately, attendance was light so there was not a lot of coverage. That is too bad because the speakers made some excellent points that deserve wider coverage. If a recording is provided I will update this post with more information.