NY Green Deal: Increase Carbon Sequestration

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 plan to increase carbon sequestration and meet a land challenge as part of the New York Green New Deal.

In the following sections I list the text from the announcement with my indented and italicized comments.

Increase Carbon Sequestration and Meet the U.S. Climate Alliance Natural and Working Lands Challenge

In 2015, Governor Cuomo launched the Climate Resilient Farming Program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and to increase resiliency of New York State farms impacted by climate change. Just last year, New York accepted the U.S. Climate Alliance’s Natural and Working Lands challenge, ensuring that land stewardship and land sequestration efforts join energy reduction and adaptation activities as part of our collective climate solutions.

According to the New York Soil & Water Conservation Committee website “The goal of the Climate Resilient Farming Program is to reduce the impact of agriculture on climate change (mitigation) and to increase the resiliency of New York State farms in the face of a changing climate (adaptation).” The plan is to mitigate and adapt.

Estimates of annual greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture (apart from agricultural energy use, which is classified differently) in New York State range from 5.3 to 5.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. Manure management is responsible for roughly 15% of the emissions; emissions from soils are slightly under a third of the total. This represents a major opportunity to reduce emissions.

 While New York State is projected to increase precipitation overall, it is expected to come in short, extreme precipitation events in between mild droughts. This represents a major risk to farms, particularly those in low-lying or flood prone areas. Even very local downpours and cloud bursts can cause substantial damage to farms.

On the face of it this program is innocuous but is it effective? According to the most recent press release I could find: Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced nearly $2.2 million will be awarded to 34 farms across the state through the Climate Resilient Farming Grant Program. Launched by the Governor in 2015, the program helps farms reduce their operational impact on the environment and better prepare for and recover after extreme weather events. Through three rounds of funding to date, the state has provided $5.1 million to 40 total projects, assisting nearly 70 farms. I have included a description of the awards made for 2018 at the end of the post. My biggest problem is that the 34 farms received money from the state for projects that in some cases seem like business as usual practices. Unless a program can provide this kind of support to every farm in the state then where are we going with this? If my neighbor gets money to do a project why in the world would I do it, however appropriate for the environment, unless I get money too?

To meet our Natural and Working Lands commitment, Governor Cuomo will establish new research partnerships to incorporate forest and agricultural carbon into New York’s greenhouse gas inventory and climate strategy and to establish a carbon sequestration goal for our natural and working lands. To help achieve this goal, Governor Cuomo proposes doubling the State’s investment in the Climate Resilient Farming program and creating new forestry grant programs—enhancing the Healthy Soils NY program and enabling farmers, forest owners, and communities to achieve the economic and environmental co-benefits of sound management practices.

I think the concept that increasing the carbon content of the soil is a no regrets solution. The basic concept is that building healthy soil sequesters carbon dioxide. My point is that healthy soil is good for the planet whatever the effect of CO2 on climate. As mentioned above, however, I think the New York program has to take the big picture approach how to implement their plan across all the farms and forests rather than awarding grants to the politically connected.

Awarded Projects Climate Resilient Farming Grant Program April 27, 2018

  • Fulton County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $74,494 to assist one farm with the implementation of a 45-acre prescribed grazing and 5.7-acre riparian buffer system that will increase soil health and reduce farm based greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Herkimer County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $432,659 to work with a dairy farm to install a manure storage cover and flare. The system will dramatically reduce methane emissions from the farm’s manure storage, mitigate water quality concerns – especially during major precipitation events, and promote energy savings.
  • Schoharie County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $10,256 to work with one vegetable farm to implement cover crops using no-till planting methods. This project will plant 14 acres of diverse species cover crops to improve carbon sequestration and improve resiliency to the farm during periods of flood and drought.
  • Monroe County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $149,085 to work with one dairy farm to install a riparian buffer system and an irrigation water management system. The systems will mitigate nutrient and sediment runoff and allow the farm to store and convey water as needed in preparation for any drought situations.
  • Ontario County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $119,907 to work with four farms to implement cover crops to improve the carbon sequestration potential in the soils and improve resiliency to the farm during periods of flood and drought.
  • Wayne County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $281,686 to work with a diverse livestock farm to install a manure storage cover and flare to dramatically reduce methane emissions from the farm’s manure storage, mitigate water quality concerns – especially during major precipitation events, and promote energy savings.
  • Genesee County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $156,790 to work with one dairy farm to expand a clean water storage reservoir to an irrigation reservoir that will provide additional capacity for drought and flood periods and install a center pivot irrigation system.
  • Madison County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $128,600 to work with one farm to implement a water and sediment control basin system that will prevent erosion and protect the Village of Chittenango from an increased flooding potential due to runoff from the farm.
  • Onondaga County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $40,760 to work with one farm to implement a 78-acre prescribed grazing system that will increase soil health, improve soil carbon sequestration by promoting plant growth throughout the year, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Onondaga County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $180,856 to work with one farm to implement a 1.05-acre wetland that will allow for greater storage of stormwater. The project will help to reduce the flood volume downstream and ultimately reduce sedimentation into Skaneateles Lake.
  • Essex County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $103,500 to work with one farm to install riparian buffers systems and ponds for stormwater capture and irrigation. The systems will sequester carbon dioxide emissions and reduce farm runoff to the Boquet River and Lake Champlain.
  • Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $43,696 to work with one farm to install a riparian buffer system and livestock access control. The systems will reduce streambank erosion and sedimentation, provide a reliable water source for grazing animals, and improve the capability of the farm to withstand extreme weather conditions.
  • Chautauqua County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $85,024 to work with one farm to implement diverse species cover crops that will improve soil quality, reduce erosion during extreme weather events, and increase soil organic matter.
  • Erie County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $82,268 to work with five farms to implement cover crops. These projects will improve the carbon sequestration potential in the soils and improve resiliency to the farm during periods of flood and drought.
  •  Southern Tier
  • Chenango County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $77,255 to work with six farms to implement cover crops. Cover crops are planted to improve soil quality, reduce erosion, and to increase soil organic matter to improve resiliency to the farm during periods of flood and drought and decrease the impacts of flooding downstream.
  • Schuyler County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $205,000 to work with seven farms that include dairy, crop, and beef/sheep farms, in three priority watersheds, to implement cover crops. This project will allow for cover crops throughout nearly the entire growing season, which will conserve soil, improve water holding capacity to help mitigate impacts of extreme storm events, and help to protect several public drinking water sources.

NY Green Deal: Investments in the Clean Tech Economy

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 multi-billion dollar price tag of the New York Green New Deal.

In the following sections I list the text from the announcement and my indented and italicized comments follow.

Demonstrating New York’s real-time commitment to implementing the most ambitious clean energy agenda in the United States, Governor Cuomo is also announcing $1.5 billion in competitive awards to support 20 large-scale solar, wind, and energy storage projects across upstate New York. These projects will drive a total of $4 billion in direct investment in New York’s growing clean energy economy, as well as add over 1,650 megawatts of capacity and generate over 3,800,000 megawatt-hours of renewable energy annually – enough to power nearly 550,000 homes and create over 2,600 short-term and long-term jobs. Once all permitting and local requirements are met, several projects are expected to break ground as early as August 2019 and all projects are expected to be operational by 2022. The projects will reduce carbon emissions by more than 2 million metric tons, equivalent to taking nearly 437,000 cars off the road. Combined with the renewable energy projects previously announced under the Clean Energy Standard, New York has now awarded more than $2.9 billion to 46 projects, accelerating New York’s progress and commitment to Governor Cuomo’s Green New Deal.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) described the 20 large-scale projects in a press release. Table 1 green new deal clean energy project investments lists the projects and provides some details. There are 1,040 MW of solar at 16 sites and 613.7 MW of wind at 4 sites with a total of 45 MW of energy storage included at three facilities.

New York State has extensive electric facility siting requirements for any project of 25 MW or greater. Article Ten is supposed to provide a common framework for siting generation facilities in a streamlined permitting process. There are specific requirements for environmental and public health analyses. However, this process is time consuming and costly. While there are timing requirements for agency responses, nonetheless in my opinion it is practically impossible to meet all the requirements in less than five years. Of the 1654 MW in the announced projects, there is one small 4.99 MW project and eight 19.99 MW capacity projects (159.92 MW total) that are exempt from the Article Ten requirements. Of the remaining 11 projects, there are four projects totaling 462.69 MW that have not submitted anything to the Article Ten Siting Board, four projects totaling 499 MW that have completed the first step by submitting Public Involvement Programs, two projects totaling 237.5 MW have completed the second step by submitting their preliminary scoping plans and one 290 MW project has reached the third step submitting their application.

 The competitive awards total $1.5 billion and are supposed to provide more than 2 million tons of carbon reductions. Assuming that they really meant carbon dioxide for the 2 million tons that means 750 dollars per ton reduction cost. In 2015 NYS electric sector CO2 emissions were 32 million tons. If the New York Green New Deal were to rely on the NYSERDA competitive award process for those reductions the State is looking at a staggering cost of $24 billion.

NY Green Deal: Justice, Transition and Clean Energy Jobs

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 plan to deliver climate justice, reduce impacts of the transition, and develop a clean tech workforce as part of the New York Green New Deal.

I have combined three proposals in this post because they are all out of my energy and environmental analysis background. Bluntly, all three seem to be political favors incorporated to curry favor from three groups to support the Green New Deal. None of them will have any impact on emissions reductions or energy transition. In the following sections I list the text from the announcement and my indented and italicized comments follow.

Proposal. Deliver Climate Justice for Underserved Communities

In 2016, the Governor introduced an ambitious environmental justice framework, establishing a statewide commitment to addressing the historic disparate environmental burdens suffered by communities of color and low-income communities. In 2017, he introduced an Environmental Justice and Just Transition Working Group to ensure that environmental justice and a just transition of New York’s workforce are an integral part of New York’s clean energy and climate agenda. In the past 3 years, New York State has invested more than $16 million through the Environmental Protection Fund in environmental justice initiatives. New York also currently has over 151,000 individuals employed by clean energy industries throughout the state and has committed $70 million in workforce training in the clean energy economy. As part of the Green New Deal, Governor Cuomo will build upon these important foundations for making environmental justice and just transition central to moving to a carbon neutral economy.

On June 2, 2017 Cuomo established an environmental justice & just transition working group to help historically underserved communities prepare for a clean energy future and adapt to climate change. The announcement said the working group “will focus, in part, on developing policies and programs to ensure a ‘just transition’ to a green and clean energy future.” The announcement included a list of members and said that it would “advise the administration on the integration of environmental justice and just transition principles into all agency policies, and to shape environmental justice programs identified in State of the State and inform what work products would assist in this effort. The first Working Group session will convene in June.” However, I have been unable to find any references to this group since then.

 The announcement notes New York State has invested more than $16 million through the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) for environmental justice initiatives. A Financial History of the fund notes that:

This fund is supposed to provide a source of funding for capital projects that protect the environment and enhance communities. EPF appropriations have totaled $3.4 billion from its creation in 1993 through the State’s last complete fiscal year, 2016-17. Of this, some $2.6 billion had been spent on environmental protection, parks and other related programs as of March 31, 2017. Over the life of the Fund, more than $953 million in EPF resources has been diverted to the General Fund for budget relief. While some of this was replaced with borrowed funds, over half, or $507.2 million, has not been replenished.

While that report also notes that EPF resources for environmental justice grants help residents in areas suffering from systemic neglect and legacy pollution to rebuild healthier communities it also notes that DEC does not provide annual, comprehensive assessments of the status and needs supported by the EPF. In light of the Comptroller’s report I could not check how the money was spent.

 The Green New Deal will help historically underserved communities prepare for a clean energy future and adapt to climate change by codifying the Environmental Justice and Just Transition Working Group into law and incorporating it into the planning process for the Green New Deal’s transition. To increase the effect of funds and initiatives that target energy affordability, the Governor is directing the State’s low-income energy task force to identify reforms to achieve greater impact of the public energy funds expended each year. The Governor is also directing each of the State’s ten Regional Economic Development Councils to develop an environmental justice strategy for their region.

Presumably once the Environmental Justice and Just Transition Working Group is codified into law they will actually meet regularly. New York State has a terrible record spending climate reduction funds where they are supposed to be spent rather than on politically expedient pork but we will see if this program is different.

New York State currently directs more than $700 million in ratepayer and federal funds each year to combat energy poverty and increase access to clean energy solutions for the 2.3 million low-income households in the state. However, current programs only reach 1.4 million households each year with bill assistance programs, and less than 20,000 households each year with clean energy measures.

As part of the Green New Deal, Governor Cuomo will address energy poverty in New York State by directing the low-income energy task force, comprised of NYSERDA, DPS, OTDA, and HCR, to develop a roadmap and unified strategy to increase the impact of funds and initiatives that target energy affordability. Specifically, the Governor is directing the task force to assess policy, programmatic, and administrative reforms necessary to achieve greater impact of public funds expended each year.

In my opinion the primary goal of the task force should be to keep electric energy affordable. I am encouraged that the announcement recognizes the importance of energy poverty. However, I will only be satisfied when the State establishes an energy poverty metric and tracks it throughout the transition.

 Proposal. Create a Fund to Help Communities Impacted by the Transition Dirty Power

Governor Cuomo is introducing legislation to provide funding to help communities that are directly affected by the transition away from conventional energy industries and toward the new clean energy economy. Specifically, this funding will protect communities impacted by the retirement of conventional power generation facilities. The Governor is also calling upon the Environmental and Just Transition Working Group to contribute to and advise on the development of a Just Transition Roadmap for the Green New Deal.

In my opinion this is an example of the political pandering of the Green New deal. If New York does implement this plan all the municipalities that have depended on a fossil-fired power plant for jobs and taxes for many years will be scrambling to find a replacement industry. One of the subsidies commonly provided to renewable facilities is a pilot (or payment in lieu of taxes) agreement. It would be interesting to determine if the tax benefits of the Green New deal will replace the taxes generated by the legacy fossil plants.

Proposal. Develop Clean Tech Workforce and Protect Labor Rights

To ensure creation of high-quality clean energy jobs, large-scale renewable energy projects supported by the Green New Deal will continue to require prevailing wage, and the State’s offshore wind projects will be supported by a requirement for a Project Labor Agreement. To prepare New York’s workforce for the transition, New York State will take new steps to support workforce development, including establishing a New York State Advisory Council on Offshore Wind Economic and Workforce Development, as well as investing in an offshore wind training center that will provide New Yorkers with the skills and safety training required to construct this clean energy technology in New York.

In my opinion this is another example of the political pandering of the Green New Deal. This has all the signs of a progressive politician appealing to his political base. How this will reduce emissions and save the planet from global warming is unclear.

 

NY Green Deal: Effect on Global Warming

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. To date no New York State initiative related to climate has quantified the impact on global warming. This post estimates the impact for the New York Green New Deal mandate for 100 percent clean power by 2040 and eliminating all 2015 emissions from fuel combustion in the state.

Analysis

In the absence of any official estimate I did my own calculation. I simply adapted data for this emission reduction from the calculations in Analysis of US and State-By-State Carbon Dioxide Emissions and Potential “Savings” In Future Global Temperature and Global Sea Level Rise. This analysis of U.S. and state by state carbon dioxide 2010 emissions relative to global emissions quantifies the relative numbers and the potential “savings” in future global temperature and global sea level rise.   These estimates are based on the MAGICC: Model for the Assessment of Greenhouse-gas Induced Climate Change) so they represent projected changes based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates. All I did in my calculation was to pro-rate the United States impacts by the ratio of New York emissions divided by United States emissions to determine the effects of eliminating all emissions from fuel combustion in New York State as well as the mandate for 100 percent clean power by 2040..

The first step is to quantify NY emissions. The New York State Energy and Research Development Authority prepared the Greenhouse Gas Inventory 1990-2015 which lists historical greenhouse gas emission data from 1990-2015 for New York State’s energy and non-energy sectors. In 2015 the NY total emissions from fuel combustion was 177 million metric. According to that report emissions from electricity generation were 29.1 million metric tons in 2015. The New York impacts were calculated by the ratio of the NY emissions reductions to the US reductions in the report. For example, the NY % of global total emissions equals the % of US global total (17.88%) times the NY Green New Deal goal (29.1) divided by the US emissions (5631.3). Those results are shown in table 2 eliminate 2015 co2 emissions from fuel combustion effect on global warming table 1 ny green new deal clean energy mandate effect on global warming. table 2 eliminate 2015 co2 emissions from fuel combustion effect on global warming lists the results for eliminating all 2015 GHG emissions from fuel combustion.

These calculations show current growth rate in CO2 emissions from other countries of the world will quickly subsume New York total emissions much less any reductions in New York CO2 emissions. According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) and based on trends in CO2 emissions growth will subsume all of New York’s 2015 fuel combustion emissions in 81 days. Furthermore, using assumptions based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Reports we can estimate the actual impact to global warming for fuel combustion emissions. The ultimate impact of the 177 million metric tons on projected global temperature rise would be a reduction, or a “savings,” of approximately 0.0026°C by the year 2050 and 0.0054°C by the year 2100. The clean energy by 2040 mandate effect on projected global temperature rise would be a reduction, or a “savings,” of approximately 0.00043°C by the year 2050 and 0.00089°C by the year 2100.

These small numbers have to be put in context. First consider temperature measuring guidance. The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s Requirements and Standards for NWS Climate Observations states that: “The observer will round the entered data to whole units Fahrenheit”. The nearest whole degree Fahrenheit (0.55°C) is over two hundred times greater than the projected change in temperature in 2050.

Although this change is too small to measure I am sure some will argue that there will nonetheless be some effect on the purported impacts. However if these numbers are put into perspective of temperatures we routinely feel then that argument seems hollow. For example, in Syracuse NY the record high temperature is 102°F and the record low temperature is -26°F so the difference is 128 °F which is over 27,000 times greater than the predicted change in temperature in 2050. The annual seasonal difference ranges from the highest daily average of 71.6°F to the lowest daily average of 23.2°F, or a difference of 48.4°F which is over 10,000 times greater than the predicted change in temperature in 2050. The average difference between the average daily high and average daily low temperature is 10.4°F or nearly 4,000 times greater than the predicted change in temperature in 2050. In order to give you an idea of how small this temperature change consider changes with elevation and latitude. Generally, temperature decreases three (3) degrees Fahrenheit for every 1,000 foot increase in elevation above sea level. The projected temperature difference is the same as going down 39 inches. The general rule is that temperature changes three (3) degrees Fahrenheit for every 300 mile change in latitude at an elevation of sea level. The projected temperature change is the same as going south 1.0 miles.

Conclusion

I do not think that there is any question why the State has not provided a quantitative estimate of the impact on global warming from the Green New Deal, REV or any other New York State initiative related to climate change. Clearly we can expect no discernable impact. The calculated values provided in this post are based on the “consensus” estimates of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which I personally believe over-estimate the impact of temperature changes caused by greenhouse gas emissions but do represent the justification for the New York Green New Deal. As shown claiming any observable impacts for the projected small change in temperature due to these emissions reductions is a stretch at best.

NY Green Deal: New York’s Path to Carbon Neutrality

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.

NY Green New Deal: NY Green Bank

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 the plans as they become available. In the meantime this post discusses the language used to describe the New York Green Bank and plans for it as part of the New York Green New Deal.

In the following sections I list the text from the announcement and my indented comments follow.

Proposal. Expand NY Green Bank and Catalyze at Least $1 Billion in Private Capital

In 2013, Governor Cuomo announced NY Green Bank, a $1 billion investment fund designed to accelerate clean energy deployment. Since then, NY Green Bank has become globally recognized as a leading sustainable infrastructure investor, committing nearly $640 million and mobilizing nearly $1.75 billion in private capital for clean energy projects across the state.

Building on NY Green Bank’s successful and self-sustaining track record, Governor Cuomo announced in the fall of 2017 that NY Green Bank would raise at least $1 billion of private capital and expand its clean energy investing activities nationally. To deliver on that commitment and further support the Green New Deal, Governor Cuomo is now calling for the development of terms for a public-private partnership to effectuate NY Green Bank’s third-party capital raise and national expansion.

The New York Green Bank mission is “To accelerate clean energy deployment in New York State by working in collaboration with the private sector to transform financing markets”. The approach is described as NY Green Bank’s innovative business model increases the availability of capital for projects deploying proven clean energy technologies across New York State through:

Leveraging private sector capital to support and expand clean energy financing markets;

Animating and growing capital markets reducing the need for government support; and

Motivating faster and more extensive deployment of clean energy assets, contributing to economic development, greater energy choices, reduced environmental impacts and more green energy advantages for every public dollar spent.

According to the New York Green Bank 2016 Business Plan “The $1.0 billion NY Green Bank was established to attract private sector capital to accelerate clean energy deployment in New York State.” As a key component of New York’s Clean Energy Fund, NY Green Bank is structured to be self-sustaining in that it must ultimately cover its own costs of operation.

According to the Q3 2018 quarterly metric report as of September 30, 2018, Green Bank investments supported clean energy projects with a total project cost of between $1.44 and $1.68 billion in aggregate, based on an overall portfolio size of $581.9 million. “NY Green Bank’s investments to date drive estimated gross lifetime GHG reductions of between 7.2 and 9.2 million metric tons, equivalent to removing between 69,500 and 88,300 cars from the road for a period of 24 years.

The discussion of the investment portfolio in the Q3 2018 quarterly metric report illustrates how this is supposed to work. In the quarter ended September 30, 2018 the Green Bank closed three transactions: Delaware River Solar, BlueRock Energy Solar and New York City Energy Efficiency Corporation. The Green Bank entered into an agreement with Delaware River Solar to provide a $7.0 million bridge loan to finance the interconnection expenses of their community distributed generation projects in New York State. In July 2018, NYGB committed an additional $55.0 million to participate in a term loan to finance the capital costs of DRS’s Community DG portfolio of projects. These transactions are initially expected to support the deployment of up to 70.0 megawatts of solar photovoltaic in NYS. The Green Bank provided a $775,000 term loan (the “Term Loan”) to a subsidiary of BlueRock Energy Solar, Inc., a NY-based solar developer and full-service energy solutions provider. The Term Loan will be used to finance the acquisition of community distributed generation solar projects in NY State and for other corporate purposes. Finally, the Green Bank committed up to $2.0 million to participate in a construction-to-term loan for Ecosave Inc. to finance the installation of energy efficiency improvements at a senior care facility in New York State (“NYS”). As a co-lender with the New York City Energy Efficiency Corporation (“NYCEEC”), NYGB’s participation in this transaction supports at least 12,230 MWh of electricity savings, and 38,170 MMBtu of fuel savings to the customer. The transaction also establishes greater performance history for energy efficiency projects with small-to-medium-sized, unrated commercial customers. In short, then the Green Bank provides another source of money to expedite the implementation of renewable projects.

The more I dug into this the more questions and concerns I found. Consider four solar projects in the past four quarterly metric reports (table 1 solar projects in nys green bank quarterly metric reports). For those four projects the Green Bank has provided $123,875,000 for term loans. The energy generated and GHG emissions reduced show just how difficult it will be for New York to meet its ambitious goals. The first year high estimate projects that the $123,875,000 will provide 110 MW of capacity, generate 182,767 MWh per year and will reduce GHG emissions by 95,950 tons. In order to reach the 100% clean power goal by 2040 the plan doubles distributed solar deployment to 6,000 megawatts by 2025, up from 3,000 megawatts by 2023. If the Green Bank were to finance the deployment of 3,000 MW at the rate observed they would need over $2 billion. In 2015 NYS electric generation sector emissions were 32,000 tons. If the Green Bank was to finance the replacement of solar at the rate observed they would need over $41 billion. Clearly the Green Bank is going to have to catalyze a heck of a lot more than $1 billion to really help implement the NYS Green New Deal goals.

I also note that the quarterly metric reports took emission reduction and energy generated credit for providing bridge loans for solar interconnections. That is inappropriate because those benefits should be credited to the project developers. If the Green Bank takes credit it too there is double counting.

Finally the web page notes that there are 28 staff with the following titles: President, Chief Operating Officer, four Managing Directors, six Directors, four Vice Presidents, one Senior Associate, five Associates, five Analysts and one Office Manager. I think top heavy management is an appropriate description of this structure. Also note that in 2018 salaries and expenses were 36% of the operating revenues. Personally, I think this is yet another indication that the Green New Deal is more about political power and patronage than anything else.

Launching the New York Green New Deal

This is one of a series of posts on Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s New York 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 introductory rationale for the Green New Deal.

In the following sections I list the text from the announcement and my indented comments follow.

The Imperative

Recognizing the imperative to create healthy communities today while protecting the environment for generations to come, Governor Cuomo is consistently on the front lines of the battle against climate change. In addition to securing environmental protection and promoting sustainability, the Governor’s vision for a clean, resilient New York calls for the clean energy industry to be a significant engine of economic opportunity and growth.

Advocates for clean energy rarely consider history. The fact is that New York communities are as healthy today as they have ever been. In the last 50 years New York has made tremendous strides reducing air pollution emissions and the air quality has improved markedly. However, it is important to consider the fact that without fossil fuels our society would still be stuck in the mostly agrarian society of the early 1800s when lives were brutal and short. I encourage you to read The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels to understand why both the positive and negative impacts of fossil fuels should be considered in any state policy.

Cuomo calls for the clean energy industry to provide economic opportunity and growth. I personally question whether any industry that depends on subsidies will really provide growth. The Green New Deal is loaded with money for rent seeking opportunists but it is not clear if the model proposed will be sustainable.

The New Normal

The signs of a changing climate are indisputable. When Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico in late 2017, Governor Cuomo and New Yorkers across the state leapt to action to deliver aid and support. In response to an official request from Governor Ricardo Rosselló, Governor Cuomo led a sweeping effort to provide emergency goods and services and deployed more than 1,000 personnel including hundreds of utility workers and power experts to help with electricity restoration. In stark contrast to the federal government, New York’s commitment to Puerto Rico remains unwavering, but without swift action to reduce the greenhouse gasses that drive climate change, devastating hurricanes like Maria—and Superstorm Sandy—will be the new normal.

As a meteorologist I must point out that no one and I mean no one has ever claimed that hurricanes will not happen in the future whatever we do to reduce greenhouse gasses. Even if you believe that whatever changed climate in the past is now overwhelmed by the greenhouse gas control knob on climate, the reality is that this means that there might be more a few more hurricanes and they might be stronger but hurricanes have always happened. Rather than investing in trying to mitigate climate change it is much more likely to be cost effective to adapt to existing climate and historical hurricanes first and make additional investments as necessary for any future changes. Finally I need to point out that the suggestion that hurricanes are getting worse is not true.

As a resident of New York I have the utmost sympathy for Puerto Rico but honestly we have more than enough problems in our state. As a result I have concerns that the Governor’s unwavering support to Puerto Rico is diverting resources that might be more appropriately used at home.

Cuomo’s Legacy

During Governor Cuomo’s first two terms, New York banned fracking of natural gas, committed to phasing out coal power by 2020, and was among the first states to mandate 50 percent renewable power by 2030. Under the Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) agenda, renewable energy is growing rapidly across the state: solar has increased over 1,500 percent, New York has held the largest renewable energy procurements by a state in U.S. history, and offshore wind is poised to transform the state’s electricity supply to be cleaner and more sustainable. Governor Cuomo’s climate leadership is demonstrating that a transition to clean energy is more than technically feasible and cost-effective – it can be an engine of new economic opportunity.

Cuomo’s legacy is in the eye of beholder. New York’s emissions from coal power have dropped markedly in the past ten years because of fuel switching, mostly because of lower natural gas prices caused by fracking. New York has missed out on economic development due to fracking too. Importantly it is too early to claim that Cuomo has demonstrated that the transition to clean energy is technically feasible and cost-effective. Renewable energy is diffuse and intermittent and to this point those limitations have not been addressed in New York. However, there will come a point when they must be addressed and to this point New York does not even have a plan much less demonstrated success.

The Green New Deal

Amidst the Trump Administration’s assault on the environment and in order to continue New York’s progress in the fight against climate change, Governor Cuomo is announcing New York’s Green New Deal, 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. At the Governor’s direction, New York will move boldly to achieve this goal with specific near-term actions and long-term strategies to spur unparalleled innovation and transform the state’s electric, transportation, and building infrastructure while prioritizing the needs of low- and moderate-income New Yorkers. This landmark initiative will further drive the growth of New York’s clean energy economy, create tens of thousands of high-quality 21st century jobs, provide all New Yorkers with cleaner air and water by reducing harmful emissions, and set an example of climate leadership for the rest of the nation and world to follow.

I think this paragraph clearly shows the political motivations of the Governor’s climate agenda. Is it too much to expect that the Governor will provide the cost of his agenda and the effects on climate of his actions. It is all talk and nothing substantive to show why the plan will not suffer from the cost increases of the German “Energiewende”. In South Australia the clean energy transition increased the use of wind energy so much that the interconnection between a wind farm and the network caused disturbances that caused a blackout. The final report claimed that the intermittent nature of wind was not to blame but I say that misses the point. They say “Unexpected operation of the control settings resulted in the sudden loss of generation from the wind farms” and I say were not for the policies that induced those wind farms they never would have been a problem. I am convinced that implementing such a major change to the energy system is going to lead to teething problems and consequence that far outweigh the negligible benefits of carbon dioxide reductions in New York.

My Conclusion

Sadly it appears that New York State energy policy is driven by emotional arguments that ignore the benefits of fossil fuels and the tremendous improvements that the state has made to improve air quality. Despite the assurances of the Governor, a clean energy transition is not simple and experience to date is no guide to the future success of the ambitious plans outlined in the Green New Deal.