Climate Act Scoping Plan Recommended Reading

The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act) has a legal mandate for New York State greenhouse gas emissions to meet the ambitious net-zero goal by 2050. On April 1, 2022 the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Strategic Communications Director for Climate sent an email to the mailing list of people who have signed up to learn about climate news and developments.  On the same day I ran across a superb summary entitled Inconvenient Truths About Energy.  This post summarizes the Denver Gazette perspective piece by Chris Wright in the context of the Climate Act.

I have written extensively on implementation of the Climate Act because I believe the ambitions for a zero-emissions economy outstrip available renewable technology such that it will adversely affect reliability and 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.

Climate Action Council Draft Scoping Plan Comments and Toolkit

In 2022, the Climate Action Council is required to finalize the Scoping Plan.  At the first Climate Action Council meeting on March 3, 2022 (recording here) the activity plan overview shown below mentioned a plan to rollout communications and educational materials.  The email sent on April 1 under the title “Climate Action Council Draft Scoping Plan Comments and Toolkit” is part of the rollout of those materials.

I agree with the letter’s point that encouraging all New Yorkers to review the Draft Scoping Plan and share comments by June 10, 2022 is important and necessary.  According to the text:

This email serves as a resource and toolkit on how you can comment and be involved in the process, and to help the Council spread the word and encourage others to weigh in on the Draft Scoping Plan. An overview of the plan for your review and use can be found here. Additional overview slide decks specific to each sector are forthcoming. There are several ways to provide public comments, with oral and written comments receiving equal weight. 

1.       The Council will be holding 10 public hearings, eight in-person and two virtual, in April and May. Additional information on the public hearings and the option to pre-register for hearings can be found here

2.       Comments can also be submitted via the online public comment form here or via email to scopingplan@nyserda.ny.gov

3.       Comments can also be sent via U.S. Mail to Attention: Draft Scoping Plan Comments, NYSERDA, 17 Columbia Circle, Albany, NY 12203-6399. 

I believe that one of the problems with the Climate Action Council is that they do not recognize the complexity, uncertainty, and ambiguity of the existing knowledge about climate change and naively believe that transitioning to zero-emissions solutions will be simple.  In no small part that has been reinforced by the ignoring anyone who does not subscribe to that narrative.  I think that the rollout of these communications and educational materials will continue to disregard any inconvenient issues.

The email also notes:

If you would like to request a presentation on the Draft Scoping Plan for your group or organization, please email ClimateAct@dec.ny.gov. Requests will be accommodated based on staffing and scheduling. 

If you would like to be more involved in the process and help in our efforts to increase awareness about the Scoping Plan and the state’s overall climate efforts, please see the social media toolkit below, or email haley.viccaro@dec.ny.gov with additional opportunities and/or questions. Spreading the word about this opportunity and increasing awareness of the Climate Act is crucial to the successful implementation of the law. 

Unfortunately, there is every indication that the public comment process is intended to simply fulfill the requirement to have a public comment period and not develop information to improve the transition plan.  Soliciting help to increase awareness and “spreading the word about this opportunity” suggests that a primary purpose for the communications rollout is propaganda.  I doubt very much that the Strategic Communications Director for Climate intends this public awareness campaign to address risks to reliability and affordability.

My Citizens Guide to the Climate Act is intended to be a layman summary of the net-zero transition.  I developed it to try to highlight transition risks.  I have posted articles recommending books that do a much better job than I have done to explain the problems here and here.  Unfortunately reading a book is a big commitment and I have been looking for a more concise description problems with the net-zero transition.  I am happy to point out that Inconvenient Truths About Energy describes most of the issues that worry me.

Chris Wright is chairman and CEO of Liberty Energy, a Denver-based hydraulic fracturing company. Much of the material in this is also included in his company’s 2020 ESG report.  If the article described here interests you then I recommend that report as well.  There is a wealth of more detailed information supporting his assertions there.

Inconvenient Truths About Energy

The following sections reproduce the Inconvenient Truths About Energy article with my indented and italicized comments.

The energy transition is not happening. Or not nearly at the pace that everyone believes or wishes. At current rates the “transition” is set to finish in the mid-2600s. The U.N. Rio Convention and subsequent Kyoto Protocol launched the energy transition drive in 1992. Global energy consumption from hydrocarbons has grown massively since then, with market share only declining by four percentage points over the last 30 years from 87% in 1992 to 83% today. I am not celebrating this fact as I have spent years working on energy transition technologies.

Using the latest available data for New York, hydrocarbon market share has decreased from 82% to 71% over the last 30 years.

The energy transition isn’t failing for lack of earnest effort. It is failing because energy is hard, and 3 billion people living in energy poverty are desperate for reliable and scalable energy sources. Meanwhile, 1 billion energy-rich people are resistant to diminishing their standard of living with higher cost and an increasingly unreliable energy diet.

That the energy transition is hard is not recognized by most members of the Climate Action Council.

There is no “climate crisis” either. If there is a term more at odds with the exhaustive literature surveys of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) than “climate crisis,” I have not heard it.

Climate change is a real global challenge that is extensively studied. Unfortunately, the facts and rational dialogue about the myriad tradeoffs aren’t reaching policy makers, the media, or activist groups. Or are they are simply ignoring these inconvenient truths?

For example, we hear endlessly about the rise in frequency and intensity of extreme weather. This narrative is highly effective at scaring people and driving political action. It is also false. The reality is detailed in countless publications and summarized in the IPCC reports. Deaths from extreme weather have plunged over the last century, reaching new all-time lows last year, an outcome to be celebrated. This is not because extreme weather has declined. In fact, extreme weather shows no meaningful trend at all. Deaths from extreme weather events have declined because highly energized, wealthier societies are much better prepared to survive nature’s wrath.

I completely endorse this summary.  The 2020 ESG report documents these facts.

Recognizing reality

You are not supposed to say out loud that there is no climate crisis or that the energy transition is proceeding at a glacial pace. These are unfashionable and, to many, offensive facts. But let’s be honest. Energy transition ambitions must recognize reality. Otherwise, poor investment decisions and regulatory frameworks will lead to surging global-energy and food prices. This is exactly what is happening. We are here today in large part because energy transition efforts that previously encompassed solely aggressive support of alternative energy policies, economics be damned, have recently supplemented this strategy with growing efforts to obstruct fossil fuel development. Fossil fuels make the modern world possible.

The real crisis today is an energy crisis. It began to reveal itself last fall with a severe shortage in globally traded Liquified Natural Gas (LNG). The LNG crisis has not abated and it gives Russia’s Vladimir Putin tremendous leverage over Europe. Without Russian gas, the lights in Europe go out. Amid war, public outrage, and intense sanctions, Russian gas flows to Europe remain unchanged. Russian oil exports have continued with minimal interruption. The world can talk tough about sanctioning Russian energy exports, but those exports are vitally needed; hence they continue. Energy security equals national security.

The world energy system, critical to human wellbeing, requires meaningful spare capacity to handle inevitable bumps in the road. In the electricity sector, which represents only 20% of global energy but 40% in wealthy countries, this is called reserve capacity. In the oil market, spare production capacity today is shrinking and concentrated in OPEC nations like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Also, there is a massive global storage network in both surface tanks and underground caverns. In natural gas markets, there are both extensive underground storage reservoirs and typically spare export capacity through pipelines and large industrial LNG export and import facilities.

The last several years have seen this spare capacity whittled away due partly to lower commodity prices and poor corporate returns shrinking the appetite to invest. Excess capacity has also shrunk due to regulatory blockage of critical energy infrastructure like pipelines and export terminals. Roadblocks for well permitting and leasing on federal lands, together with a mass public miseducation campaign on energy and climate alarmism, are also stymieing hydrocarbon development. Investment capital is further constrained by a corporate Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) movement, and divestment campaigns. These factors are shrinking hydrocarbon investment below what it otherwise would be in response to price signals and outlook for supply and demand. The net result is a constrained supply of oil, natural gas, and coal, which means higher prices and greater risk of market dislocations like the one unfolding today.

High energy and food price inflation is the cruelest form of tax on the poor. After a few specific examples, I’ll return to what we should do now to reverse these damaging and deeply inequitable trends.

The Scoping Plan strategies will inevitably impact affordability and reliability and those least able to respond will be affected the most.

In denial about demand

Why does the world today suffer from a severe shortage of LNG? Demand for natural gas has been growing strongly for decades. It provides a much cleaner substitute for coal in electricity production, home heating, and a myriad of industrial and petrochemical uses. Rising displacement of coal by natural gas has been the largest source of GHG emission reductions. Unfortunately, the aforementioned factors have prevented supply from keeping pace with rising demand. Energy shortages drive rapid prices rises and have cascading impacts on everything else. Energy is foundational to everything humans do. Everything.

Perhaps the most critical use of natural gas is nitrogen fertilizer production. Roughly a century ago, two German chemists, both subsequently awarded Nobel Prizes, developed a process to produce nitrogen fertilizer on an industrial scale. Before the Haber-Bosch process innovation, nitrogen content in soil was a major constraint on crop productivity. Existing nitrogen sources from bird guano, manure, and rotating cultivation of pea crops were limited. Today, elimination of natural gas-synthesized nitrogen fertilizer would cut global food production in half.

The now six-months-long LNG crisis translates into a worldwide food crisis as skyrocketing fertilizer prices are cascading into much higher food prices. Wheat prices are already at a record high and will likely head higher as spring plantings suffer from under fertilization.

Global LNG markets are tight because rising demand has outrun the growth in LNG export capacity in the United States, now the largest LNG exporter. We have an abundance of natural gas in the United States. Unfortunately, we have a shortage of pipelines to transport this gas and LNG export terminals, preventing us from relieving the energy crisis in Europe and around the world. These pipeline and export terminal shortages are due in large part to regulatory blockage. The result is that natural gas prices in the United States and Canada are five to ten times lower than in Asia and Europe. This deeply disadvantages consumers and factories (like fertilizer factories) in Europe and Asia that rely on LNG imports to fulfill their needs.

Failed energy policies

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine did not cause today’s energy crisis. Quite the reverse. Today’s energy crisis is likely an important factor in why Russia chose to invade Ukraine now. Europe’s energy situation is both tenuous and highly dependent on Russian imports. Russia is the second-largest oil and natural gas producer after the United States. Russia is the largest exporter of natural gas, supplying over 40% of Europe’s total demand. Additionally, Russia is the largest source of imported oil and coal to Europe. Europe put itself in this unenviable position by pursuing unrealistic, politically-driven policies attempting to rapidly transition its energy sources to combat climate change. Europe’s energy pivot has been a massive failure on all fronts: higher energy costs, grave energy insecurity, and negligible climate impacts.

New York’s unrealistic, politically-driven Climate Act policies attempting to rapidly transition our energy sources to combat climate change will inevitably follow Europe’s massive failure on all fronts: higher energy costs, grave energy insecurity, and negligible climate impacts

Germany is the poster child of this failure. In 2000, Germany set out to decarbonize its energy system, spending hundreds of billions of dollars on this effort over the last 20 years. Germany only marginally reduced its dependence on hydrocarbons from 84% in 2000 to 78% today. The United States matched this 6% decline in hydrocarbon market share from 86% in 2000 to 80% today. Unlike in the US, Germany more than doubled its electricity prices — before the recent massive additional price increases — by creating a second electric grid. This second grid is comprised of massive wind and solar electric generating sources that only deliver 20% of nameplate capacity on average, and often less than 5% for days at a time. The sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow. Hence, Germany could only shrink legacy coal, gas and nuclear capacity by 15%. It now must pay to maintain both grids. The legacy grid must always be flexing up and down in a wildly inefficient manner to keep the lights on, hospitals functioning, homes heated, and factories powered. Outside of the electricity sector, Germany’s energy system is largely unchanged. It has long had high taxes on gasoline and diesel for transportation, and lower energy taxes on industry. Germany subsidizes industrial energy prices attempting to avoid the near-complete deindustrialization that the UK has suffered due to expensive energy policies across the board.

If the Climate Action Council ignores the requirements for reliable and affordable in Public Service Chapter 48, Article 4 § 66-p. Establishment of a renewable energy program  then the result will be same here.

Over the last 20 years, the United States has seen two shale revolutions, first in natural gas and then in oil. The net result has been the U.S. producing greater total energy than consumed in 2019 and 2020 for the first time since the 1950s. The U.S. went from the largest importer of natural gas to the second-largest exporter in less than fifteen years, all with private capital and innovation. The shale revolution lowered domestic and global energy prices due to surging growth in U.S. production. Surging US propane exports are reducing the cost and raising the availability of clean cooking and heating fuels for those in dire energy poverty still burning wood, dung, and agricultural waste to cook their daily meals. U.S. GHG emissions also plunged to the lowest level on a per capita basis since 1960. Imagine the world’s energy situation today with the American shale revolution.

We are starting to hamstring and squander the enormous benefits of the shale revolution. The same misinformed anti-hydrocarbon crusade that impoverished Europe and made it heavily dependent on Russia is now sweeping the US. California and New England had already adopted European-style energy policies driving up electricity prices, reducing grid reliability, and driving manufacturing and other energy-intensive, blue-collar jobs out of their states. Colorado is not far behind.

This article ignores New York but the Liberty ESG 2020 report calls out New York’s irrational war on hydrocarbons.

 

California, a state with a plentitude of blessings, managed to create the highest adjusted poverty rate in the nation with an expensive, unstable power grid increasingly reliant on coal-powered electricity imports from Nevada and Utah.

New England’s proximity to Pennsylvania’s clean low-cost natural gas resources was a stroke of luck. But it refused to expand the natural gas pipelines running from Pennsylvania, leaving it chronically short of natural gas, its largest source of electricity and cleanest option for home heating. Instead, it remains heavily reliant on fuel oil for home heating and occasionally imports LNG from Russia to keep the lights on. Last winter New England burned copious amounts of fuel oil to produce electricity which went out of fashion in the 1970s elsewhere in the US.

New York’s pipeline policies have also contributed to this absurd situation.

Texas has not been immune from energy illiteracy and collateral damage. Texas’ poorly designed electric grid, structured to encourage investment in renewables, led to hundreds dying last year in the Uri cold spell. No one would pay the same price for an Uber that showed up whenever convenient for the driver and dropped you off wherever they desired. But that is what Texas does with electricity: paying the same price for reliable electricity that balances the grid as they do for unreliable, unpredictable electricity. No wonder the reliability of the Texas grid has declined and is headed for more trouble.

Misplaced faith

The common thread in these cases is unrealistic beliefs in how rapidly new energy systems can replace demand for hydrocarbons, currently at all-time highs. Political intervention and miscalculation have led to over-investment in unreliable energy sources and, far worse, under-investment in reliable energy sources and infrastructure. The full costs of this colossal malinvestment have been somewhat hidden from view as spare capacity in the global energy network has mostly kept the train on the tracks. Now that excess capacity has shrunk to a critically low level, more impacts are hitting home.

New York’s environmental community fully subscribes to the naïve belief that today’s wind, solar, and energy storage technologies are capable of rapidly replacing hydrocarbons and are advocating for legislation to accelerate the transition requirements in the Climate Act.

Like the disease itself, the cure takes years to run its course. But that longer time frame is no excuse not to act now in a thoughtful fashion to begin rectifying historical blunders. Steel, cement, plastics and fertilizer are the four building blocks of the modern world and all are highly reliant on hydrocarbons.

Most critically this means removing the growing myriad obstacles to hydrocarbon development, justified in the name of fighting climate change. This is nonsense. Overly cumbersome hurdles to hydrocarbon development in the U.S. do nothing to change oil and gas demand. They simply displace U.S. production overseas where production practices are less stringent and less ethical. Resulting in increased GHG emissions and other air pollutants, reduced economic opportunities for Americans, and increased geopolitical leverage of Russia and OPEC — see the invasion of Ukraine.

Climate change is a long-term problem best addressed with technologies cost-effective today like natural gas, energy efficiency, and nuclear. The solution requires combining today’s commercial low-carbon energy sources with research and technology development in carbon sequestration, next-generation geothermal, and economical energy storage to make solar and wind more viable.

New York’s policies that prematurely eliminate nuclear and natural gas technologies that have markedly reduced air pollution and environmental impacts for unproven solar, wind, and energy storage technologies is analogous to jumping out of a perfectly good airplane without a parachute hoping that the concept of a parachute will be developed, proven technically and economically feasible, and then delivered in time to provide a soft landing. 

Today the price mechanism must destroy energy demand to bring it in line with short-term supply. This reduces the quality of living, especially for low-income families. The price mechanism will also incent new supply to the extent possible in the face of growing regulatory hurdles, infrastructure shortages, and capital starvation. A revaluation of all three of these factors is urgently needed. Is the overarching goal “energy transition” at all costs? Or is it humane policies that better human lives and expand opportunities for all? We need to replace the former mindset with the latter.

New York has the lowest per capita energy usage in the US so the low-hanging fruit for energy demand reductions are gone.  New York’s ban on hydraulic fracking ensures that we cannot control the price of new supply.  The inevitable result will be higher costs for low-income families.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, the belief that climate change is an existential threat has become a matter of religious dogma for many and no rational arguments can dissuade them from that belief.  I fear that the unrelenting propaganda that we can ban hydrocarbons and get an energy system that is greener and cheaper is leading to a similar dogmatic position.  Those emotional beliefs have brought us to the precipice of the Climate Act where costs will skyrocket and dangerous impacts to reliability are likely.  However, all the evidence suggests that the supporters of net-zero transition programs haven’t thought they would have to pay much for it, or alter their own lifestyles.  An honest communications rollout would explain that lifestyle changes are needed and that there are affordability and reliability risks.  It would also quantify the expected effect of the Climate Act on climate change so that New York’s citizens could have the opportunity to provide comments based on all information. 

I am not optimistic that will happen.  Stay tuned to this space because I am working on my own overview presentation of the Climate Act’s risks to reliability and affordability.  Needless to say it will very likely differ in tone and content from the State’s version.

New York Climate Act: What the Experts are Saying Now  

On February 6, 2022 an article of mine was posted: New York Climate Act: Is Anyone Listening to the Experts?  This post shows that the experts are saying now that there is a major problem with New York’s plan for a “zero-emissions” electric grid by 2040. Unfortunately, the message is buried in a technical analysis product and expressed in jargon so the warning will likely be ignored.

Background

New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act was passed in 2019 and became effective on 1/1/2020. The Climate Action Council has been working since then to develop plans to implement the Act.  Over the summer of 2021 the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA) and its consultant Energy + Environmental Economics (E3) prepared an Integration Analysis to “estimate the economy-wide benefits, costs, and GHG emissions reductions associated with pathways that achieve the Climate Act GHG emission limits and carbon neutrality goal”.  Integration Analysis implementation strategies were incorporated into the Draft Scoping Plan when it was released at the end of 2021. 

My last post here described the New York Independent System Operator’s (NYISO) 2021-2030 Comprehensive Reliability Plan (CRP) report (appendices) released late last year.  The difficulties raised in the report are so large that I raised the question whether any leader in New York listening to this expert opinion.  This post highlights results shown in a draft presentation that all but admits meeting the net-zero goals of the Climate Act are impossible on the mandated schedule.

Ultimate ProblemI have discussed the ultimate problem before so will only sum up here.  In their presentation to the Power Generation Advisory Panel on September 16, 2020 E3 included the following figure. The problem is that there are significant periods when winds are so low that wind generation output is negligible and, especially in the winter, solar output is also low: “The need for dispatchable resources is most pronounced during winter periods of high demand for electrified heating and transportation and lower wind and solar output”.  The presentation notes: “As the share of intermittent resources like wind and solar grows substantially, some studies suggest that complementing with firm, zero emission resources, such as bioenergy, synthesized fuels such as hydrogen, hydropower, carbon capture and sequestration, and nuclear generation could provide a number of benefits”.   New York has substantial existing hydro resources but cannot be expected to develop much more.  Nuclear is the obvious choice going forward but New York policies shut down 2,000 MW of nuclear capacity in the last couple of years so that is unlikely for the net-zero plan.  The ultimate problem is what Dispatchable Emission Free Resource (DEFR) will be used to supply electricity during multi-day winter wind lulls.  In the CRP NYISO stated:

“While there are hundreds of projects in the NYISO interconnection queue, there are none that would be capable of providing dispatchable emission-free resources that could perform on a multi-day period to maintain bulk power system reliability. Such resources are not yet widely commercially available.”

NYISO Analysis

A bit of background about the NYISO.  It is the Regional Transmission Organization/Independent System Operator for New York State.  Independent System Operators (ISO) grew out of the orders that enabled de-regulation of the electric system.  The concept of an Independent System Operator was one way for existing tight power pools to satisfy the requirement of providing non-discriminatory access to transmission. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission encouraged the voluntary formation of Regional Transmission Organizations (RTO) to administer the transmission grid on a regional basis throughout North America (including Canada).

The NYISO Electric System Planning Working Group (ESPWG) is the stakeholder group that provides Market Participant input on the NYISO’s comprehensive planning processes. On March 24, 2022 the NYISO Economic Planning Department made a presentation to the EPSWG on their System & Resource Outlook Update.  The presentation itself is a draft – “for discussion purposes only” so the specific numbers are not finalized.  The point of referencing this analysis is to show what the experts are saying now about the critical dispatchable emissions-free resource needed for the net-zero electric system transition.  The purpose of the System & Resource Outlook analysis is to project what electric generating resources will be needed to maintain a reliable electric system in the future.  The Economic Planning Department is collaborating with EPSWG and the presentation was to designed to solicit EPSWG and stakeholder input.

This type of capacity expansion modeling analysis develops a reference case that represents what is expected to happen to the system without any changes to “business as usual”.  Then the analysis develops “Policy” case simulations and the model calculates an optimized projection of what capacity is needed as the Climate Act policy is implemented. The presentation described 27 different policy case scenarios that covered a wide range of different possible outlooks for the future.  For example, they included two different low load projections for the future that, not surprisingly, were predicted to need much less future generation capacity.  Scenarios to consider increased imports from Canada, different cost projections for wind and solar capacity, changes in nuclear retirements, and lower hydro output were also included.  In addition, there were six scenarios that considered different future projections for DEFR were included. 

In response to a request from the EPSWG three DEFR build types were addressed:

  • High Capital, Low Operating (HcLo)
  • Medium Capital, Medium Operating (McMo)
  • Low Capital, High Operating (LcHo)

As has been the case for all the other analyses to date, these build types are only proxies for what could happen if a DEFR were to be developed with the identified characteristics. The authors chose three cost and operational profiles to show what kinds of DEFR would be built.  These build types were included so that the capacity expansion model can provide solutions to load requirements and build resources if they are economic to build using the assumed characteristics.

What the Experts are Saying

The following two slides from the presentation are the focus of my claim that the experts are warning there are problems with the New York transition to net-zero.  The first slide describes one of the policy case scenarios in the analysis described above.  I have highlighted one of the caveats: Significant uncertainty related to cost / availability of DEFR technologies, as well as regulatory definition of “zero-emissions” compliant technologies.

Figure 1: NYISO System & Resource Outlook Update Dispatchable Emission Free Resource (DEFR) Scenario Description in March 24, 2022 Presentation to EPSWG.

The following DEFR capacity expansion scenarios slide describes the assumptions used for five different scenarios.  I have highlighted the note: Assumption included in the scenarios are not an endorsement or estimate of the validity of the values modified. Some scenarios do not represent realistic system performance but are helpful in identifying directional impacts and sensitivity to key variables.

Figure 2: NYISO System & Resource Outlook Update Dispatchable Emission Free Resource (DEFR) Scenario Description in March 24, 2022 Presentation to EPSWG.

Experts from the NYISO, the organization primarily responsible for keeping the lights on, said there is “Significant uncertainty related to cost / availability of DEFR technologies, as well as regulatory definition of “zero-emissions” compliant technologies” and that “Some scenarios do not represent realistic system performance but are helpful in identifying directional impacts and sensitivity to key variables”.  For people familiar with the jargon and the electric system these are red flags.  Let me unpack the statements for everyone else.

Dispatchable emissions free resource technologies do not exist at this time to provide power for the long-duration periods when wind and solar resources are expected to provide minimal generation.  This kind of technical report says “significant uncertainty” because they can’t flatly say “we don’t think this will occur”.  Because they don’t think there is a resource that will be available, they certainly can’t guess a cost.  A scenario that does not represent “realistic system performance” pretty clearly says that we cannot expect the system to perform as needed with the scenario’s resources.  This is as close to telling the Climate Action Council that their “plan” to go to zero emissions by 2040 is not going to happen as it gets without actually explicitly saying that.  In a perfect world an “independent” organization would just tell it like it is, but this is the state of New York so politics color everything including the future of the electric system.

Furthermore, during the presentation discussion the point was made that the capacity projected numbers indicate an enormous amount of generation is needed. That result was described as just “stunning”.  Someone asked whether anyone on the Council is looking at what this means.  These experts are clearly worried about the enormous resources that have to be built to meet to transition the New York electric grid to a net-zero.  That concern is above and beyond my concern about DEFRs.

There is one other aspect of the first statement that needs to be addressed.   The reference to the “regulatory definition of ‘zero-emissions’ compliant technologies” is included because the Climate Action Council has not defined what is meant by “zero-emissions”.  Several of the most vocal members of the Council believe that zero-emissions means no combustion and are determined to impose that restriction.  All of the New York analyses that have tried to project what types of generation and how much from each type will be needed for the future net-zero electric system have included combustion generation using hydrogen or renewable natural gas.  The leaders of the Council have not had the courage to tell the members who have no reliability responsibilities and little relevant expertise “Sorry, even if we combust those arguably zero-emission fuels, there still are great risks to a feasible system that is reliable.  If we don’t use them the feasibility risks are so high that the system will be unreliable”.

Conclusion

The NYISO capacity expansion modeling has been forced to be consistent with the Draft Scoping Plan by using DEFR technology and building enormous amounts of generating capacity.  The capacity resource modeling is based on what is needed to keep the lights on rather than whether dispatchable emissions-free resources that provide those resources will actually be available.  The authors of the report essentially say that they don’t think DEFR technologies will be available but I don’t think the message is blunt enough to force the Climate Action Council to respond.

Not so long ago the idea that natural gas could be used a bridge fuel until these aspirational dispatchable emission-free resources could be tested at the scale needed, perform like a natural gas fired generating unit, and provide power at a similar cost, was generally accepted as a rational approach. The analogy for skipping the need for a bridge fuel is that proponents want to jump out of a perfectly good airplane without a parachute because they assume that the concept of a parachute will be developed, proven technically and economically feasible, and then delivered in time to provide a soft landing.  That cannot end well and this won’t either.

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Roger Caiazza blogs on New York energy and environmental issues at Pragmatic Environmentalist of New York.  More details on the Climate Leadership & Community Protection Act are available here. This represents his opinion and not the opinion of any of his previous employers or any other company with which he has been associated.

Climate Act Public Hearing Announcement

New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act) has a legal mandate for New York State greenhouse gas emissions to meet the ambitious net-zero goal 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”.  On March 3 the Council finally got around to having a meeting to discuss the plan for 2022 (recording here).  Subsequently they announced the public hearing schedule.  The purpose of this post is to publicize those hearings, emphasize the need for public involvement, and, for anyone who wants to submit comments but hesitates to submit them directly for whatever reason, to offer the opportunity for me to submit your comments anonymously.  

I have written extensively on implementation of the Climate Act because I believe the ambitions for a zero-emissions economy outstrip available renewable technology such that it will adversely affect reliability and affordability, risk safety, affect lifestyles, will have worse impacts on the environment than the purported effects of climate change in New York, and 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 Act requires the Climate Action Council to “[e]valuate, using the best available economic models, emission estimation techniques and other scientific methods, the total potential costs and potential economic and non-economic benefits of the plan for reducing greenhouse gases, and make such evaluation publicly available” in the Scoping Plan.  The integration analysis developed by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and its consultants was used to develop the Draft Scoping Plan that was released for public comment on December 30, 2021. At this time they are accepting public comments on the draft through June 10, 2022.

Public Hearings

The press release announcement of the public hearing schedule said that the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), Co-Chairs of the Climate Action Council will host eight in-person hearings in locations across the State, as well as two virtual hearings. In-person hearings will also be live-streamed to allow for remote viewing of the proceedings. “All persons, organizations, corporations, and government agencies are encouraged to attend the public hearings and to submit oral or written comments.”

Climate Action Council Public Hearing Schedule
DateTimeLocationVenue
Tuesday, April 5, 20224:00 PMBronxBronx Community College
Roscoe Brown Student Center
Hall of Fame Play House
2155 University Avenue
Bronx, NY 10453
Wednesday, April 6, 20224:00 PMBrookhavenBrookhaven Town Hall
1 Independence Hill
Farmingville, NY 11738
Tuesday, April 12, 20224:00 PMBinghamtonBinghamton University 
Symposium Hall
85 Murray Hill Road
Vestal, NY 13850
Thursday, April 14, 2022 4:00 PM AlbanyEmpire State Plaza
Meeting Room 6 
Albany, NY 12242
Tuesday, April 26, 2022 4:00 PMSyracuseSUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry 
Gateway Center 
1 Forestry Drive 
Syracuse, NY 13210 
Wednesday, April 27, 2022 3:30 PMBuffaloBuffalo & Erie County Public Library 
Mason O. Damon Auditorium 
1 Lafayette Square 
Buffalo, NY 14203 
Tuesday, May 3, 2022 4:00 PMBrooklynNew York City College of Technology 
The Theater at City Tech 
285 Jay Street 
Brooklyn, NY 11201 
Saturday, May 7, 2022 10:00 AMVIRTUALVia WebEx

Event number: 2599 706 6384
Event password: climate
Call in number: +1-415-655-0003
Call in access code: 2599 706 6384
Tuesday, May 10, 2022 4:00 PMTupper LakeThe Wild Center 
45 Museum Drive 
Tupper Lake, NY 12986 
Wednesday, May 11, 20224:00 PMVIRTUALVia WebEx

Event number: 2595 530 3236
Event password: climate
Call in number: +1-415-655-0003
Call in access code: 2595 530 3236

Commenting Instructions

Pre-registration is encouraged but not required for the in-person hearings. Priority in seating and speaking will be given to those who pre-register. Individuals can pre-register at the Climate Act website. Hearings will be webcast for viewing purposes only, professionally recorded, and transcribed as part of the official record and posted on the Climate Act website.

Members of the public who want to provide oral comment must attend either in-person or join a virtual hearing. Equal weight will be given to oral and written statements. 

Written comments can be submitted through June 10, 2022, via the online public comment form, via email to scopingplan@nyserda.ny.gov, or via U.S. Mail to Attention: Draft Scoping Plan Comments, NYSERDA, 17 Columbia Circle, Albany, NY 12203-6399.

Remarks

The description of the public meetings did not mention the plan for public speakers.  At the March 3, 2022 Climate Action Council meeting (33:27 in the recording) they noted that they plan to limit speakers to two minutes.  I think that is insufficient time for anything meaningful.  Instead, it is about enough time for a speaker to say that they are in favor or not in favor of the plan.  Ultimately this means the Council is simply going through the motions for the public input requirement of the Climate Act.  Nonetheless it still is useful to attend because it is certain that the activists will be there and if substantial numbers of skeptical comments are received it may give the Council the idea that not everyone is on board with the draft scoping plan.

My experience with respect to the public comments is that they are mostly for show. Written submittals are the real opportunity to provide substantive comments.  In this instance I recommend that you copy your legislators on your submittals.  If you are looking for ideas for comments there is a page on the Citizens Guide that lists the comments that I have submitted.

In response to requests I prepare a summary of the articles posted here that is sent out every couple of weeks.  One of the recipients contacted me and suggested that there may be people who would like to comment but do not feel comfortable submitting comments under their own name and email address.  If any reader is in that position, I offer to submit your comments though my name and this blog email address.  The introduction to the comments would simply state that I am submitting comments under my name because a reader of my blog does not feel comfortable submitting comments because of potential ramifications with his employer.  Of course, I can only make this offer for comments that are credible and that decision will be made in communication with the author.

Conclusion

One of the readers of this blog wrote: “I’m not saying that people shouldn’t comment, however, it almost feels like we are lending credence to a farce of a process.  I am not being critical of everyone’s efforts; I am just wondering if it really matters”.  I responded that I too often wrestle with the question whether participating in the public hearings and comments has any value.  Frequently the answer is in the back of the book so it is hard to claim any value to the effort required to comment.  Unfortunately, there are indications that this might be the case for this public input process.

I think in this instance that it is important to let the people in charge know that this law goes too far, too fast and that this cure could easily be worse than the alleged problems.  I cling to the belief that there are many politicians who privately question the scope of the Climate Act but are afraid to object.  They have been bullied into silence by a vocal segment of society and their party leadership.  I am hoping that there will be enough of a public outcry that when implementing legislation is considered later this year that they will have the courage to stand up for their constituents and say no to, for example, changing building codes to ban fossil fuel use in homes.

In conclusion I think that comments have value and encourage readers to comment.  Don’t forget that if you have problems submitting your own comments that I am willing to submit your comments.

New York Needs $15 Billion in Climate Funding Now – Not!

One of the most glaring omissions in New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) is the fact that it did not include a funding mechanism.  In the leadup for the New York budget NY Renews has organized a $15 billion budget demand for climate justice in the New York State 2022-2023 budget.  This post comments on an opinion piece written by New York State Assemblymember Dr. Anna Kelles supporting the demand and the CLCPA.

I have written extensively on implementation of the CLCPA because I believe the ambitions for a zero-emissions economy outstrip available renewable technology such that it will adversely affect reliability and affordability, risk safety, affect lifestyles, will have worse impacts on the environment than the purported effects of climate change in New York, and 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.

NY Renews Budget Demand

This post is not going to address the budget demand described here directly.  Instead, I am going to focus on the opinion piece written by the Assemblymember in support of it.  For background here is a summary of the demand:

NY Renews is currently organizing around a $15 billion budget demand for climate justice in the New York State 2022-2023 budget. We are calling on the New York State legislature to allocate funds to the priorities outlined in the Climate and Community Investment Act: community investment, good green jobs, building a renewable economy, making polluters pay for the just transition, protecting ratepayers, and ultimately making New York the nation’s climate leader.

Budget Demand Materials:

      • One-page description of why New York State needs $15 billion for climate, jobs, and justice in the 2022–2023 state budget
      • Where our $15 billion ask comes from

Anna Kelles Opinion

Democratic Assemblymember Dr. Anna Kelles represents the 125th District, including Tompkins County and the southwest of Cortland County.  This district includes the metropolitan areas of Ithaca and Cortland as well as 17 smaller municipal towns and villages in both counties. For those readers unfamiliar with the area Ithaca is home to Cornell University and Ithaca College and a college in the State University of New York system is in Cortland.  This is not a conservative rural district.   On March 11, 2022 her opinion piece “New York Needs $15 Billion in Climate Funding Now” was published in The Ithaca Voice.  Because I think it is a good summary of the views on climate change of the progressive wing of the New York Democratic Party I have provided the text with my indented and italicized comments on it below. 

Last week, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a comprehensive report on the impacts of climate change on humanity and our planet. UN secretary-general António Guterres called the report “an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership.” Our window to mitigate the very worst impacts of climate change is narrowing. Across the globe, we are already experiencing destructive storms, flooding, droughts, and fires. To protect our planet, preserve our food systems, and adapt, we must take bold, transformational action now.

There is another side to the report released by the IPCC.  Roger Pielke, Jr. writes that the IPCC is “an important organization with a primary purpose to assess the scientific literature on climate in order to inform policy” but notes that the IPCC report “has strayed far from its purpose to assess and evaluate the scientific literature, and has positioned itself much more as a cheerleader for emissions reductions and produced a report that supports such advocacy”. He goes on to explain that there are many examples where the report cited by Dr. Kelles does not accurately represent the literature used to reference its claims of impacts due climate change that are being used to justify mitigation actions like the CLCPA.  He also points out that damages are based on what would happen if climate changes projected for 2100 are imposed upon current society. These studies have in fact eliminated the possibility of adaptation in projecting the future even though the report is supposed to consider adaptation.

 Any impacts of any air pollution assessment are directly proportional to the projected emissions considered.  Pielke notes that many of the studies used as the basis for the scarier claims are based on emissions from “the out-of-date and implausible extreme RCP8.5 scenario to project climate changes for 2100. So not only is society frozen in time, unable to adapt — which is clearly implausible, but future climate change is projected based on an extreme scenario that is also implausible. Implausibility built on implausibility offers no practical insight as to the role of adaptation in reducing vulnerabilities and increasing resilience. We might expect this sort of thing from a passionate advocacy group spinning science for theatrical effect, but not the IPCC.” 

Three years ago, New York State took a critical first step. We passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), which requires us to achieve 70% renewable electricity by 2030, 100% zero-emission electricity generation by 2040. The law also mandates that we cut climate change pollutants by half by 2030 and an 85% reduction by 2050. The CLCPAion Council (CAC) established by the CLCPA recently outlined a plan to reach these goals. According to a NYSERDA analysis in the plan, the state needs to spend $10 billion annually, with increases every year, to meet our 2050 goal of a fully net-zero economy. Other researchers, including those at the University of Massachusetts Political Economy Research Institute (PERI), put the yearly number at $31 billion. We will not achieve the substantial infrastructure change in our energy grid, buildings, transportation system, agriculture and other critical sectors needed to meet our climate goals with our current planned investments.  

The estimate that the state needs to spend $10 billion annually comes from an Integration Analysis claim that “in the early years on the order of $10 billion per year, equivalent to 0.6% of GSP in 2030 and that in the later years on the order of $50 billion per year, equivalent to 2.0% of GSP in 2050”.  The problem is that the numbers are not documented well enough to determine if they are credible claims and the fact that other researchers project costs three times higher suggests that the cost estimates are suspect.  In addition, I believe that Dr. Kelles does not realize that the NYSERDA analysis gives net direct costs relative to a reference case that includes expenses needed to reach the CLCPA targets which makes the net direct costs presented lower than what will be the case.  I believe that the renewable energy deployment  costs are vastly underestimated.

The truth is that we cannot afford not to act now and invest the necessary funds to meet our climate goals. According to the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), each ton of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) causes more than $125 in damages. Given the DEC’s most recent 2019 estimate of net CO2 emissions (350 million metric tons) this results in nearly $30 billion annual cost as a result of climate pollution in New York State. Every storm that hits the downstate region, every warm winter reducing tourism in the Adirondacks and the Finger Lakes, every flood destroying crops upstate, has a significant direct cost to New Yorkers. Every child and medically vulnerable individual that requires costly medical care and hospitalization from breathing in polluted air is a substantial and unnecessary cost to our state. All those who experience a disproportionate level of air pollution in predominantly black and brown communities due to our current fossil fuel-based energy production system is a healthcare cost and a loss of economic productivity. We can reduce all of these costs by prioritizing emissions reductions. 

The DEC analysis of the damages caused by a ton of CO2 is biased and flawed.  I have found that the CLCPA manipulates emissions to increase benefits and uses a lower discount rate than current Federal guidance resulting in societal benefits of GHG emission reductions that are 5.4 times higher for 2019 emissions than other jurisdictions.  The largest impact of the CLCPA for these benefits is based on an incorrect guidance for calculating benefits.  In particular, the benefits of reductions are counted multiple times.  Kelles statement that the avoided cost benefit is a nearly $30 billion annual cost, indicates that she has made the same mistake.  It is incorrect to count the avoided cost benefits calculated out to 2300 more than once.  To do so would be the same as if claiming that if you lost five pounds ten years ago that you lost 50 pounds total.  If only that error is corrected then the costs are greater than the benefits for the CLCPA.

Kelles statements about storms causing significant direct costs and that we can reduce those costs by prioritizing emissions reductions fails on two counts.  In the first place she does not understand the difference between weather and climate.  It is very unlikely that every aspect of every storm that is deemed unusual and thus caused by climate change by the media and opportunistic politicians is, in fact, due to changes in the climate.  Instead, the majority of those impacts are due to natural weather variability.  Ultimately, the claimed existential threat of climate change is hype.  In the second place, even if reducing CO2 emissions could be proven to have an effect on New York weather, New York’s emissions are less than half a percent of the world’s emissions.  Because global emissions have been increasing by more than a half a percent annually for several decades, any effect on any of the impacts alleged to occur because of climate change from the CLCPA CO2 emissions reductions will be erased by increases elsewhere in less than a year.

It is clear that it is significantly cheaper to invest in climate solutions than to stand behind business as usual. I’m calling on my colleagues in the legislature and the Governor to allocate $15 billion for climate, jobs, and justice in this year’s budget. This investment is both reasonable and necessary to meet New York’s climate goals, protect our state from the worst elements of the climate crisis, and prepare our workforce for the important green jobs of the future. 

A quick review of what has happened in Europe as they have tried to implement their own version of a new-zero energy economy demonstrates that it is not cheaper to invest in climate solutions.  As Europe took apart its electric system by closing coal and nuclear operating for its idealized energy future costs have sky-rocketed.  In the 4th quarter of 2021, the International Energy Agency reported that average European wholesale electricity prices were more than four times their 2015-2020 average. Households are set to pay an average of 54% more for energy than they did two years ago.  Until we have affordable and reliable low-carbon energy, the rush to the net-zero goal of the CLCPA will come at enormous expense to the public.

Last year, New York State took in nearly $13 billion in greater revenue than expected. Although it is important to replenish our reserve funds, investing a portion of these gains into reducing our fossil fuel dependency, building up our renewable energy infrastructure, expanding our green jobs sector, and investing in environmental justice communities that will reduce future costs and provide clear social and economic protections is a prudent investment. Every year we spend $1.5 billion on tax subsidies to the fossil fuel industry prolonging our commitment and dependency on dirty and economically volatile fossil fuels. This is another source of funding that could be diverted to an effort to move our physical infrastructure and economy forward into the new green economy instead of backwards on fossil fuel dependency.  Finally, we need to reexamine our economic development investments through the state’s Regional Economic Development Council’s. Instead of prioritizing large scale initiatives averaging about $9 billion annually that are politically motivated and provide little economic return and even fewer jobs, we can shift investments to a transparent and comprehensive focus on green energy manufacturing and infrastructure development. Rather than focusing taxpayer dollars on direct investments in for-profit companies, we should prioritize our communities and build a transition to a fully renewable and stable economy. 

I have no knowledge of the New York State budget so I won’t comment on most of the claims of this paragraph.  I do wonder about the claim that “Every year we spend $1.5 billion on tax subsidies to the fossil fuel industry”.  In other analyses that make similar claims it turns out that a significant portion of the fossil fuel subsidies claimed turn out to be home heating assistance programs that help low-income residences pay their fossil fuel bills. 

I believe a winning social and economic strategy for New York is to listen to the world’s leading scientists, stop funding fossil fuels, and start funding climate, jobs, and justice starting today with the recommended annual $10-15 billion in our state budget.  

I disagree. As proposed, I believe New York’s CLCPA will markedly increase the cost of energy and lead to blackouts which will severely impact those least able to afford the resulting costs.

Conclusion

A recent article by Judith Curry, “A ‘Plan B’ for addressing climate change and the energy transition” in the latest issue of International Affairs Forum, Climate Change and Energy sums up the problem with all net-zero energy transition programs:

“In a nutshell, we’ve vastly oversimplified both the problem of climate change and its solutions.  The complexity, uncertainty, and ambiguity of the existing knowledge about climate change is being kept away from the policy and public debates.  The dangers of manmade climate change have been confounded with natural weather and climate variability. The solutions that have been proposed for rapidly eliminating fossil fuels are technologically and politically infeasible on a global scale.” 

I would only add that the CAC has not provided a feasibility plan for the CLCPA that proves rapidly eliminating fossil fuels in New York is technologically feasible.  She goes on to describe a framework for an alternative approach:

Here’s a framework for how we can get to a Plan B.  A more pragmatic approach to dealing with climate change drops the timelines and emissions targets, in favor of accelerating energy innovation. Whether or not we manage to drastically curtail our carbon dioxide emissions in the coming decades, we need to reduce our vulnerability to extreme weather and climate events.

Ultimately the problem is that today’s renewable energy technology is just not up to the task.  I have described other more reasoned approaches consistent with Dr. Curry that recognize technological limitations and are at odds to the path advocated by the CLCPA and Kelles (here and here).  Based on my evaluation of the CLCPA in over 170 blog posts, the failure to accept that we just don’t have acceptable options for the net-zero transition on the schedule proposed can only end badly for New York. Throwing $15 billion towards CLCA implementation could be better spent on water infrastructure, low and middle income energy efficiency programs, and energy innovation.  Any money spent implementing existing wind, solar, and energy storage technology is a waste.

New York 10GW Solar Roadmap’s Disconnect from Reality

New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act) has a legal mandate for New York State greenhouse gas emissions to meet the ambitious net-zero goal by 2050 and has included specific renewable energy deployment targets.  On December 17, 2021 the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and New York State Department of Public Service Staff (DPS Staff) released “New York’s 10 GW Distributed Solar Roadmap: Policy Options for Continued Growth in Distributed Solar” that proposes a pathway to achieve a goal of 10 GW of distributed solar deployment by 2030.  This post addresses the solar policy options related to agricultural protection and land use in that document and what is actually happening to agricultural land as a result of New York’s poor planning.

I have written extensively on implementation of the Climate Act because I believe the ambitions for a zero-emissions economy outstrip available renewable technology such that it will adversely affect reliability and affordability, risk safety, affect lifestyles, will have worse impacts on the environment than the purported effects of climate change in New York, and 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.

Background

The Executive Summary in the New York’s 10 GW Distributed Solar Roadmap: Policy Options for Continued Growth in Distributed Solar document describes the plan:

The current 6 gigawatt (GW) NY-Sun distributed solar program target is nearly achieved, with more than 93 percent of the target either completed or at an advanced stage of development.1 As called upon by New York State Governor Kathy Hochul during Climate Week 2021, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and New York State Department of Public Service Staff (DPS Staff) have analyzed the current distributed solar market in New York State and found that costs and NYSERDA-provided incentives have declined over time, while a thriving solar market has created approximately 12,000 jobs in New York. Together, these facts demonstrate the success of the NY-Sun program in transforming New York’s distributed solar industry. Additionally, NYSERDA directed further analysis of future revenues, costs, and market support mechanisms needed for distributed solar development beyond the 6 GW target.

Informed by this analysis, NYSERDA and DPS Staff developed this Distributed Solar Roadmap (Roadmap) to propose a pathway to achieve 10 GW of distributed solar deployment by 2030. With the current 6 GW by 2025 goal nearly achieved, the Roadmap explores various options for setting incentive levels to achieve the expanded NY-Sun goal of an incremental 4 GW (Incremental 4 GW Target). These options include various procurement structures, pricing models, and funding mechanisms

The press release bragging about the new framework to achieve at least 10 GW of distributed solar by 2030 included the following statement by Rory M. Christian, CEO of the Department of Public Service:

“I would like to thank Governor Hochul for her ardent support, encouraging the development of and access to solar energy in New York State. The roadmap that has been developed provides New York with the tools it needs to accelerate the transition to a clean-energy economy and meet our critically important climate goals.”

Since the NY-Sun initiative was launched, NYSERDA has worked closely with local governments, agricultural communities, other state agencies, and a wide range of stakeholders to ensure that projects are developed and sited in a manner that fully considers land use and are advanced in close collaboration with local stakeholders and agricultural communities. NYSERDA will extend its ongoing technical assistance for all municipalities in the state to assist localities in aligning solar development with local priorities. In addition, projects sited in New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets’ designated Agricultural Districts must follow Guidelines for Agricultural Mitigation for Solar Energy Projects and will be subject to an additional review process with the NYSDAM, as well as with local agricultural boards. Those projects that exceed 30 acres of impact to prime agricultural soils will be subject to mitigation fees.

Agricultural Protection and Land Use

This section lists the contents of Section III.a.4 Agricultural Protection and Land Use.   In my opinion, if the policy is employed as they claim, then it should offer protection to prime farmland and local farming communities from distributed solar project development.

Farmland protection and the maintenance of a vibrant agricultural economy are important State policy goals. New York State recognizes the importance of collaboration between the agriculture and clean energy sectors as a critical part of the State’s overall decarbonization strategy. NYSERDA works in close coordination with the Department of Agriculture and Markets (NYSAGM) and other stakeholders to responsibly support the development of renewable energy projects. In the 2019 NY-Sun Expansion Petition, NYSERDA described the interaction of distributed solar with agriculture in New York:

“The majority of projects in [the Upstate C/I] market sector are expected to be ground-mounted arrays ranging between 5 MW and 7.5 MW in size, which occupy approximately 20 – 25 acres of land, typically on rural properties that are leased or sold to the solar developer by the landowner. Notably, this includes properties that are currently used, or could potentially be used for, agricultural production. While NYSERDA expects that the total agricultural acreage utilized for distributed solar projects will remain modest as compared to total farmland in New York State, through its implementation efforts, NYSERDA will act to ensure that negative impacts to farmland and the State’s agricultural economy are avoided and minimized, and where they are unavoidable, mitigated. NYSERDA, working with partner agencies and stakeholders, has already taken multiple actions along these lines and will pursue additional actions under an expanded NY-Sun program.” (This section is from the NY-Sun Petition, p. 21.) 

In the subsequent two years, NYSERDA and NYSAGM have continued to work in partnership to put in place requirements for solar projects to minimize impact to farming and agricultural soils.  (These requirements include, inter alia: complying with New York State Agriculture and Markets Law; submitting appropriate notices to NYSAGM and local Agricultural and Farmland Protection boards; executing a copy of the Guidelines for Solar Energy Projects – Construction Mitigation for Agricultural Lands document published by NYSAGM; and making a Mitigation Fund payment or committing to other mitigation measures where impacted agricultural soils exceed 30 acres.) These requirements have already demonstrated their effectiveness: In 2021 to date, all 50 distributed solar projects subject to these requirements, totaling 1,037 acres of affected area, have committed to avoiding and minimizing impacts to prime soils in consideration of the solar layout. For 48 of these projects, all unaffected portions of the farms hosting the solar projects, a total of 3,385 acres, will remain in agricultural production. Many of the farmers hosting projects on a portion of their land report that the steady lease revenue from the solar projects has enabled them to continue farming on most of their property despite challenging agricultural economic pressures.

This Roadmap foresees the existing requirements being extended to distributed solar projects developed through the Incremental 4 GW Target. The State’s Agricultural Technical Working Group (A-TWG), an independent advisory body convened by NYSERDA early in 2021, will continue to serve as the primary forum for stakeholder and interagency collaboration on policies and practices pertaining to distributed solar and agriculture.  Guidance provided by the A-TWG and the New York State Farmland Protection Working Group will continue to inform agricultural preservation and mitigation requirements and practices going forward. NYSERDA also continues to provide and expand resources to landowners and local governments through the New York State Solar Guidebook and direct technical assistance.

Utility-Scale Solar Reality

Assuming that these numbers are correct, then I applaud the efforts of NYSERDA and NYSAGM.  There is a major problem however.  The majority of these distributed solar projects are “expected to be ground-mounted arrays ranging between 5 MW and 7.5 MW in size, which occupy approximately 20 – 25 acres of land”.  The reality is that a large fraction of the projected solar generation capacity will be utility-scale solar facilities that are much larger and have bigger impacts than the developers admit.

For example, consider two utility-scale solar projects, the Trelina Solar Project and Garnet Energy Center

That are both being developed by NextEra Energy Resources. According to NextEra, Trelina will have 80 MW of solar capacity located on 418 acres within a 1,067-acre project area.  Garnet is a 200-megawatt solar project with 20 megawatts of energy storage with a project area of 2,288 acres and facility area (area within in project fence line) of 1,054 acres. Both projects have Article Ten applications and Michael Saviola, an Associate Environmental Analyst with the New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets (“Department”) submitted testimony describing the nature and extent of potential impacts of the projects on agricultural land.

Saviola’s prepared testimony responded to the question whether the projects had been “sited to avoid and/or minimize impacts to land uses within the Study Area and Project Area to the maximum extent practicable”.  For Trelina his testimony noted that “the Department finds the Applications proposed siting is not consistent with the Department’s siting policy because it will occur on more that 10% of active farmland classified as Prime Farmland”. It goes on to explain that “the Department estimates that greater than 68% of the of the limits of disturbance includes the conversion of farmland classified as Prime Farmland Soil”.  While the application claims that solar panels will cover 325 acres, the testimony shows that “areas located outside of fenced areas will likely become fallow or orphaned as a result of screening requirements and setbacks” and this “will eliminate crop production on much more than 325 acres of agriculture lands for a minimum of 30 years -worth of crop yields from some of the most productive farmland soils in the State”. The application claims that there will be temporary impact to agricultural land and farming, but the testimony argues that “a 30-year loss of the production of crops, livestock and livestock products constitutes a permanent conversion to a nonagricultural use.”  Finally, even though a decommissioning plan has been prepared, the testimony states: “there is virtually no reasonable assurance that the project will be decommissioned and that the full resumption back to agricultural use will be reestablished.”

Saviola’s testimony for Garnet was very similar.  The conclusion is the same: “the Department finds the Applications proposed siting is not consistent with the Department’s siting policy”.  In this instance almost 30% of the project will be on active farmland classified as Prime Farmland.  His testimony explains that “the Application update states that the project will occupy nearly 1,000 acres of land to generate up to 200 MW of electricity, however, areas located outside of fenced areas will likely become fallow or orphaned as a result of screening requirements and setbacks”. Nearly three times as much land will lose crop production on “agricultural lands for a minimum of 30 years-worth of crop yields from some of the most productive farmland soils in the State”. The same points about temporary claimed impacts and decommissioning assurances were made.  His testimony concludes: “It is the Department’s opinion that the facility will result in or contribute to a significant and adverse disproportionate agricultural impact upon the local farming community. They have not avoided, offset or minimized agricultural impacts to the maximum extent practicable using verifiable measures”.

Despite the recommendations of the Department, on November 30, 2021 the New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment granted approval to Trelina Solar Energy Center to build and operate the 80-megawatt solar farm.  According to a state press release, the Siting Board’s decision “follows a detailed review and robust public participation process to ensure that the solar farm meets or exceeds all siting requirements”.  Clearly, the fact that the Department of Agriculture and Markets finding that the project was not consistent with their siting policy belies that claim.

The Garnet Energy Center Article Ten public comment period is open until May 1, 2022.  While Saviola’s testimony is similar for both cases it is not identical.  The Department requested information from NextEra and documented the responses.  In general, NextEra’s response to questions simply repeated statements in the already submitted materials.  The testimony notes that in response to a question about agricultural co-utilization: “The Applicant indicates that they have not considered incorporating agricultural co-utilization as part of the Project. They indicate that there is not sufficient space for co-utilization.” Saviola goes on to say he does not agree with this response: “There is ample space inside the fence for agricultural activities such as sheep grazing, apiary incorporation and pollinator species, and small-scale grass hay production, nor have they demonstrated any reduced impacts to agriculture from the increased density of the panels. The Applicant should work with hosting farmers to explore dual-use, or agrivotalic projects.”

NY-Sun Disconnect from Reality

As quoted earlier the State’s press release about the release of the framework was all praise.  It claimed that NYSERDA has worked closely with local governments, agricultural communities, other state agencies, and a wide range of stakeholders to ensure that projects are developed and sited in a manner that fully considers land use and are advanced in close collaboration with local stakeholders and agricultural communities. In the future, they state that “projects sited in New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets’ designated Agricultural Districts must follow Guidelines for Agricultural Mitigation for Solar Energy Projects and will be subject to an additional review process with the NYSDAM, as well as with local agricultural boards.”  The problem is that those initiatives only address distributed-solar projects.

Table 1 lists projected future New York State solar generating capacity for the Reference Case, Scenario 1 that represents recommendations by the Advisory Panels and Scenarios 2-4 that represent Integration Analysis mitigation scenarios.  The mitigation scenarios were constructed so that the Climate Act targets could be achieved.  Unfortunately, the Draft Scoping Plan does not document how much of the solar capacity is expected to come from distributed solar projects and how much from utility-scale projects.  Assuming half is utility-scale solar that means we can expect 32.3 GW of industrial solar installations in Scenario 2. Two utility-scale projects are discussed in this article and they have average 5.26 MW per acre of fenced area covered with panels.  Using that estimate, Scenario 2 utility-scale solar project solar panels will cover 170,000 acres or 266 square miles in 2050.  The Department testimony explains that considering only the fenced area impacts underestimates the amount of land that actually be lost to most agricultural uses.  The reality is that the impacts for utility-scale solar project will dwarf the land taken up by distributed solar projects (much of which is sited on buildings)  in NY-Sun and there are no equivalent farmland protections for massive utility-scale projects under development.

Table 1: Mitigation Scenarios Solar Capacity (MW)

Integration Analysis – Key Drivers and Outputs (updated December 29, 2021)

 2020202520302035204020452050
Reference Case2,5928,20113,64414,38714,66114,94219,956
Scenario 12,5928,20116,95425,58240,34350,12762,463
Scenario 22,5928,20118,85228,99443,43253,08964,621
Scenario 32,5928,20116,76228,62541,42049,04260,604
Scenario 42,5928,20118,06029,84141,62353,45065,210

Discussion

I submitted comments on March 17 to the Garnet Energy Center Article Ten application docket contending that the project should follow responsible solar siting guidelines.  In my post describing the comment submittal I argued that responsible siting guidelines based on the American Farmland Trust report, the state’s policies for distributed solar described above in the 10GW Solar Roadmap and the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority’s Agricultural Technical Working Group analyses will likely eventually be used to form the basis of a state-wide policy for utility-scale solar development.  Without those policies in place, it is inappropriate to allow projects like the Garnet project to proceed.  Obviously, the fact that the Department of Ag & Markets testified that “the facility will result in or contribute to a significant and adverse disproportionate agricultural impact upon the local farming community” demonstrates that the project is inconsistent with the NY-Sun’s commitment to responsible solar development.

Given the magnitude of the potential impacts to prime farmland I also submitted a comment to the Climate Action Council recommending that they impose a moratorium on the development of utility-scale solar projects until permitting requirements have been established for responsible solar siting and protection of prime farmlands.  I said that even though the Department of Agriculture and Markets has policies on solar energy projects, the Article Ten Trelina Solar Project was approved despite the fact that it did not adhere to that policy.  I argued that, at a minimum, all utility-scale projects should adhere to those policies.  A moratorium would not only protect communities and farmland but it would also help meet Climate Act goals.  Using the Draft Scoping Plan solar projections and land use estimates for solar projects in the Article Ten queue in 2020 suggest that the smallest Scoping Plan scenario solar equipment area covered will be 266 square miles.  Moreover, there are Climate Act considerations.  The law has a “net-zero” target by 2050 that requires 15% sequestration.  One of the strategies to meet that target is soil carbon management.  Taking productive farmland out of production hinders that goal. 

Conclusion

New York’s 10 GW Distributed Solar Roadmap: Policy Options for Continued Growth in Distributed Solar document outlines a policy approach for responsible distributed solar siting.  I have no argument with their approach or their results.  However, there is a major problem.  The majority of these distributed solar projects are “expected to be ground-mounted arrays ranging between 5 MW and 7.5 MW in size, which occupy approximately 20 – 25 acres of land”.  There are no similar guidelines in place for the larger utility-scale projects.  Even though the Draft Scoping Plan does not specify how much projected solar generation capacity will be distributed as opposed to utility-scale, it is clear that massive amounts of land will be required for utility-scale development. 

In December 2021 the State announced that NY-Sun projects are developed and sited in a manner that fully considers land use and are advanced in close collaboration with local stakeholders and agricultural communities.  However, in the same month the Trelina Solar Project was approved despite the fact that the Department of Ag & Markets testified that “the proposed siting is not consistent with the Department’s siting policy because it will occur on more that 10% of active farmland classified as Prime Farmland”.  There are numerous initiatives underway to ensure that the solar developments necessary to meet the Climate Act goals are sited in a responsible fashion.  However, projects that inconsistent with those guidelines are being developed and will remove “agricultural lands for a minimum of 30 years-worth of crop yields from some of the most productive farmland soils in the State”.  It is time for a moratorium on these developments until that guidance is in place.

Status of Garnet Energy Center Application

Last year I was contacted by one of the organizers of Conquest Against Industrial Solar and since then I have been following the Article 10 application of the Garnet Energy Center.  This post describes the latest filed documents in the case that I used as the basis for a comment on the project.

My primary concern with this project is how it relates to the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. In particular, I believe that the massive resouces that have to be devoted to diffuse and intermittent renewable energy development will have worse impacts on the environment than the purported effects of climate change in New York. 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.

Trelina Energy Center

There is another utility-scale solar project being developed near the Garnet project.  Late last year the New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment (Siting Board) granted approval to build and operate the Trelina Solar Project, an 80 megawatt (MW) solar farm in the Town of Waterloo, Seneca County that is being developed by NextEra Energy Resources, the same company that is developing the Garnet Energy Center.  I published an article about the approval process and noted that despite the fact that the New York Department of Agriculture and Markets (Ag & Markets) testimony clearly demonstrated that the project did not meet the Department’s siting policies the project was approved.

As part of the regulatory analysis of the project Michael Saviola, an Associate Environmental Analyst with Ag & Markets submitted prepared testimony on the Trelina Solar Project application.  His testimony made a compelling case against the project.  In response to the question “What Department policies are subject to the proceeding”, he responded (Line 20, page 6):

As previously mentioned, The Department discourages the conversion of farmland to a non-agricultural use. However, to support the New York State’s CLCPA initiatives, the Department has developed a siting policy supportive of solar development efforts on agricultural lands if (his emphasis added) the proposed projects are properly sited on lands other than the State’s most productive farmland. The Department’s goal is for projects to limit the conversion of agricultural areas within the Project Areas, to no more than 10% of soils classified by the Department’s NYS Agricultural Land Classification mineral soil groups 1-4, generally Prime Farmland soils, which represent the State’s most productive farmland. Soils classified with the soil groups 5-10 are identified as having soil limitations. The only responsible position the Department can take to stay true to the 7 AML Article 25-AA §300 and to support the NYS CLCPA renewable energy initiative is to ensure the preservation of agricultural areas involving soils classified as soil groups 1-9 for the production for food and fiber, as well as not object to proposed development on lesser productive soils, i.e. agriculture lands comprised on classified mineral soil groups 5-10.

The overall Project Area is 1,067 acres and “only approximately 44.4 percent will be used for Project Components within a fenced area of approximately 418 acres to generate 79.5 to 80 MW of renewable energy”.  Note, however, that the testimony notes that “The Department’s goal is for projects to limit the conversion of agricultural areas within the Project Areas, to no more than 10% of soils classified by the Department’s NYS Agricultural Land Classification mineral soil groups 1-4, generally Prime Farmland soils, which represent the State’s most productive farmland.”  The testimony also notes that “The Department estimates that greater than 68% of the of the limits of disturbance includes the conversion of farmland classified as Prime Farmland Soil”. 

The application argues that the project only disturbs 4.9% of all the prime farmland in the Town of Waterloo and presumably would argue that means they meet the intent of the Department policy.  The problem with that is there is no master plan for development and no assurances that other more responsibly sited facilities could not be constructed in the Town of Waterloo that would raise the town total over the 10% goal of the Department.  The Ag and Markets testimony also argues against the claims that only 10.05 acres will be permanently disturbed.  The testimony explains that 474.1 acres will be permanently disturbed because “as long as NYS incentives for the development of renewable energy exists, the complete decommissioning of solar electric energy generation, and full resumption to agricultural use is not likely to occur”.

I concluded that the press release describing the Siting Board’s decision statement that the process “follows a detailed review and robust public participation process to ensure that the solar farm meets or exceeds all siting requirements” is demonstrably false. 

Ag & Market Solar Energy Project Policies

On March 10, 2022 Michael Saviola submitted prepared testimony on the Garnet Energy Center application.  As before his responsibility was “to determine if the Project as proposed follows the Department’s Guidelines for Agricultural Mitigation for Solar Energy Projects.”  This section provides some background on Ag & Market/Department policies.  He notes that the Department of Ag and Markets does not have an opinion on the need for utility-scale solar generation but (Page 6, line 3):

The Department discourages the conversion of farmland to a non-agricultural use. This effort is in accordance with Section 4 of Article 14 of the 2018 New York State Constitution, which provides for the conservation of agricultural lands, as well as NYS Agriculture and Markets Law (AML), Article 25-AA, §300, which more specifically states:

“It is, therefore, the declared policy of the state to conserve, protect and encourage the development and improvement of its agricultural land for production of food and other agricultural products. It is also the declared policy of the state to conserve and protect agricultural lands as valued natural and ecological resources which provide needed open spaces for clean air sheds, as well as for aesthetic purposes.”.

After acknowledging that the Department is aware of the Climate Act and supports the general initiative, the testimony goes on to state that these projects are permanent installations (Page 6, line 20):

The Department will continue to discourage the conversion of agriculture land to a non-agricultural use.  Prior to large-scale solar development, the Department has not been associated with PSL 22 Article 10 cases that constitute large, long-term conversion of agricultural lands to non-agricultural uses. Commercial wind generating facilities generally allow for farming activity to continue once the project is in-service. In comparison, the solar industry arguably eliminates the ability to perform normal viable agricultural operations within, and potentially immediately surrounding the facility. This constitutes a long-term conversion to a non-agricultural use. Due to increasing NYS energy goals encouraging renewable energy development, we see no reason facilities will not be upgraded and re-leased to maintain the growing or static renewable energy demand, in this case, 35 years from energization. The Department further asserts that as long as NYS incentives for the development of renewable energy exists, the complete decommissioning of solar electric energy generation, and full resumption to agricultural use is not likely to occur. 

In response to the question “What Department policies are subject to the proceeding”, he responded (Line 17, page 7):

As previously mentioned, The Department discourages the conversion of farmland to a non-agricultural use. However, to support the New York State’s CLCPA initiatives, the Department has developed a siting policy supportive of solar development efforts on agricultural lands if (his emphasis added) the proposed projects are properly sited on lands other than the State’s most productive farmland. The Department’s goal is for projects to limit the conversion of agricultural areas within the Project Areas, to no more than 10% of soils classified by the Department’s NYS Agricultural Land Classification mineral soil groups 1-4, generally Prime Farmland soils, which represent the State’s most productive farmland. Soils classified with the soil groups 5-10 are identified as having soil limitations. The only responsible position the Department can take to stay true to the 7 AML Article 25-AA §300 and to support the NYS CLCPA renewable energy initiative is to ensure the preservation of agricultural areas involving soils classified as soil groups 1-9 for the production for food and fiber, as well as not object to proposed development on lesser productive soils, i.e. agriculture lands comprised on classified mineral soil groups 5-10.  Additionally, the Department requires the Applicant to follow Department Guidelines for constructing solar facilities in agricultural lands. Draft Certificate Condition 47 and 95 identifies the Applicant’s agreement to comply with Department’s Guidelines entitled Solar Energy Projects – Construction Mitigation for Agricultural Lands (Revision 10/18/2019), specifying construction mitigation techniques intended to protect and restore agricultural soil resources. Furthermore, the Applicant has agreed to consult with the Department for any potential deviation from the Guidelines to develop applicable construction and restoration alternatives.

In response to the question: What are the primary agricultural impacts associated with the construction of a commercial solar energy generation facility on agricultural lands the testimony states: (Line 16, page 8)

The construction of a commercial solar energy generation facility within agricultural land constitutes a long-term impact and permanent conversion of farmland to an industrial (non-agricultural) use. The development of solar arrays and ancillary facilities (including panels, panel racking, transformer/inverter equipment pads, access roads, security fencing, substations, energy storage options, operation and maintenance facilities, planted visual screening areas, etc.) makes it infeasible to continue farming on viable agricultural land within the Project area. Furthermore, the location of project-related infrastructure- panel spacing and alignment in agricultural fields create obstacles that the farm operator will have to avoid during numerous types of agricultural equipment operations; including, but not limited to, cultivation, seeding, nutrient recycling, weed management, harvest, etc. The difficultly created by the obstacles forces the farm operator to abandon use of the field.

Impacts to agricultural lands remaining outside of the security fencing also has a high likelihood to become abandoned and/or orphaned. More specifically, these generally narrow areas outside the fenced facility are created by development limitations (municipal setbacks, buffers, etc.) and limit the conduct of mechanized farming. The scenarios cited above create narrow strips of land that although may be available to some agricultural producers are unattractive for most commercial farm operators, as they are inefficient to harvest crops due to the limitations of acreage and maneuverability for modern mechanized farming equipment. These “indirect” impacts often result in the loss of additional farmland which, in turn, result in a decrease in mechanized farming efficiency leading to a reduction in the production of crops, livestock and livestock products necessary for food production and security.

On page 10 line 8, the testimony asks the question How does the siting of commercial solar project-related infrastructure impact agricultural operations?

There are several potential impacts. Farms demand a certain acreage to meet their business, long-term staffing, and environmental objectives and to remain viable. If leased land is abruptly lost to another use, such as a solar installation, the farm will grow and market less produce, grains, forages, and livestock products; may have to downsize and lay-off employees; and could be challenged to have adequate acreage for proper manure nutrient recycling. Such changes may force the farm to close. As in other sectors, farmers seek improvements to management and efficiency to remain competitive and viable. Larger, more efficient tillage, planting, crop management, and harvesting equipment is one example of how farmers have adapted to remain viable and more productive. Often, this equipment can include two pieces of harvesting or tillage equipment pulled by a single tractor. As the size of the farming equipment has increased over the years, the turning radius for the equipment has also increased. The location of access roads and other project-related infrastructure in an agricultural field creates an obstacle which the farm operator has to avoid during field planting and harvesting operations. Placement of project-related infrastructure in agricultural fields can result in a loss of productive acreage as well as a decrease in field operation efficiency or viability with the larger planting and harvesting equipment because of the increased turning radii required. Depending on the location of project-related infrastructure, primarily solar arrays and access roads, the loss of acreage available to farming, and the loss of farming efficiency or farm viability can be significant and, in some cases, devastating to farms and for food production.

Garnet Energy Center

The Garnet Energy Center is a proposed 200-megawatt solar project with 20 megawatts of energy storage located in the town of Conquest in Cayuga County, N.Y.  NextEra Energy Resources is also developing this project.  According to the July 2021 Proposed Array Layout the project area is 2,288 acres and the facility area (area within in project fence line) is 1,054 acres.  The fenced area encloses the solar arrays, inverters, energy storage modules and the project substation. 

On Page 12, line 18 of Saviola’s testimony he addresses the question “Does the facility layout follow the Department’s Solar Guidelines and does it align with the Department’s siting policy?”

In general, access roads should follow field edges and the solar arrays should not be sited in a manner in which agricultural areas become orphaned as described in my testimony above. Additionally, the Department finds the Applications proposed siting is not consistent with the Department’s siting policy because it will occur on almost 30% of active farmland classified as Prime Farmland (Generally, Mineral Soil Groups 1-4) within the proposed project. The Application update states that the project will occupy nearly 1,000 acres of land to generate up to 200 MW of electricity, however, areas located outside of fenced areas will likely become fallow or orphaned as a result of screening requirements and setbacks. This will eliminate crop production on nearly 1,000 acres of agricultural lands for a minimum of 30 years-worth of crop yields from some of the most productive farmland soils in the State. While the Applicant describes the impact to agricultural land and farming, in general, as temporary, a 30-year loss of the production of crops, livestock and livestock products constitutes a long-term conversion to a nonagricultural use and a long-term loss of food production. Although a decommissioning plan has been prepared, there is virtually no reasonable assurance that the project will be decommissioned and that the full resumption back to agricultural use will be reestablished.

As if this is not enough the testimony goes on to respond negatively to NextEra’s response to questions.  For example, “True long-term impacts include the approximate 30 plus year loss in the production of crops, livestock and livestock products as a result of project-related components being constructed inside the fence. Nearly 1,000 acres of farmland will be taken out of production.” (Page 14 line 5).  On Page 15, line 18 agricultural co-utilization is discussed: “The Applicant indicates that they have not considered incorporating agricultural co-utilization as part of the Project. They indicate that there is not sufficient space for co-utilization.” And goes on to say he does not agree with this response: “There is ample space inside the fence for agricultural activities such as sheep grazing, apiary incorporation and pollinator species, and small-scale grass hay production, nor have they demonstrated any reduced impacts to agriculture from the increased density of the panels. The Applicant should work with hosting farmers to explore dual-use, or agrivotalic projects.  Similarly, the response to questions about subsurface drainage systems was eviscerated. 

On page 19, line 18 comes this: “It is the Department’s opinion that the facility will result in or contribute to a significant and adverse disproportionate agricultural impact upon the local farming community. They have not avoided, offset or minimized agricultural impacts to the maximum extent practicable using verifiable measures”.

Responsible Solar Energy Siting

There are other efforts that define what is needed to site utility-scale solar projects to minimize impacts.  In December 2021 New Yorkers for Clean Power (NYCP) and Alliance for Clean Energy NY (ACENY) co-hosted a workshop “What’s the Deal with Renewable Energy & Agriculture?” that discussed the compatibility of renewable energy and agriculture in New York State and  all the speakers advocated responsible solar development that minimizes the loss of prime farmland.  Three other examples follow.

The Saviola testimony describes a document on responsible siting of utility-scale solar development:

The American Farmland Trust published a study in February 2022 on smart solar siting on farmland in New York State. This study was completed with input from, and collaboration with, advisory members from government and non-governmental organizations, solar industry advocates, not-for profit land trusts, solar developers, and academia. The study was conducted to develop smart solar strategies to meet climate goals while supporting its agricultural economy and future food security. The report reveals trends that show that good quality farmland has been a first-choice site for solar development. As in with this proceeding here. The lowest hanging fruit. The study strongly recommends against siting solar infrastructure on prime farmland or farmlands comprised of Mineral Soil Groups 1-4 and to site infrastructure on marginal lands. The Study also indicates that farmers are interested in agrivotalics. The Study concludes by stating that the choices we make today about where and how solar projects, particularly large-scale facilities, are sited on active farmland will make a difference to rural economies and influence our ability to farm and grow food in New York to feed ourselves and reap environmental benefits now and into the future.

In addition to this testimony there has been progress on other initiatives for responsible solar siting that should be considered in the Garnet permit proceeding.  The New York’s 10 GW Distributed Solar Roadmap: Policy Options for Continued Growth in Distributed Solar document includes a section on  Agricultural Protection and Land Use (Section III.a.4):

Farmland protection and the maintenance of a vibrant agricultural economy are important State policy goals. New York State recognizes the importance of collaboration between the agriculture and clean energy sectors as a critical part of the State’s overall decarbonization strategy. NYSERDA works in close coordination with the Department of Agriculture and Markets (NYSAGM) and other stakeholders to responsibly support the development of renewable energy projects. In the 2019 NY-Sun Expansion Petition, NYSERDA described the interaction of distributed solar with agriculture in New York:

“The majority of projects in [the Upstate C/I] market sector are expected to be ground-mounted arrays ranging between 5 MW and 7.5 MW in size, which occupy approximately 20 – 25 acres of land, typically on rural properties that are leased or sold to the solar developer by the landowner. Notably, this includes properties that are currently used, or could potentially be used for, agricultural production. While NYSERDA expects that the total agricultural acreage utilized for distributed solar projects will remain modest as compared to total farmland in New York State, through its implementation efforts, NYSERDA will act to ensure that negative impacts to farmland and the State’s agricultural economy are avoided and minimized, and where they are unavoidable, mitigated. NYSERDA, working with partner agencies and stakeholders, has already taken multiple actions along these lines and will pursue additional actions under an expanded NY-Sun program.” (This section is from the NY-Sun Petition, p. 21.)” 

In the subsequent two years, NYSERDA and NYSAGM have continued to work in partnership to put in place requirements for solar projects to minimize impact to farming and agricultural soils.  (These requirements include, inter alia: complying with New York State Agriculture and Markets Law; submitting appropriate notices to NYSAGM and local Agricultural and Farmland Protection boards; executing a copy of the Guidelines for Solar Energy Projects – Construction Mitigation for Agricultural Lands document published by NYSAGM; and making a Mitigation Fund payment or committing to other mitigation measures where impacted agricultural soils exceed 30 acres.) These requirements have already demonstrated their effectiveness: In 2021 to date, all 50 distributed solar projects subject to these requirements, totaling 1,037 acres of affected area, have committed to avoiding and minimizing impacts to prime soils in consideration of the solar layout. For 48 of these projects, all unaffected portions of the farms hosting the solar projects, a total of 3,385 acres, will remain in agricultural production. Many of the farmers hosting projects on a portion of their land report that the steady lease revenue from the solar projects has enabled them to continue farming on most of their property despite challenging agricultural economic pressures.

Finally, the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority Agricultural Technical Working Group is working on a “Smart Solar Siting“ scorecard to encourage responsible siting of renewables on agricultural land. The scorecard lists five area to avoid:

  • Avoid prime agricultural soils
  • Farmland in active cultivation
  • Forested land
  • Wetlands
  • Grass lands

Conclusion

In my opinion, the American Farmland Trust report, the state’s policies for distributed solar and the Agricultural Technical Working Group analyses will eventually be used to form the basis of a state-wide policy for responsible siting of utility-scale solar development.  In the meantime, it is inappropriate to allow projects like the Garnet project to proceed. 

The Garnet Energy Center permit decision will be a litmus test to see if the State is going to protect farming communities.  I believe that the testimony clearly demonstrates that the proposed project is inappropriate because “the facility will result in or contribute to a significant and adverse disproportionate agricultural impact upon the local farming community”.  Ag and Markets testimony for the Trelina project was similarly negative but that got approved.  At a minimum the project approval should be delayed until guidelines for responsible utility-scale solar development are available and I submitted comments to the docket to that effect.  If the Siting Board ignores the Ag and Markets testimony and the clear need to wait for guidelines, then it will be clear that the State is not going to protect farming communities.

The Climate Act and the Astoria Gas Turbine Power Replacement Project

The implementation strategy for New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act) is being finalized by the Climate Action Council  in 2022.  Because the schedule is so ambitious state agencies have been making decisions based on what they think will be in the implementing regulations even before regulations are promulgated and the transition strategies are finalized.  This post documents comments I submitted on the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) decision to deny the NRG Astoria Gas Turbine Power Replacement Project Title V Permit Application and a similar comment to the Climate Action Council submittal portal.  This turns out to be another example of the state putting the Climate Act cart before the horse without regard for the ramifications of the action.

I have written extensively on implementation of the Climate Act because I believe the ambitions for a zero-emissions economy outstrip available renewable technology such that it will adversely affect reliability and affordability, risk safety, affect lifestyles, will have worse impacts on the environment than the purported effects of climate change in New York, and 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.

I am a retired air pollution meteorologist with over 40 years-experience analyzing the relationship between air quality and environmental standards.  I submitted comments based on my familiarity with the NRG Astoria Gas Turbine facility, the role of the facility as a provider of necessary peaking power, and the history of various attempts to re-power it since NRG Energy purchased the facility. Before I retired from NRG in 2010, I was responsible for compliance with the NOx RACT averaging plan and worked with a couple of re-powering applications.  Although I had no involvement whatsoever in the latest re-powering plan, I think my background is unique.

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”.  The Climate Act requires the Climate Action Council to “[e]valuate, using the best available economic models, emission estimation techniques and other scientific methods, the total potential costs and potential economic and non-economic benefits of the plan for reducing greenhouse gases, and make such evaluation publicly available” in the Scoping Plan. 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. 

The integration analysis was used to develop the Draft Scoping Plan that was released for public comment on December 30, 2021. The public comment period for the Plan was recently extended to mid-June. The Council will consider the feedback received as it “continues to discuss and deliberate on the topics in the Draft as it works towards a final Scoping Plan for release by January 1, 2023”.  Once that is complete the Energy Plan will be revised to set the state’s energy policies. The goal of the Energy Plan process is to “map the state’s energy future by showing how the state can ensure adequate supplies of power, reduce demand through new technologies and energy efficiency, preserve the environment, reduce dependence on imported gas and oil, stimulate economic growth, and preserve the individual welfare of New York citizens and energy users”.

NRG Astoria Peaking Generation

The proposed project is described by NRG as follows:

NRG is taking measures to fight climate change while minimizing costs and maximizing benefits to New York through the Astoria Replacement Project (the Project). The Project is expected to replace 50-year old power generators in 2023 with state-of-the-art technology reducing the total generating capability of the site and lowering on-site peak air emission rates by up to 99% per hour, while continuing to provide reliable power to New Yorkers when they need it most. This critical infrastructure project will be constructed at no cost to taxpayers or ratepayers. The Project modifies a previously proposed configuration, which was fully approved by the state. In support of New York’s leading efforts to fight climate change, the Project will use technology that can be fully converted to zero-carbon fuel in the future.

In 1999, NRG acquired the 15-acre Astoria Gas Turbines site from Con Edison, which is situated within a larger 300+ acre complex. This complex has hosted electrical generation, transmission, distribution and associated energy activities since the 1890s and remains exclusively a major electric generating and manufacturing complex. In 1999, the site consisted of 33 gas turbine units with total generating capacity of 646 MW. In 2010, NRG proposed to replace the units with a 1,040 MW combined cycle facility. NRG’s modified 2020 Project proposes to replace the 24 remaining units with a single new state-of-the-art simple cycle GE combustion turbine generator having a total generating capability of 437 MW.

Policy Issues

There is a problem because the State of New York is making decisions based on how they believe the Climate Act implementation plan will work before it is complete.  For example, the Department of Environmental Conservation proposed policy to deal with air permit applications is based on compliance with the Climate Act scoping plan which is still a draft.  I posted an article describing my comments that argued that the guidance should be revised to incorporate electric system reliability considerations.  My comments showed there are reliability concerns related to existing electrical generators so the guidance must not preclude continued operation of existing units.  I also argued that DEC should not prevent operators from developing modern generating units that are more reliable than the existing aging units.  Finally, I explained the State has to consider the mandate for safe and adequate electric service as well as the Climate Act requirements. 

I described the DEC’s proposed policy to incorporate Climate Act considerations into air permitting policy before implementing regulations were promulgated as putting the cart before the horse.  Incredibly last year DEC rejected permits for the Danskammer Energy Center and Astoria Gas Turbine Power Project replacement generating facilities because they were inconsistent with the Climate Act.  Clearly, making that decision before a policy was developed was putting the cart before the horse was purchased.  In any event that decision precipitated lawsuits from the developers of both facilities.  I missed the opportunity to comment on the Danskammer permit but did submit comments for Astoria. 

Reliability Comments

I was able to develop a set of comments very quickly because of previous work.  With regards to reliability concerns I essentially re-packaged my comments submitted on the DEC guidance document. 

I noted that the rejection of the permit application is especially troubling because in the DEC’s “Notice of Denial of Title V Air Permit” for the Astoria Gas Turbine Power Project (DEC ID: 2-6301-00191/00014), DEC rejected the use of both hydrogen and renewable natural gas (RNG) as a 2040 compliance mechanism.  The rationale was because the DEC labeled them “speculative” and “aspirational”.  However, the Draft Scoping Plan’s placeholder for a dispatchable, emission-free resource is hydrogen.  Governor Hochul’s recent State of the State address proposes that New York position itself to compete for nearly $10 billion in federal funding for green hydrogen R&D under the federal infrastructure bill.  Obviously, it is in the state’s best interest to preserve the option to use hydrogen in the future.  In the meantime, the options to supplant the dispatchable energy from those facilities with energy storage and renewable energy alternatives are no less “speculative” and “aspirational”.  DEC’s decision to reject the permit on this basis is a serious threat to reliability.

A key component of my comments is that there is a Public Service Commission mandate that overrides the Climate Act requirements.  Public Service (PBS) CHAPTER 48, ARTICLE 4, § 66-p. Establishment of a renewable energy program (4) states:

The commission may temporarily suspend or modify the obligations under such program provided that the commission, after conducting a hearing as provided in section twenty of this chapter, makes a finding that the program impedes the provision of safe and adequate electric service; the program is likely to impair existing obligations and agreements; and/or that there is a significant increase in arrears or service disconnections that the commission determines is related to the program.

I interpret that to mean that the Climate Act has to meet the obligation to not impede the provision of safe and adequate electric service (i.e., reliability).  DEC’s focus on meeting the Climate Act targets in its rejection of the Astoria permit ignores this obligation.

The DEC decision letter claimed that “the Project would be inconsistent with or would interfere with the attainment of the Statewide greenhouse gas (GHG) emission limits established in Article 75 of the Environmental Conservation Law (ECL)”.  Because DEC was unable to satisfy elements required by Section 7(2) of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act” the application was denied. However, it seems to be a stretch to claim that the permit has to be denied when the only current regulations associated with the Climate Act specify the GHG emissions targets.  Nothing has been promulgated to specify how the State will meet those limits so I believe it is premature to speculate how future regulations could impact the application.

Air Quality Impacts

The DEC decision letter noted that DEC reviewed information submitted by Astoria, including in the initial Title V air permit application as well as supplemental materials provided in response to requests for additional information, the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement prepared for the Project, and over 6,600 public comments received from individuals or organizations during the public comment period.  In my opinion, the 6,600 public comments were a primary driver for the decision because I believe most of them argued that the continued operation of the facility was an environmental justice issue.  Unfortunately, the basis for that claim is weak.

The National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) “provide public health protection, including protecting the health of ‘sensitive’ populations such as asthmatics, children, and the elderly”.  According to the EPA nonattainment/maintenance status summary, there are multiple counties In New York that do not attain the NAAQS for ozone and New York County does not meet the coarse particulate matter standard.  Note that all of New York State meets the inhalable particulate NAAQS.  All the other pollutants are in attainment.  My career is based on the presumption that air quality that meets the NAAQS is acceptable.

Despite the fact that New York City is in attainment for inhalable particulates, this pollutant is used as a rationale for shutting down peaking power plants because of claims that reducing inhalable air quality impacts is beneficial.   For example, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s (DOHMH) Air Pollution and the Health of New Yorkers report is often referenced in this regard.  The DOHMOH report concludes: “Each year, PM2.5  pollution in [New York City] causes more than 3,000 deaths, 2,000 hospital admissions for lung and heart conditions, and approximately 6,000 emergency department visits for asthma in children and adults.”  These conclusions are for average air pollution levels in New York City as a whole over the period 2005-2007 of 13.9 µg/m3.

At this time, New York State energy and environmental policy is more about optics than facts.  Nowhere is this more apparent than the recent spate of opinion pieces, reports, and policy proposals related to peaking power plants and the alleged health impacts of inhalable particulates.  In 2020 the PEAK Coalition released a report entitled: “Dirty Energy, Big Money” that has been used by environmental justice organizations to vilify all New York City’s peaking power plants, including the Astoria Gas Turbines.  I have described this work in three posts on my blog Pragmatic Environmentalist of New York.  I published a post that provided information on the primary air quality problem associated with these facilities, the organizations behind the report, the State’s response to date, the underlying issue of environmental justice and addressed the motivation for the analysis.  The second post addressed the rationale and feasibility of the proposed plan to replace these peaking facilities with “renewable and clean energy alternatives” relative to environmental effects, affordability, and reliability.  Finally, I discussed the  Physicians, Scientists, and Engineers (PSE) for Healthy Energy report Opportunities for Replacing Peaker Plants with Energy Storage in New York State that provided technical information used by the PEAK Coalition.

In my comments I showed that the 2018-2020 average PM2.5 concentration was 7.4 µg/m3 which is substantially lower than the DOHMOH goal of reaching 10.9 µg/m3.  All the inhalable particulate health impact projections are based on epidemiological models that have not been validated.  If they are correct, then because inhalable particulate levels have come down uniformly across the country then there should be significant observed health benefits.  Until such time that the projected health impacts are validated with observed data, I remain skeptical.

Furthermore, even if you accept the inhalable particulate health benefit premise, I don’t think that the arguments made by activists makes a convincing case that the peaking power plants are the primary driver of environmental burdens on neighboring communities.  The ultimate problem with this approach is that the peak unit justification relies on environmental burdens from ozone and particulate matter air quality impacts.  However, ozone is a secondary air pollutant and the vast majority of ambient PM2.5 from power plants is also a secondary pollutant.  As a result, there is a lag between the time emissions are released and creation of either ozone or PM2.5. That means that the peaking power plants do not create the air quality impact problems alleged to occur to the environmental justice communities located near the plants.  In fact, because NOx scavenges ozone the peaker plants reduce local ozone if they have any effect at all.  DEC knows this and the fact that they don’t acknowledge it does not reflect well on their scientific rigor.

Conclusion

The comments I submitted on the Astoria permit application argued that the Climate Act has the obligation to not impede the provision of safe and adequate electric service.  DEC’s denial of the Astoria Gas Turbine Title V application because it: ”Does not demonstrate compliance with the requirements of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act”  is at odds with that mandate.

DEC’s transparent appeasement of the many commenters who submitted comments based on misleading air quality impacts from the grey literature PEAK CoalitionDirty Energy, Big Money” report is ill conceived.   The alleged health impacts are all due to secondary ozone and inhalable particulates.  Because they are secondary pollutants they are not formed until they have been transported away from the immediate neighborhoods that Peak Coalition claims are affected.  Unfortunately, there is no currently available technology that has been proven at the scale necessary that can replace fossil-fired generation in New York City reliably and affordably.  With all due respect to the environmental justice organizations like the Peak Coalition, they have no reliability or affordability responsibilities so their priorities differ.  If reliability and affordability are not prioritized it could easily result in an electric system that does not maintain current standards.  More importantly, those issues impact disadvantaged communities more than other communities so they should be the over-arching priority.

The bottom line is that New York State should be grateful that someone is willing to come in and provide an interim solution that will guarantee New York City electric system reliability standards are maintained. All that DEC needs to do is to add a permit condition that makes it clear that the operating certificate will be pulled if certain conditions are met.  If technology is proven available to replace the proposed Astoria Replacement Project on the Climate Act schedule, then the facility gets shut down at that time.  If it turns out that the “zero-emissions” technology solution is hydrogen combustion in a turbine designed to burn that fuel as well as natural gas as proposed by the applicant, then the facility can continue to operate with that fuel.  It is not clear how DEC can reconcile throwing away these reliability options when there is no other option available.

I concluded that the Climate Action Council should develop criteria for schedule implementation. A collective crossing of fingers that a new technology will maintain existing standards of reliability and affordability is inappropriate. In this instance, DEC’s decision to disapprove two proven interim solutions eliminates reliability options when there is no other commercially proven option available.  The Scoping Plan should establish the milestones and conditions that have to be met before any existing technology is dismantled. 

Scoping Plan Cost Obfuscation

New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act) has a legal mandate for New York State greenhouse gas emissions to meet the ambitious net-zero goal 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” and voted to release the Draft Scoping Plan late last year.  I recently posted an article describing my fruitless search for cost number documentation that would enable me or anyone else to evaluate their cost claims.  This post describes an egregious example of hiding the true costs of the Scoping Plan.

I have written extensively on implementation of the Climate Act because I believe the ambitions for a zero-emissions economy outstrip available renewable technology such that it will adversely affect reliability and affordability, risk safety, affect lifestyles, will have worse impacts on the environment than the purported effects of climate change in New York, and 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.

Background

The Climate Act establishes a “Net Zero” target by 2050. The Climate Act requires the Climate Action Council to “[e]valuate, using the best available economic models, emission estimation techniques and other scientific methods, the total potential costs and potential economic and non-economic benefits of the plan for reducing greenhouse gases, and make such evaluation publicly available” in the Scoping Plan. 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.  The integration analysis was used to develop the Draft Scoping Plan that was released for public comment on December 30, 2021. The public comment period extends through at least the end of April 2022. 

I have been working my way through the massive draft document preparing comments on issues that I see.  I have assessed the claimed benefits which was relatively easy because there was a relatively adequate amount of documentation.   However, the cost documentation is very poor.  I have explained that the only description of the net direct costs is a bar chart without a breakdown of the cost components.  This article addresses a nuance to the net direct costs presented in the Draft Scoping Plan.

Net Direct Cost Information

In my latest assessment of direct costs in the Draft Scoping Plan I documented what information was provided for stakeholder assessment of costs.  Starting on page 80 the Draft Scoping Plan section 10.3 Key Benefit-Cost Assessment Findings describes costs.  However, the technical documentation is in Appendix G: Integration Analysis Technical Supplement.   On page 64 of Appendix G, Section I, the text describes the cost metrics included in the Draft Scoping Plan:

The integration analysis includes calculations for three different cost metrics: Net Present Value (NPV) of net direct costs, annual net direct costs, and system expenditure.

        • NPV of Net Direct Costs: NPV of levelized costs in each scenario incremental to the Reference Case from 2020-2050. All NPV calculations assume a discount rate of 3.6%. This metric includes incremental direct capital investment, operating expenses, and fuel expenditures.
        • Annual Net Direct Costs: Net direct costs are levelized costs in a given scenario incremental to the Reference Case for a single year snapshot. This metric includes incremental direct capital investment, operating expenses, and fuel expenditures.
        • System Expenditure: System expenditure is an estimate of absolute direct costs (not relative to Reference Case). Estimates of system expenditure do not reflect direct costs in some sectors that are represented with incremental costs only. These include investments in industry, agriculture, waste, forestry, and non-road transportation.

In my article I explained that the net direct costs represent the total costs of all the mitigation actions minus all the costs of a reference case.  Appendix G notes that “redirecting investment away from status quo energy expenditures and toward decarbonization is key to realizing the aims of the Climate Act” but that overlooks that their estimate of status quo expenditures is already $2.7 trillion.  At the time I found no discussion what was included in the $2.7 trillion estimate.

Draft Scoping Plan that Describes the Reference Case

In order to better understand what is included in the reference case I looked for the term.  This section lists the results of a word search of the Draft Scoping Plan document for the term “reference case”.   In the main body of text there were some references but the substantive information was in Appendix G.

Appendix G, Section I page 8 and 83:

Together, the benefits of avoiding economic impacts of damages caused by climate change and the improvements in public health total $400 – 420 billion. Realizing these benefits will require an incremental investment over the 30-year transition of approximately 10 percent in additional spending, or $290 – $310 billion, in addition to redirecting the approximately $2.7 trillion in expected system spending under the reference case towards New York’s low carbon future.

Appendix G, Section I page 12 there is a footnote for Figure 4: Gross Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Mitigation Scenario, without any accompanying text, presumably the caption for the figure.

6 The Reference Case is used for evaluating incremental societal costs and benefits of GHG emissions mitigation. The Reference Case includes a business as usual forecast plus implemented policies, including but not limited to federal appliance standards, energy efficiency achieved by funded programs (Housing and Community Renewal, New York Power Authority, Department of Public Service, Long Island Power Authority, NYSERDA Clean Energy Fund), funded building electrification, national Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, a statewide Zero-emission vehicle mandate, and a statewide Clean Energy Standard including technology carveouts. For more details see Chapter 5.3.

Appendix G, Section I page 66:

When viewed in from a systems expenditure perspective (Figure 48), the NPV of net direct costs for Scenarios 2, 3, and 4 are moderate, ranging from 11-12% as a share of the NPV of reference case system expenditures ($2.7 trillion). Because significant infrastructure investment will be needed to maintain business as usual infrastructure within the state irrespective of further climate policy, redirecting investment away from status quo energy expenditures and toward decarbonization is key to realizing the aims of the Climate Act.

Appendix G, Section I page 68:

Net direct costs are measured relative to the Reference Case, but system expenditures are evaluated on an absolute basis. System expenditures increase over time as New York invests in infrastructure and clean fuels to meet Climate Act emissions limits. As a share of overall system expenditures, costs are moderate: 9-11% in 2030 and 25-26% in 2050 relative to current estimated expenditure levels.

Appendix G, Section I page 76 in the title to Figure 56 there is a reference to footnote 49:

49 The costs presented represent the costs relative to a Reference Case with equivalent levels of electrification loads, and as a result are not directly comparable to the electric sector costs presented in the economy-wide analysis, in which costs are measured relative to a Reference Case with Reference loads.

Aside from similar statements on pages page 78, and 83 of Appendix G, Section I that is all the results for the search on “reference case”.

Discussion

One of the arguments in the discussion of costs and benefits is that the realizing these costs only represents an “incremental investment over the 30-year transition of approximately 10 percent in additional spending, or $290 – $310 billion, in addition to redirecting the approximately $2.7 trillion in expected system spending under the reference case”.  In my original analysis of these costs, I mentioned that it is important to understand exactly what is included in the reference case in order to accept this statement.  However, no explanation is prominently featured in documentation.

However, when I searched the document for the term “reference case” there was some information, buried in a footnote reference to a figure caption that was missing.  It states that “The Reference Case includes a business as usual forecast plus implemented policies, including but not limited to federal appliance standards, energy efficiency achieved by funded programs (Housing and Community Renewal, New York Power Authority, Department of Public Service, Long Island Power Authority, NYSERDA Clean Energy Fund), funded building electrification, national Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, a statewide Zero-emission vehicle mandate, and a statewide Clean Energy Standard including technology carveouts.”  This exposes the scam.  Cynic that I am I suspect that someone, somewhere intended to completely delete the caption for this figure so that the damning footnote would not be available.

Why is this so egregious?  Recall that the presented net direct costs are relative to the reference case.  If the reference case costs are higher by including mitigation efforts that are required to meet the Climate Act targets this approach perverts the numbers presented.  Energy efficiency is a critical component of the mitigation strategies and this statement says we are going to include those costs in the reference case.  Electrification of buildings is another key component and “funded building electrification” costs are in the reference case.  The last two items take the cake however.  The authors of the Integration Analysis have slipped the costs for the statewide zero-emissions mandate and Clean Energy Standard into the reference case so that those costs do not show up as net direct costs of the Climate Act.

If this is on the up and up then the projected benefits, which are also allegedly relative to the reference case, should exclude the emission reductions and associated benefits for energy efficiency programs and building electrification that are already funded, the statewide zero-emissions mandate, and the Clean Energy Standard.  That may be the case but it is impossible to tell because the only numerical description of the net direct costs is a bar chart without a breakdown of the cost components.

Conclusion

I certainly could have mis-interpreted these numbers and normally when my evaluation shows significant differences from someone else’s work that is my first thought.  However, this finding fits a consistent pattern of over-estimated benefits and under-estimated costs in the Integration Analysis. 

The claimed benefits for the avoided cost of GHG emissions range between $235 and $250 billion, but I have shown that the Integration Analysis incorrectly calculates avoided GHG emissions benefits by applying the value of an emission reduction multiple times.  If that error is corrected then the total benefits range from negative $74.5 to negative $49.5 billion.  

It is very difficult to verify Draft Scoping Plan cost numbers because of the lack of documentation, but in two instances I have projected costs inconsistent with the Plan.  I evaluated the projected costs for residential retrofits to electric heating.  I estimated in the Draft Scoping Plan the entire building sector component cost is $230 billion relative to the reference case.  I calculated that just the residential retrofit heat electrification costs range between $259 billion and $370 billion using one methodology and between $295 billion and $370 billion using a different methodology. In the other analysis I estimated the costs and benefits of upgraded rail transportation.  The draft scoping plan claims a reduction of 200 million light duty vehicle miles at a per unit cost of $6 per mile or $1.2 billion between Scenarios 2 and 3 and Scenario 4.  I estimate that the only valid cost for the difference between the scenario rail alternatives is $8.4 billion and that it would only provide a vehicle mile reduction of 64.7 million miles. 

Were it not for this consistent pattern I would be reluctant to label this egregious example of hiding the true costs of the Scoping Plan as a deliberate attempt to obfuscate direct costs.  However, the lack of documentation, the complete absence of reference case details  and contrived way they present the cost numbers convinces me that this is deliberate.  In order to “prove” that the Climate Act benefits out-weigh the costs they have deliberately cooked the books.

The rebuttal for my claim is for the Climate Action Council to provide complete and transparent documentation.  It would be best if the Council would host an expert analysis session where the costing methodology used could be explained and the public could be given the opportunity to provide questions beforehand.  Obviously, this post could provide a number of those questions.  While it would not be possible to address all the sectors in such a session this format could provide answers to the cost projections most impactful to New York residents.  Residential electrification and personal transportation head that list.

There is a massive disconnect between the costs projected in the Draft Scoping Plan any by other authors.  Earlier this year I compared costs estimated in the Scoping Plan with costs in an article by Ken Gregory that is a critique of a report  by Thomas Tanton “Cost of Electrification: A State-by-State Analysis and Results”.  Tanton estimated that the New York overnight cost for a net-zero economy is $1.465 trillion.  Gregory’s estimate for net-zero consistent with the Climate Act is $18.2 trillion.  Until such time that the Climate Action Council produces documentation that enable independent verification of their estimates, I believe the actual costs will be consistent with these higher estimates.

Scoping Plan Renewable Energy Resource Availability Analysis

New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act) has a legal mandate for New York State greenhouse gas emissions to meet the ambitious net-zero goal 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”.  This post describes comments I submitted to the Council about the inadequate analyses of renewable energy resources in New York.  It is important to get this right because the availability of renewable energy resources informs the basis of resource adequacy planning.

I have written extensively on implementation of the Climate Act because I believe the ambitions for a zero-emissions economy outstrip available renewable technology such that it will adversely affect reliability and affordability, risk safety, affect lifestyles, will have worse impacts on the environment than the purported effects of climate change in New York, and 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 Act requires the Climate Action Council to “[e]valuate, using the best available economic models, emission estimation techniques and other scientific methods, the total potential costs and potential economic and non-economic benefits of the plan for reducing greenhouse gases, and make such evaluation publicly available” in the Scoping Plan.  The integration analysis developed by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and its consultants was used to develop the Draft Scoping Plan that was released for public comment on December 30, 2021. The Scoping Plan has to be finalized by the end of 2022 and a recent meeting discussed issues that need to be addressed to meet that schedule.

New York’s unprecedented transition to a zero-emission electric generating system means that the system will be heavily dependent upon wind and solar resources.   Because those resources are intermittent it is imperative that New York energy planning determine the frequency and duration of periods when wind and solar resources are low.  This article summarizes comments that I submitted on the problem, describes analyses that address this issue completed elsewhere, and recommends that New York agencies develop an appropriate study centered on New York.

Problem

The comments included a description of New York blackouts and the responses made to prevent reoccurrences.  I believe that, despite the best efforts of those responsible for the reliability of the electric grid, the transition to an electric power system that relies on intermittent wind and solar resources introduces so many changes that it will be impossible to anticipate them all.  As a result, grid resilience will decrease and blackouts are inevitable.   For example, consider that a team of researchers from the University of Nottingham recently addressed the effect of renewable energy resources on power grid stability.  The abstract from the paper states:

Contemporary proliferation of renewable power generation is causing an overhaul in the topology, composition, and dynamics of electrical grids. These low-output, intermittent generators are widely distributed throughout the grid, including at the household level. It is critical for the function of modern power infrastructure to understand how this increasingly distributed layout affects network stability and resilience. This paper uses dynamical models, household power consumption, and photovoltaic generation data to show how these characteristics vary with the level of distribution. It is shown that resilience exhibits daily oscillations as the grid’s effective structure and the power demand fluctuate. This can lead to a substantial decrease in grid resilience, explained by periods of highly clustered generator output. Moreover, the addition of batteries, while enabling consumer self-sufficiency, fails to ameliorate these problems. The methodology identifies a grid’s susceptibility to disruption resulting from its network structure and modes of operation.

My comments included a description of the Texas blackout of February 2021.  Ultimately the reason for the blackout was poor planning.  When the people of Texas needed electric power the most the generating resources available were unable to meet those needs.  In order to prevent the same thing from happening in New York it is necessary to provide sufficient energy at all times.

Reliability planning in the past relied on dispatchable generating resources.  The Climate Act future electric generating system will rely on intermittent renewable wind and solar that is not dispatchable.  Energy storage resources are needed to cover periods when wind and sun energy is not available to provide dispatchable electricity.  The problem is that we have to know what the worst-case renewable resource availability is in order to size the energy storage resources correctly.

Last year I described issues related to this as the Climate Act’s ultimate problem. Although there have been analyses that have identified winter wind lull periods are a problem, I do not believe that they addressed this analysis correctly because they used relative short periods as the basis for their projections.  As far as I can tell the Integration Analysis did not even consider the same period for wind and solar resources in their analysis.  As a result, I believe the Draft Scoping Plan projections for the amount of resources during these periods is incorrect.

Proposed Analysis

In order to do this right, the critical consideration is the frequency, duration, and severity of periods when wind and solar resources are in “droughts” or low resource availability.  I described several recent applicable papers that estimate the frequency and duration of periods with those conditions using a meteorological reanalysis data base.  In this approach historical observations are re-analyzed using current weather forecast models.  The first step in developing a weather forecast is to incorporate meteorological observations to setup the weather maps that are the starting point for weather forecast calculations.  That component of the models is used to develop weather maps for the observations and the forecast component is used to provide hourly data until the net observation period.

In order to provide a robust estimate of the wind and solar availability during worst case conditions it is necessary to analyze as long a time period of historical meteorological data as possible. The ERA5 global reanalysis data base generated using this reanalysis technique provides hourly estimates of a large number of atmospheric, land and oceanic climate variables. The data cover the Earth on a 30km grid and resolve the atmosphere using 137 levels from the surface up to a height of 80km. That information is then used to estimate the availability of hourly wind and solar resources for any area of the globe.

Last fall I described a paper that included an approach that might work for an analysis centered on New York.  Since then, I have been in touch with the author and I am not confident that using these data would be provide invaluable information. 

In my comments I strongly recommended an analysis in New York using the complete (1950 to present) ERA5 meteorological database to determine the frequency and duration of renewable resource droughts in order to estimate the appropriate worst case.  The goal of the project would be three-fold:

  • Determine historical intensity, frequency, duration and seasonality of wind and solar droughts in New York;
  • Identify co-occurrence of wind and solar droughts with high demand periods (heating/cooling degree days); and
  • Interpret the droughts and high demand periods: seasonal, weather regimes, interannual variability (e.g. El Niño-Southern Oscillation), multi-decadal climate regimes, and trend associated with global warming

Conclusion

I have submitted comments in various proceedings and have tried to work behind the scenes to get this analysis completed because I don’t think it is possible to adequately project the renewable resources necessary to keep the lights on when needed most without this information.  I submitted these comments to get on the record again that this work has to be done to ensure that sufficient renewable energy generation and energy storage is developed to prevent blackouts.

New York Climate Action Council Plan for 2022

New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act) has a legal mandate for New York State greenhouse gas emissions to meet the ambitious net-zero goal 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” and voted to release the Draft Scoping Plan late last year.  After a two-month hiatus the Council finally got around to having a meeting to discuss the plan for 2022 on March 3, 2022 (recording here).  This post describes my thoughts about the meeting and plan.

I have written extensively on implementation of the Climate Act because I believe the ambitions for a zero-emissions economy outstrip available renewable technology such that it will adversely affect reliability and affordability, risk safety, affect lifestyles, will have worse impacts on the environment than the purported effects of climate change in New York, and 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 Act requires the Climate Action Council to “[e]valuate, using the best available economic models, emission estimation techniques and other scientific methods, the total potential costs and potential economic and non-economic benefits of the plan for reducing greenhouse gases, and make such evaluation publicly available” in the Scoping Plan.  The integration analysis developed by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and its consultants was used to develop the Draft Scoping Plan that was released for public comment on December 30, 2021. At that time, the Climate Action Council stated that the public comment period would extend through at least the end of April 2022 and would include a minimum of six public hearings. This meeting outlined their plans for 2022.

March 3, 2022 Meeting

The meeting followed the usual routine of all previous meetings.  After the formal welcome, roll call, and consideration of the previous meeting minutes, the co-chairs take the floor to blame any recent unusual weather on climate change (slow couple of months because there were no examples this time), to brag about what a great job they are doing with the implementation process, highlight anything the Governor proposed related to the climate recently (in this case the State of the State annual address), and highlight any related project awards.

My primary interest was the overall goals and objectives discussion starting at 23:50 of the video.  There was a discussion of the proposed 2022 activities & schedule, a debate about the outstanding topics that required further deliberation, an agreement about the decision-making process and a conversation regarding public engagement.

2022 Schedule 

The activity and schedule overview discussion starting at 25:41 in the recording was disappointing.  The proposed plan is for three phases.  From the start of the year through the end of April they proposed to gather information.  From May to August the information there will be a discussion and deliberation phase.  Over the rest of the year the final scoping plan will be drafted and finalized.  This is disappointing because there is no iterative component.  There is no chance for stakeholders to ask questions and respond to their answers.

In addition, there is no opportunity for the Council to ask stakeholders about their comments. If, for example, the Council ever gets around to reading the comment I submitted on February 1 where I argue that the claims that the benefits are greater than the costs are wrong, I believe that claim should be addressed and not ignored. There was no indication in the discussions that this situation would ever arise which pretty much suggests to me that this process is just going through the motions and substantive issues raised in comments will simply be ignored.  It that is not the case and they do respond to substantive issues like whether the benefits may not be greater than the costs, then I think I should be given the chance to rebut whatever hand-waving argument they contrive to claim I am wrong. 

The next slide (25:41 in the recording) presented the plan for Council meetings and supporting activities) It is encouraging that the expert topical input includes the opportunity for experts to provide input and feedback on topics of interest and for representatives of key sectors and industries to provide targeted feedback on topics of interest.  However, there is a problem because throughout the implementation process to date, only one side of the transition challenge has been heard. The Council members who spoke at the meeting are missing this point.  I will discuss this concern more later.

Climate Justice Working Group feedback was the subject of the next slide (30:12 in the recording). In my opinion the Climate Action Council has placed an inappropriate level of focus on this feedback.  There is a Public Service Commission mandate that should be the first priority.  Public Service (PBS) CHAPTER 48, ARTICLE 4, § 66-p. Establishment of a renewable energy program (4) states:

The commission may temporarily suspend or modify the obligations under such program provided that the commission, after conducting a hearing as provided in section twenty of this chapter, makes a finding that the program impedes the provision of safe and adequate electric service; the program is likely to impair existing obligations and agreements; and/or that there is a significant increase in arrears or service disconnections that the commission determines is related to the program.

I interpret that to mean that the Climate Act has to meet the following obligations:

  • It cannot impede the provision of safe and adequate electric service (i.e., reliability)
  • It cannot impair existing obligations and agreements and I assume they mean existing contracts
  • It cannot cause a significant increase in arrears or service disconnections that the commission determines is related to the program (i.e., affordability)

The Council’s focus on meeting the targets and placating the Climate Justice Working Group ignores these obligations.  With all due respect to the Working Group, they have no affordability and reliability responsibilities so their priorities differ and could easily result in a Scoping Plan that does not address those obligations adequately.  More importantly, reliability and affordability issues impact disadvantaged communities more than other communities so they should be their priority too.

The next slide addressed public input (33:27 in the recording).  The Climate Action Council is required to hold six in-person hearings across the state but they proposed to add one more public hearing and two virtual public hearings.  However, I am very disappointed with the proposed hearings approach because I think that substantive issues raised won’t get recognized.  They apparently plan to follow the same approach to public input as was used for the advisory panels input.  In particular, they plan on three-hour hearings and to limit speakers to two minutes which is insufficient time for anything meaningful.  Instead it is about enough time for a speaker to say that they are in favor or not in favor of the plan.  Ultimately this approach means the Council is simply going through the motions for the public input requirement of the Climate Act.

The concept that the Council would hold meetings to solicit expert input was a feature in the presentation.  However, there was no recognition that the Council might want to invite speakers to participate in a Council meeting if their comments raised issues not addressed in the Draft Scoping Plan.   

Another issue related to the public comments is how they will be handled.  It was mentioned that there already have been over 1,000 comments submitted to the portal.  The following slide says that “Council to consider the full set of public comments after the comment period closes” (discussed at 34:20 in the recording) but it is silly to wait to start to evaluate the comments until the end of the comment period.  Clearly staff has to be organizing the comments and there was mention that the Council will have access to the NYSERDA web system to see the comments.  I think that the comments should be publicly available after they are reviewed for acceptability and not held from the public until the end of the public comment period.  The comments should be sorted regarding relevance to specific chapters, issues, or form submittals expressing generic support or lack of support.

The proposed schedule and meeting locations for the public hearings was discussed starting at 35:30 in the recording.  Staff pointed out that adding other meeting locations beyond the six mandated in the Climate Act means that the comment period is going to be extended 30 days until the end of May.  Nonetheless Council members suggested additional public hearings in Nassau/Queens, Yonkers/Westchester, Southern Tier and Mid-Hudson areas.

There was a long discussion about the timing, content, and format of the in-person and virtual meetings. 

The next slide (1:12:55) discusses the Integration Analysis plans for 2022.  The authors not that “priority topics can be addressed by focused sensitivity analysis”, but also mentions that there isn’t much time to able to do additional research based on feedback. 

This reinforces my argument that the feedback from already submitted public comments and others submitted before the end of the public comment period should be evaluated and considered on an on-going basis.  The slide says that the analyses needed will “need to be finalized within the second quarter of 2022”.  Three potential areas of inquiry are mentioned in the slide:

  • Continued assessment of impacts of electrification, heating system configuration, and magnitude of building shell efficiency investment on key output metrics (e.g., system peak, cost)
  • Impacts of expanded uncertainty range of electric distribution system cost
  • Further alignment of benefit cost framework with net GHG emissions accounting in Statewide GHG Emissions Report

While I don’t disagree with these areas of inquiry, I am disappointed that the words feasibility, reliability, and affordability are not mentioned.  In my opinion the Draft Scoping Plan does not address those concepts adequately. The fact that they are not menti0ned suggests that the authors of the Draft Scoping Plan think they are covered.

The next slide (1:14:50) describing 2022 activities discusses the finalization of the Scoping Plan.  It just fits the finalization into the schedule.  After this slide was presented, there was an opportunity for comments and discussion (starting at 1:17:00).  Carolyn Ryan pointed out the time to discuss public comments is going to be limited so it will be difficult to incorporate public comment.  Sarah Osgood pointed out that there have been 1100 to 1200 comments submitted already.  She said that they would be summarizing them as quickly as possible as they come in and consider how to present them to the Council for consideration.  At 1:20:50 Gavin Donohue made the first mention of reliability.  He said that he hoped that expert engagement would include this topic. 

Topics and Process

According to the next slide (1:24:30), equity and climate justice “are overarching lenses to apply consistently to all topic areas”.  That sums up the framework of Climate Act implementation as it stands.  In any rational take on implementation, reliability and affordability should be the overarching lenses applied to all topic areas.  Isn’t it obvious that this is the cornerstone to equity and climate justice because an unaffordable and unreliable energy system will impact those least able to pay the most?  Incorporating those social justice issues as part of the need for an affordable and reliable system is the appropriate approach but I fear it is not on the agenda.

Three topics were discussed that “require more deliberation” starting at 1:27:02.  All of these issues were raised by members of the Climate Action Council.  In order to meet the Climate Act mandates the natural gas system has to be replaced and this is the first topic.  Some Council members have interpreted the law to preclude the use of combustion entirely so the “potential applications of advanced fuels” topic addresses this issue.  If it is not necessary to consider technological feasibility then adding another layer of untried technology at the scale necessary may be appropriate but someday, someone has to point out that eliminating combustions has risks.  Chapter 17, Economy-Wide Strategies of the Draft Scoping Plan addresses comprehensive policies that price GHG emissions. 

In the process for supporting council decision-making slide (starting at 1:30:33) several suggestions were made.  Given that there are unresolved issues even before the public comment period started a process is an obvious need.  There is no question that additional input and support to the Council are needed.  During the meeting they talked about subgroups developing recommendations for particular topics.  My concern is that the topics chosen will be based on the biases of Council members rather than on the feasibility of the proposed transition without adverse impacts on reliability and affordability.

Starting at 1:47:00 the three identified topics were discussed in detail.  This particular discussion was so relevant that I am going to make it the subject of another post.

The last substantive slide (2:46:20 in the recording) addressed the decision-making process itself and particularly how they will address “consensus”.  I think the statement “Consensus requires that there has been a good faith effort to find a package of recommendations that meets the most important interests of Council members” sums up my over-arching concern about the Council.  In particular the interests of some of the more vocal Council members are ideological rather than logical.  I keep mentioning affordability and reliability feasibility concerns because those ideologues are ignoring those critical concerns.  Given that every other jurisdiction that has tried to implement some similar transition to emissions-free energy systems has run into problems with affordability and reliability ignoring them in this instance is a recipe for disaster.  Of course, when that happens it will be somebody else’s fault.

Discussion

There are some over-arching points to be made regarding the 2022 Climate Action Council plans for this year.  The first issue is logistical.  The outlined plan does not place enough emphasis on starting to address comments received as soon as possible.  I believe the process of summarizing, categorizing, and disseminating comments should start immediately so that the Council can determine if there are substantive issues that need to be addressed.  If the Council makes it clear that the sooner a substantive issue is raised, the more time they will have to address it, then I think stakeholders will realize it is in their best interests to get comments in as soon as possible rather than waiting until the comment period closes.

I was disappointed that reliability and affordability were not at the top of the list of issues that need to be addressed in 2022.  It appears that climate justice and disadvantaged communities are higher priorities despite the massive impacts of higher costs and unreliable power on those least able to afford higher costs and blackouts.  That point of emphasis reinforced my concern that for many on the Council the green energy transition is more about political pandering to specific voting blocs than addressing climate change in a rational way.

Finally, the Council appears to be tone deaf to the need to hear both sides of substantive issues.  For example, Dennis Elsenbeck at 1:44:58 bias notes that we “use the word bias all the time”.  He goes on to argue that there is bias in this entire process but then claims that “You deal with bias by having an unbiased facilitator”.  In the discussion of combustion avoidance his suggestion is that the Council should hear from experts like Plug Power on the topic of fuel cells.  According to their website, Plug Power is the “leading provider of clean hydrogen and zero-emission fuel cell solutions that are both cost-effective and reliable”.  There is zero chance that any presentation they give to the Council is going to suggest in any way, shape, or form that fuel cells are not the answer with no downsides.  If all the presentations to the Council are from subject matter experts that have a bias towards their technology, then an unbiased facilitator will not be needed because there is only one side presented.  It is time to open up the discussion and make sure that the pros and cons of all implementation topics are heard.  For example, at 29:40, Sarah Osgood mentioned having a presentation on district heating systems.  If this is done then they should not invite just the advocates for those systems but people who can describe potential issues with this approach.

Conclusion

The scope and schedule of the Climate Act transition to a “zero-emissions” energy system is so daunting that a full accounting of the risks to reliability and affordability cannot hope to be adequately addressed in the time frame available.  Nonetheless, I had hoped that the Council would consider the inconvenient issues as well as the convenient issues.  The plan for the electric system transition relies on technology that does not exist.  Any responsible implementation plan would incorporate specific technological and cost conditions in the schedule for this massive transition to ensure that the technology needed is available before the existing system is dismantled.  The Integration Analysis has not confronted this reality and the Council appears blissfully unaware of this risk  The public comment period is supposed to afford stakeholders the opportunity to raise concerns about the viability of the proposed plan relative to issues like this.  However, the plans outlined at this meeting suggest that the public comment requirement will be treated as a formality rather than an opportunity for meaningful issues to be raised and considered.  I do not see how this will end well.