Accelerated Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act: Electric System Concerns

In the summer of 2019 Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) which was described as the most ambitious and comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation in the country when Cuomo signed the legislation.  In early April 2020, NYS passed the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act (AREGCBA) as part of the 2020-21 state budget.  This legislation is intended to ensure that renewable generation is sited in a timely and cost-effective manner.   It is best described by a knowledgeable friend as “Once again the idiots in Albany have proven they are willing to dive from the high board without looking to see if there is any water in the pool.”  When this was proposed I posted an essay describing the hypocrisy and over-reach aspects.  This post show why there are significant risks to the electric system.  I will follow up with a post addressing the environmental problems associated with these laws.

Background

The AREGCBA legislation states that the CLCPA targets “shall mean the public policies established in the climate leadership and community protection act enacted in chapter one hundred six of the laws of 2019, including the requirement that a minimum of seventy percent of the statewide electric generation be produced by renewable energy systems by 2030, that by the year 2040 the statewide electrical demand system will generate zero emissions and the procurement of at least nine gigawatts of offshore wind electricity generation by 2035, six gigawatts of photovoltaic solar generation by 2025 and to support three gigawatts of statewide energy storage capacity by 2030”.

Unfortunately, the politicians that passed this law never bothered to figure out how it could be done.  Prudence would have been to do a study to determine what was feasible and then set the targets. Instead, the legislation sets up a Climate Action Council with the charge to prepare and approve a draft scoping plan “outlining the recommendations for attaining the statewide greenhouse gas emissions limits” within two years of the effective date of the legislation.  One year later, the council shall submit the final scoping plan to the governor, the speaker of the assembly and the temporary president of the senate and post such plan on its website.  I have written a series of posts on the feasibility risks, implications and some of the costs of the CLCPA that provides more details on the law.

The Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act is Cuomo’s legislation and the unintended consequences will be his fault.  On February 21, 2020 he announced “he is advancing a 30-day budget amendment to dramatically speed up the permitting and construction of renewable energy projects, combat climate change and grow the state’s green economy. If adopted, the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act will create a new Office of Renewable Energy Permitting to improve and streamline the process for environmentally responsible and cost-effective siting of large-scale renewable energy projects across New York while delivering significant benefits to local communities.”  New York State’s budget process has never been a template for good governance and this March would have been an appropriate time to concentrate on the financial implications of the coronavirus pandemic.   Instead, Cuomo jammed this legislation into the budget package making it difficult for the assembly or senate to discuss, much less object.

2. Legislative findings and statement of purpose

I have copied section 4 of this chapter of the legislation and inserted my comments in italics.  My over-riding problem with the CLCPA is that there is no plan.  The AREGCBA legislation compounds the problem by removing the evaluation of community impacts constraints.

    1. A public policy purpose would be served and the interests of the people of the state would be advanced by:

(a) expediting the regulatory review for the siting of major renewable energy facilities and transmission infrastructure necessary to meet the CLCPA targets, in recognition of the importance of these facilities and their ability to lower carbon emissions;

Article 10 Law currently requires “environmental and public health impact analyses, studies regarding environmental justice and public safety, and consideration of local laws” but those requirements take time to evaluate and it appears this regulation over-rides the time needed for those analyses.

(b) making available to developers of clean generation resources build-ready sites for the construction and operation of such renewable energy facilities;

In my opinion if the CLCPA and AREGCBA laws had been written such that the plans were developed first it would have been more protective for New Yorkers.  In that approach the State would fulfill all the Article 10 requirements as part of the “build-ready sites” approach.  It is possible that is the intent of this part of the rule but there will be more sites needed then those which are incentivized by section (e) below. 

(c) developing uniform permit standards and conditions that are applicable to classes and categories of renewable energy facilities, that reflect the environmental benefits of such facilities and address common conditions necessary to minimize impacts to the surrounding community and environment;

I have reviewed all the Article 10 solar applications and there is no question that uniform permit standards and common conditions could be addressed by a comprehensive planning approach. 

(d) providing for workforce training, especially in disadvantaged communities;

This is a transparent effort to develop support from a specific voting bloc.

(e) implementing one or more programs to provide benefits to owners of land and communities where renewable energy facilities and transmission infrastructure would be sited;

This is political payola.  It is a bribe given in exchange for accepting any negative consequences of the renewable energy facilities.

(f) incentivizing the re-use or adaptation of sites with existing or abandoned commercial or industrial uses, such as brownfields, landfills, dormant electric generating sites and former commercial or industrial sites, for the development of major renewable energy facilities and to restore and protect the value of taxable land and leverage existing resources; and

This is a noble gesture.  Without question it is a nice idea to re-use or adapt unused sites but the fact is that those sites are small relative to the areal needs of diffuse wind and solar power production required by the CLCPA.

(g) implementing the state’s policy to protect, conserve and recover endangered and threatened species while establishing additional mechanisms to facilitate the achievement of a net conservation benefit to endangered or threatened species which may be impacted by the construction or operation of major renewable energy facilities.

In the long list of Cuomo’s hypocritical environmental policies this may be the topper.  There is no question that there is value for net conservation benefits.  For example, if an acre of a wetland is impacted, then the applicant could restore, create or enhance more wetland acreage nearby for a net environmental benefit.  The Cuomo administration has a consistent record of ignoring the possibility of this approach where it is inconvenient for their rationale to reject an application (e.g., any of the pipeline applications rejected in his tenure).  While this may be appropriate for affected wetlands at renewable facilities the real concern with blanketing the state with wind turbines is the effect on endangered or threatened avian species.  What in the world could be proposed as a net benefit for incidental slaughter of birds and bats at y wind turbine? 

Electric System Concerns

The politicians that enacted CLCPA made a major mistake putting the cart (the aggressive targets) before the horse (figuring out what was feasible).  The draft scoping plan outlining attainment recommendations will not be approved until June 2021 and the final version will not be presented to the Governor, Assembly and Senate for another year.   The crony capitalists, environmental activists, and all the others who stand to gain from this ambitious plan have conned the legislators and Governor into believing that meeting the targets is simply a matter of political will but as I show below that is not the case.

I worry about the costs of the CLCPA because jurisdictions that are attempting similar GHG reductions have seen higher costs. Renewable energy supporters claim solar and wind are cheaper than conventional power plants but that is only the cost of the facility.  The problem is the cost of the generator does not include the cost to get the power to where it is needed when it is needed.  I evaluated one example of Cuomo’s renewable energy promises: freeing the state fairgrounds of fossil fuels.  One advocate claimed “solar is doable” and that “the 9 million kilowatt hours the fair used in 2018-2019 could be supplied by a 45-acre solar array and that would cost about $12 million to build”.  In my post I calculated what would be needed to provide all the electric power needed during the ten days the fair is open.  In my cheapest scenario I estimate that the solar array has to be at least twice as large, a wind farm with ten 2.5 MW wind turbines has to be added to reduce energy storage requirements and that you would still need an energy storage array totaling 43 MWh.  I have not evaluated the costs of solar and wind but have looked into the costs of Li-Ion batteries for energy storage.  Using National Renewable Energy Laboratory information, I estimate that the cost of just battery backup would be $17 million.  Assuming that a wind farm is a comparable cost to the 45-acre solar array and doubling the size of the array, the crude cost is $53 million.  Of course, with no detailed plan we have no idea of the cost of the CLCPA.

But it not just a question of cost but also of feasibility.  The State needs to show how many wind turbines, solar panels and energy storage systems will be needed when we most need power.  The only way to do that is to determine the availability of wind and solar based on historical meteorological data.  Done properly the study should look at hourly solar insolation, snow cover, and wind speed meteorological records across the state.  The other component is expected load.  In order to meet all the CLCPA targets the heating and transportation sectors will have to be electrified and that means that the future load peak will be in the winter.  The over-riding feasibility problem is what resources will be needed to cover a winter peak when solar resources are low.  I estimated the resources needed for a load estimate from the Citizen’s Budget Commission with wind and solar output estimates based on meteorological data from January 3-4 2018 and found that New York would have to build 11,395 MW of residential solar, 16,117 MW of utility-scale solar, 18,457 MW of on-shore wind and 16,363 MW of off-shore wind to meet the increased load needed for the CLCPA targets.  For the example winter peak period I showed that the light winds at night would require 150,000 MWh of energy storage and using National Renewable Energy Lab information showed that energy storage alone could cost $176 billion by 2050.

There is another feasibility problem.  Wind and solar are diffuse and chaotically intermittent.  Because they are diffuse the transmission system is needed but because they are so intermittent the transmission system has to be modified.  Conventional fossil-fuel fired, nuclear, and hydro units generate relatively stable power.  Wind and solar units provide variable power generation so resources also have to be developed to handle grid balancing services.  No major electric system has even come close to the targets in the CLCPA but transmission problems have shown up where renewable energy input is about half of the total such as South Australia.  Battery storage such as LI-ion batteries can provide these services in theory but no where has any system near the size of New York demonstrated the practicality of such a system.  Again, because there is no plan, we have no idea of the added costs of this necessary component of the future CLCPA electric energy system.

Even if a study shows it is feasible what about resiliency?  Coal is no longer burned to generate electricity in New York and residual oil is discouraged but both fuels could be stored on-site making them more resilient sources of power.  I recently showed that a 9” snowstorm blocked all the power output from a solar facility for four days.  When the CLCPA target of 6 GW of solar PV is implemented and we have a similar snowstorm to the March 12-14 superstorm that covered the state with 10” of snow, how can the electrical needs be met with no solar generation.  Even worse, what happens when an ice storm takes the power out to a city when residents completely depend on electric heat?  The ultimate resiliency question is how can New York City possibly meet its requirements for in-city generation using diffuse renewables.  Failure to meet those specifications raises the possibility of a New York City blackout.

There also are worrying issues with the environmental aspects.  In order to do justice to those topics I am going to follow up with another post.

Conclusion

The New York electric system is part of one of the largest and most effective machines in the world.  It produces affordable reliable electricity when and where it is needed.  However, the popular conception of the grid is that for all of its complexity and acknowledged past success it is outdated.  Enter the “Smart Grid” to solve all the problems.  According to SmartGrid.gov, “the Smart Grid will consist of controls, computers, automation, and new technologies and equipment working together, but in this case, these technologies will work with the electrical grid to respond digitally to our quickly changing electric demand.“  They also say that “The Smart Grid represents an unprecedented opportunity to move the energy industry into a new era of reliability, availability, and efficiency that will contribute to our economic and environmental health.”  I believe that the underlying impetus is “environmental health”.  The only way to integrate renewable technology is the smart grid and everyone knows that we need renewables to save the planet.

New York State energy policy is on board with the Smart Grid and it has been sold to the gullible and innumerate as a simple, cheaper solution.  Cynics like me say if it is so good then the market should choose it as the preferred alternative.  Instead we get laws like CLCPA with its ambitious targets and the AREGCBA with its rushed incentives to build renewable technology.  As I have shown there is no New York plan to implement this technology and serious technological issues to address.  All we are left with are hollow promises and vague reassurances from the politicians.  Until we have a plan that includes costs and environmental impacts these laws should be put on hold if not repealed altogether.  The problem with the idiots in Albany diving from the high board without looking to see if there is any water in the pool is that they will take the reliable and affordable electric system crashing down with them.

EPRI Electrification Scenarios for New York’s Energy Future

In the summer of 2019 Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) which was described as the most ambitious and comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation in the country when Cuomo signed the legislation. The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) recently released an “assessment of the potential role of electric technologies to meet energy needs and resulting impacts on end-use energy efficiency, electricity supply, and economy-wide emissions through 2050” for New York.  This post looks at the results of this analysis relative to the CLCPA and is another in a series of posts on this legislation.

I am following the implementation of the CLCPA closely because its implementation affects my future as a New Yorker, specifically can I afford to continue to live here in retirement.  Given the results for other jurisdictions that have implemented renewable energy resources at far lower levels, I am convinced that the costs will be enormous and my analyses have supported that concern.  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 politicians who passed the CLCPA mandated a reduction of New York’s GHG emissions to 60 percent of 1990 emissions levels in 2030 and that emissions from electricity production would be zero by 2040.  However, they just assumed that their targets could be met and only mandated that two years of the effective date of the legislation the climate action council would prepare and approve a scoping plan outlining the recommendations for attaining the statewide greenhouse gas emissions limits in accordance with the schedule.  In other words, this is a classic cart before the horse legislation example.

In the absence of a state plan I welcome any analysis of New York’s future energy system so I was happy to see this document.  The Executive Summary describes the report and notes the important caveat that it does not address the CLCPA requirements:

The analysis finds that electrification outcomes in New York, including the extent and timing of adoption, infrastructure and investment needs, and associated economy-wide emission reductions, will vary depending on a range of policy, economic, and technology factors. This study was conducted before the enactment of the state’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act and does not make policy recommendations or identify specific pathways to achieving the state’s greenhouse gas (GHG) targets. Instead, it illustrates that a portfolio of electric technologies could play a significant role in reaching the state’s energy goals. Furthermore, this initial assessment helps identify the areas in which legislators, regulators, utilities, grid operators, customers, and other stakeholders can work together on the next chapter of New York’s clean energy future.

Study Summary

The report describes the study methodology, assumptions, and limitations first.  Then it describes how NYS consumers use energy today. The study examines the evolution of electric technology adoption and the impact on the NYS energy system for four scenarios using EPRI’s NY-REGEN energy-economy

model.  The fourth section provides “an in-depth look at a variety of electric technologies, analyzes consumer costs and use cases, and identifies areas in which customer outreach and education may be needed in the future” .This approach is straight-forward and consistent with what anyone who is trying to project what may happen in the future would do.  There is one caveat I will mention though.  The NY-REGEN energy-economy model is simply a fancy packaging of what the model developers think will happen so it is only as good as the input assumptions.

For this type of analysis, the results have to be considered relatively.  Four scenarios were analyzed.

      1. The Baseline scenario reflects moderate improvement in technology costs and performance based on anticipated trends and EPRI research, and the attainment of pre-2019 NYS clean energy targets. Assumptions of economic growth, fuel prices, and service demand are drawn from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
      2. The Carbon Price scenario maintains Baseline assumptions on technology improvements and cost decline. Under these conditions it explores the impact of hypothetical economy-wide carbon policy in which carbon dioxide (CO2) is illustratively valued at $50/ton CO2 starting in 20202 and escalating to $216/ ton CO2 in 2050.
      3. The Mandates scenario explores the impact of possible regulatory interventions for electric end uses and additional energy efficiency. The policies this scenario examines would require electric technologies for all installations of building heating equipment and new vehicle purchases in 2030 onwards. In addition to the Baseline assumptions, heating equipment performance improvements are accelerated by 15 years, but cold-weather breakthroughs are not assumed.
      4. The Transformation scenario combines the above Mandates with a hypothetical economy-wide carbon price of CO2 illustratively valued at $100/ton CO2 beginning in 2020 (escalating to $432/ton CO2 in 2050) with elements of the expanded clean energy targets in the state’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.

Findings Summary

The report lists the following key findings with my italicized clarification comments

The results of this study are based on a suite of detailed assumptions and should be interpreted as directional in nature, helping to frame priorities for further study as New York State advances its energy goals. As noted previously the study developed a scenario for a baseline and then did three possible scenarios for the future.  Results should be considered by comparing the baseline results to the results of each of the scenarios.

      • The NYS energy system has large potential for electrification, which, in conjunction with low-carbon electricity, can achieve substantial CO2 reductions. Electricity’s role in the state economy will continue to grow over the next 30 years—the pace and extent of that growth will depend on policy decisions, technology improvement, market readiness, and economic conditions. Across the study’s four scenarios, electricity’s share in final energy use ranges from roughly 25% to 70% in 2050, up from around 20% today. If they had done an evaluation of the CLCPA then electricity’s share of final energy use would be even higher.
      • Energy efficiency is a key factor in reducing energy use, limiting CO2 emissions, and managing infrastructure needs. Even before accounting for electrification, the study finds that robust energy efficiency cuts total final energy use in NYS by 35% of what it otherwise would be in 2050; additional efficiency gains from electrification range from 9% to 21%. Energy efficiency gains are realized by both electric and direct fuel alternatives, with annual improvement rates ranging from 0.5% to 4% depending on the end-use technology.
      • After energy efficiency, electrifying transportation while decarbonizing the grid with renewable energy offers the greatest potential to cost-effectively reduce CO2 emissions in NYS. Electric vehicles (EVs) and plugin hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) are projected to become lower cost alternatives to conventional vehicles for most drivers within the next decade, even without additional economic incentives. Almost 30% of New York passenger vehicle miles are projected to be fueled by electricity by 2030 in the Baseline scenario, increasing to roughly 75% by 2050. EV charging infrastructure is an essential component to achieving a highly electrified transportation fleet in NYS. (According to Figure 2-6, there were 12,116,00 light-duty vehicles and 41,000 were electric in 2015 for 0.34%.)
      • New York’s winter climate and building stock call for advanced technologies and targeted approaches to heating electrification when compared to other areas of the United States (EPRI, 2018). While air-source heat pumps (ASHPs) are more efficient and cost-effective than oil-based heating, which continues to warm about one in four homes in New York, natural gas furnaces are currently more economic in NYS on an annualized capital and operating cost metric. Nevertheless, potential breakthroughs in cold-climate heat pumps—including ground-source heat pumps—have the potential to alter these cost and performance projections. Further study could assess the benefits, costs, and feasibility of these advanced technologies in conjunction with building envelope efficiency improvements. (Retrofitting ground source heat pumps is problematic so the more likely retrofit option is air source heat pumps.)
      • The adoption of electric end-use technologies will depend on individual customer decisions—market readiness, technology maturity, vendor-to-customer education, and appropriate incentives will be crucial to advancing electrification. While technology progress and carbon policy help to shift the market from fossil fuels toward electrified end uses, accelerating this transition may well require collaborative market interventions by policymakers, regulators, and utilities, with consideration of the needs of a diverse range of consumer situations—including low-income housing, older or landmarked buildings, and rural settings. (Collaborative market interventions could be construed as ramming what they want down the consumer’s throats.)
      • In all scenarios, New York’s statewide peak demand shifts from summer to winter and, if unmanaged, could increase substantially. Peak demands are expected to shift toward the early mornings of the coldest winter days, primarily due to increased EV charging needs in low temperatures plus electric heat pump adoption, while summer electricity usage drops as air conditioning efficiency improvements outpace growth in service demand. In the Mandates and Transformation scenarios, where customers electrify nearly all space heating and transportation but do not manage the timing of demand on the grid, peak winter demand in 2050 could be more than twice as high as today’s system peak. This highlights a key opportunity for New York’s electricity system stakeholders to develop and implement solution approaches such as cost-reflective time-of-use pricing, active load management of smart vehicle charging and other flexible loads such as space conditioning, behind-the-meter storage, and advanced cold-weather heating systems.
      • Flexible resources arising from a portfolio of advanced technologies and additional transmission will be critical to decarbonizing electricity generation. As more renewables are added to the generation mix to meet New York’s clean energy goals, dispatchable technologies will be needed to maintain reliability and balance variable generation, especially after 2030. Broadening the state’s portfolio of low-carbon, flexible generation assets can help reduce reliance on the gas generation fleet. EPRI’s new Low-Carbon Resources Initiative may provide important insights in this area. (The CLCPA likely remove the low-carbon resources initiative option from consideration.)
      • Customer adoption trends and electricity grid impacts are projected to vary across the state. Limited residential EV curbside charging, split tenant/landlord incentives, and variety across household characteristics and building types influence implementation in downstate urban areas, while affordability of converting to electric technologies may be a factor to consider in other parts of the state.
      • Electrification of specialized applications such as off-road vehicles (for example, forklifts), ground equipment at ports and airports, and industrial end uses may offer substantial benefits. Potential benefits include energy efficiency and reductions in emissions, noise, maintenance, and costs compared to the direct fuel alternative.

Motivated reasoning

There is a prevailing bias in this study that I believe motivates the reasoning and ultimately the results.  According to the document EPRI “brings together its scientists and engineers as well as experts from academia and industry to help address challenges in electricity, including reliability, efficiency, affordability, health, safety and the environment”.  There is no charge to EPRI from its funding organizations to consider all energy sources and determine the most affordable solutions for the future.  Consequently, they are all in for electrification.

This study was funded by the New York Power Authority (NYPA) and Consolidated Edison (Con Ed).  Both organizations have a vested interest in electrification and publicly supporting the CLCPA.  Increased electrification enhances their empires for lack of a better word so the more the better.  The Power Authority is an agency controlled by Governor Cuomo.  I can assure you that they cannot publicly question any action by any agency and certainly cannot raise questions about the viability of the Governor’s signature climate legislation.  Consolidated Edison is a corporation whose profits are dependent upon revenues determined by the Department of Public Services again controlled by Governor Cuomo.  Consequently, they too are reluctant to question the viability of the CLCPA.

According to the report “The study did not explicitly model recently adopted laws in New York City and New York State, such as New York City’s Local Law 97 or the State’s CLCPA. The study is not intended to identify explicit pathways to achieving the state’s GHG reduction targets. The scenarios presented here have been designed to illustrate the role of advanced technology alongside policy and regulatory drivers in reaching NYS’s clean energy requirements.”  I am confident that this language was vetted at the highest levels of NYPA and Con Ed to provide as much distance as possible from anything that could be construed as derogatory to CLCPA implementation.

One would think that a primary result from this analysis would be a comparison of the total costs for the four scenarios.  I did not read every word in the entire document but I did search for the word “cost” and the symbol “$”.  There are costs for options discussed in the electrification technology case studies but the total costs are not listed.  For example, the cost of air source heat pumps relative to natural and oil-fired furnaces are listed and it is shown that air source heat pumps are more cost-effective than oil-fired furnaces.  However, the study did not combine the number of fossil-fired furnaces that have to be converted and the cost of air source heat pumps to come up with a statewide cost. The absence of that obvious information certainly could be construed as a hiding a result inconvenient to the CLCPA.

Magical solutions

In my opinion, the findings include some results that are only possible if there are magical solutions.  In this category are technologies that are not currently available but are assumed to appear as needed in the future.  Also included are policies that have not succeeded as hoped so far but are also assumed to work as needed to meet the electrification scenario requirements.

In the electrifying transportation findings summary above I noted that in New York only 0.34% of the vehicles registered in 2015 were electric vehicles but the Baseline scenario assumes that almost 30% of New York passenger vehicle miles are projected to be fueled by electricity by 2030.  The latest NYSERDA electric vehicle registrations show that by October 2019 the number of electric vehicles was up to 64,588.  If we assume that the number of electric vehicles is proportional to the electric of vehicle miles traveled, then by 2030 there need to be 12,116,00*30% or 3,634,800 light duty vehicles so 3,570,212 electric vehicles have to be purchased in the next ten years.  The magical solution: “Even in the Baseline scenario, declining battery costs combined with lower fuel and maintenance costs make light-duty electric vehicles the economic choice for many households. The upfront cost premium relative to conventional vehicles is more than offset by lower total ownership costs of fueling and maintenance, driving economic adoption for many households and businesses.”  All this does is ignore the very real concerns of people who depend on their vehicles to provide transportation whenever they need it whatever the temperature to go wherever they need to go.  It also assumes that batteries will necessarily get cheaper.

In order to meet the CLCPA emission reduction goals electrification of home heating has to be increased.  EPRI points out that air-source heat pumps are more efficient and cost-effective than oil-based heating.  The problem is that below 20°F the “baseline ASHP system modeled for installation in 2020 provides full heating needs above 20°F only; at lower temperatures, supplemental heating by electric resistance, gas furnace, or oil-based heating equipment is required”.  Of course, all of New York has to have supplemental heating equipment because temperatures below 20°F are to be expected and that makes air-source heat pumps less attractive.  The magical solution: “potential breakthroughs in cold-climate heat pumps—including ground-source heat pumps—have the potential to alter cost and performance projections” that makes more widespread adoption the preferred approach.  This ignores the fact that heat pumps work by transferring energy from one place to another and that there just isn’t that much energy when the temperature is below 20°F.  The potential to alter cost and performance by much is not very likely absent repeals of the laws of physics.

The key findings note that “in all scenarios, New York’s statewide peak demand shifts from summer to winter and, if unmanaged, could increase substantially. Peak demands are expected to shift toward the early mornings of the coldest winter days, primarily due to increased EV charging needs in low temperatures plus electric heat pump adoption”. One of the promises of the future smart grid is that peak loads will be smoothed out so this is a problem.  The magical solution: EPRI claims there is a “key opportunity for New York’s electricity system stakeholders to develop and implement solution approaches such as cost-reflective time-of-use pricing, active load management of smart vehicle charging and other flexible loads such as space conditioning, behind-the-meter storage, and advanced cold-weather heating systems”.  Here is a news flash to EPRI – when residents are in the middle of a polar vortex cold snap that lasts several days, they will have to use whatever energy is needed to stay warm.  All of the solutions proposed will result in regressive costs hurting those who can afford it the least the most.

Conclusions

There are aspects of this report that have implications to CLCPA implementation that deserve more attention than I can include in this introductory post.  For example, the future scenarios specify values of the Social Cost of Carbon that increase over time.  I believe that is a necessary aspect for that kind of carbon pricing to work but this is the first instance where I have seen projections made for New York.  The problem I want to address is the fact that the Social Cost of Carbon is supposed to put a number on future damages from CO2 emitted today and the values they included exceed the published thresholds.  If the costs exceed the expected damages it doesn’t make sense. You wouldn’t spend more than a dollar to save a dollar.

As noted, these electrification scenarios do not “make policy recommendations or identify specific pathways to achieving the state’s greenhouse gas (GHG) targets”.  While this report has a vested interest in electrification, there also is a problem that they had to dance around or incur the wrath of the politicians that passed the CLCPA.  One of the findings noted “Flexible resources arising from a portfolio of advanced technologies and additional transmission will be critical to decarbonizing electricity generation.  As more renewables are added to the generation mix to meet New York’s clean energy goals, dispatchable technologies will be needed to maintain reliability and balance variable generation, especially after 2030”.  The most appropriate dispatchable technology (natural gas fired turbines) is a Voldemort technology which must not be named because it is evil.  Problem is when the wind is calm at night the only alternative to keep the lights on is energy storage which is horrifically expensive.  EPRI, NYPA, and Con Ed know this but could not say it, hence the obfuscatory language.

The bottom line for any of these electrification scenarios is that intermittent energy, i.e., wind and solar, cannot fuel our society on its own.  The whole concept of the CLCPA net-zero energy future is flawed.   There is currently no alternative to fossil fuels for efficient cost-effective transport and the only near-zero-carbon fuel which can meet electrical generation needs is nuclear, which New York state policy is explicitly rejecting.

3 March 2020 New York Climate Action Council Meeting

In the summer of 2019 Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) which was described as the most ambitious and comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation in the country when Cuomo signed the legislation.  The legislation set up the Climate Action Council to figure out how to implement the rule.  This post summarizes the first meeting of the Council.

I am following the implementation of the CLCPA closely because its implementation affects my future as a New Yorker.  Given the results for other jurisdictions that have implemented renewable energy resources to meet targets at far lower levels I am convinced that the costs in New York will be enormous and my analyses have supported that concern.  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 politicians who passed the CLCPA mandated a reduction of New York’s GHG emissions to 60 percent of 1990 emissions levels in 2030 and that emissions from electricity production would be zero by 2040.  However, they just assumed that their targets could be met and only mandated that two years of the effective date of the legislation the Climate Action Council would prepare and approve a scoping plan outlining the recommendations for attaining the statewide greenhouse gas emissions limits in accordance with the schedule.  In other words, this is a classic cart before the horse legislation example.

The Albany Times Union described the first meeting of the Climate Action Council as “uneventful” with cordial interactions, they did note “remarks by members signaled the tough questions the group will be grappling with in coming months and years”.  “How do we assess the cost of all this?” asked Donna DeCarolis, president of National Fuel Gas, a western New York energy company.

The New York Climate Act web page appears to be the new face of the program.  It includes a sign-up link to be on the contact list for new developments, and a fact sheet for the Climate Act.  There also is a general description of the Climate Action Council and a list of members.  Finally, there is a link to the first meeting materials and a recording of the session.

March 3, 2020 Climate Action Council Meeting

The web page for the Climate Action Council included meeting materials for the first meeting:

Update March 6, 2020: There is a video of the meeting available at the Climate Action Council website.

The agenda had the following items listed:

      • Welcome and Introductions
      • Co-Chair Remarks
      • Presentation: Climate Science Considerations, Radley Horton, Columbia University
      • Presentation: Climate Act Requirements
      • Climate Act Goals
      • Bylaws
      • Advisory Panels
      • Next Steps

The meeting presentation was a power point covering the agenda items and the climate act requirements presentation.  I am not going to reproduce all the slides in this presentation but will call your attention to some items.  The slide entitled New York’s Climate Leadership list five items including “Groundbreaking Environmental Support: Restore Mother Nature Bond Act – $3 billion “Restore Mother Nature” Bond Act to restore our state’s environment and improve resiliency.”  I think that the presentation should have noted that this is a proposed bond and has not been approved by the public.  For a state that has serious water quality problems my personal opinion is that the majority of those bond revenues should go to those problems rather than climate initiatives but only time will tell how that works out.

One thing that caught my eye was the slide entitled major roles and responsibilities that listed the following items:

      • Climate Action Council: Prepare and approve a scoping plan of recommendations to achieve 40×30, 85×50, carbon neutrality
      • Climate Justice Working Group: Establish criteria to identify and develop a list of disadvantaged communities
      • Just Transition Working Group: Conduct a study on job creation and workforce disruption related to the transition to a low carbon economy
      • PSC: Establish a program requiring load serving entities meet 70×30 and 100×40 targets
      • DEC: Promulgate the statewide greenhouse gas emissions limit regulation; establish a value of carbon; issue annual reports on statewide greenhouse gas emissions; promulgate regulations to implement the scoping plan
      • All Agencies: Implement strategies to reduce emissions; consider consistency with the Act in agency decisions

The climate justice working group will develop criteria for and list of disadvantaged communities and will report on barriers and opportunities for clean energy.  They will “ensure no increase in co-pollutant emissions or disproportionate burden on disadvantaged communities” and “DEC shall establish a community air monitoring pilot program in at least 4 disadvantaged communities”.  There also is a requirement to “Invest or direct available and relevant programmatic resources in a manner designed to achieve a goal for disadvantaged communities to receive 40% of overall benefits of spending on:

    • Clean energy and energy efficiency programs
    • Projects or investments in the areas of housing, workforce development, pollution reduction, low-income energy assistance, energy, transportation, and economic development

This legislation sets very aggressive targets to combat the supposed existential threat of climate change.  Nevertheless, the politicians still established these requirements which dilute resources from the primary goal and may spend money in ways that might not be the most cost-effective way to reach the targets.

I look forward to more information about the PSC responsibility to “establish a program requiring load serving entities meet 70×30 and 100×40 targets.  On the face of it, this is puzzling.  New York is de-regulated and the load serving entities do not generate much electricity so what are they supposed to do?  As a cynical New York resident, I suspect requiring them to meet the targets could ultimately transfer blame when things don’t work out.

Dr. Horton’s presentation “Climate Hazards, Impacts and Opportunities” included the usual litany of scary statistics and catastrophic projections used as rationale for the CLCPA.  One of my pragmatic environmental principles is the Baloney Asymmetry Principle first defined by Alberto Brandolini: “The amount of energy necessary to refute BS is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.”  There is so much BS in this presentation that I could spend weeks listing the caveats to claims, showing how data shown is often cherry picked to show the worst case, and how some of the information is mis-leading.  A simple list of examples of each will suffice.  The sea level trends and projections slide should be caveated to note that there are plenty of data showing none of the acceleration of sea-level rise that would be needed to reach the scary projections shown.  There are several references to climatic trends but note that the figures start in 1930, 1950 and 1958 which suggests that the starting points were cherry-picked to maximize the effect.  The global temperatures projections slides uses representative concentration pathway 8.5 which is mis-leading “The misuse of RCP 8.5 involves the transformation of what is more accurately described as a worst-case scenario into the sole ‘business as usual’ or baseline scenario that has become a centerpiece of climate policy discussions.”

Conclusion

So it begins, stay tuned.

NY GHG Emissions Status and Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act Targets

UPDATE March 4, 2020:  I mis-interpreted the 2030 GHG emissions reduction target.  I thought it was supposed to be a 60% reduction but it is only a 40% reduction.  As a result the sector reductions needed to meet that target have been modified.

In the summer of 2019 the Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) which was described as the most ambitious and comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation in the country when Cuomo signed the legislation.  I recently summarized the historical Green House Gas emissions (GHG) and CLCPA targets.  This post looks at the historical data relative to the 2030 target.

Background

As noted in the historical New York State GHG emissions post the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA) does an annual inventory of GHG emissions.  Their most recent report, Greenhouse Gas Inventory 1990-2016 contains a detailed inventory of historical greenhouse gas emission data from 1990-2016 for New York State’s energy and non-energy sectors.  Table S-2 New York State GHG Emissions 1990–2016 (MMtCO2e) from that report lists emissions from different sectors in million tons of CO2 equivalent (MMtCO2e).

The CLCPA GHG Emissions Targets 2016 Update table presents the emissions status for the 2030 CLCPA target to reduce GHG emissions 40% from the 1990 level and the 2050 CLCPA target to reduce GHG emissions 85% from the 1990 level.  According to the NYSERDA methodology, 1990 GHG emissions were 236.2 million metric tons of CO2e. The 2030 target limit is 141.7 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent (MMtCO2e) and in 2016, the last year of the NYSERDA inventory, NYS emissions were 205.6 MMtCO2e.  Therefore, in order to meet the CLCPA target in 2030 another 63.9 MMtCO2e have to be reduced.  This post addresses the fact that New York state reduced GHG emissions 30.6 MMtCO2e in the 26 years between 1990 and 2016 but has to reduce them another 63.9 MMtCO2e in 14 years to meet the 2030 CLCPA target.

Analysis

The New York State GHG Emission Reductions 1990 to 2016 table extracts the 1990 and 2016 data from NYSERDA Table S-2.  It is instructive to look at where the reductions were made over that 26-year period.  In the energy category total emissions were down 17% (36.16 MMtCO2e).  The largest reductions came from the electric generation sector but there were also reductions from the residential, commercial and industrial sectors.  Transportation, net imported electric, and waste incineration increased.  For non-energy sources the emissions went up 21% but only 5.6 MMtCO2e.  Although the waste sector went down agriculture and industrial process sector emissions went up.  Overall the State GHG emissions went down 30.58 MMTCO2e

The CLCPA 2030 target of 141.7 MMtCO2e requires a reduction in the fourteen years from 2016 of 63.9 MMtCO2e.  As shown in the New York State GHG Emission Reduction Projections 2016-2030 table, if every sector in the economy was required to make the same percentage reduction, then each sector would have to reduce emissions 31%.  Of course, it might be possible to reduce some sectors to zero.  The CLCPA proposes to eliminate GHG emissions from the electric sector by 2040 so what if that schedule is accelerated and we also reduce industrial GHG emissions to zero.  The same table also includes a scenario showing those reductions and shows that all the other sectors would still have to make 14% reductions.

A more reasoned approach to possible reductions would be to look at the reasons why there were reductions in the past.  For example, there are detailed numbers for the electric sector from the EPA Clean Air Markets Division Air Markets Program Data website. The website includes a query tool that I have used for years to extract specific data from national emission monitoring programs.  For this analysis I downloaded CO2 emissions data, operating time, heat input and load data as well as unit-specific information on fuel use and unit type so that I could show what changes caused the emissions reductions.  In the Last 20 years (2000 to 2019) New York State CO2 Emissions table, annual CO2 emissions for the last 20 years by the primary fuel type reported to EPA are listed.  Note that the total emissions in this table is greater than the NYSERDA number.  This is because the EPA data includes some sources that are not electric generating units included in the EPA data.

Clearly the primary cause for the reductions observed is decrease use of coal and residual-oil.   New York is unique in that there are five relatively new large residual oil-fired boiler units in the state.  The primary driver for the reductions was the cost of oil relative to natural gas coupled with the fact that there is much less CO2 emitted by natural gas firing.  At this time these units survive because they can provide 1000s of MW when necessary and their operational costs are low enough that the payments to be able to provide that capacity are sufficient to be viable.  Note, however, that they cannot reduce emissions much more because they still have to run a couple of times a year to prove that they can provide capacity.  Coal-firing units in New York were older and were required to install extensive controls over this period to continue to operate.  The cost differential between natural gas and coal was the final blow to viability.  The Cuomo administration requirement to close these units by 2020 was symbolic only because the reality is that despite the opposition of the Cuomo Administration, fracking reduced the cost of natural gas so that it was cheaper than coal. If coal-firing was cheaper than natural gas then those units would have been needed to provide economical electric energy and there would have been significant pushback to banning coal in New York.

I estimated what I expect would be a reasonable projection for possible reductions in the electric sector.  Coal is easy because the last coal plant has already shut down.  Frankly I don’t see how the State can shut down the residual oil-fired plants by 2030 without endangering capacity reliability but we can assume that the 2019 value is de minimus.  Doing the same thing with the other fuel and other oil categories brings the expected reduction to 3.51 MMtCO2e.  Finally, assuming that enough renewables come on line that natural gas emissions are cut by a quarter, I think the maximum you could possibly expect to get out of the electric is 9.76 MMtCO2e.

The largest source of GHG emissions in 2016 was the transportation sector.  New York is currently a member of the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) which is currently considering “a new draft proposal for a regional program to establish a cap on global warming pollution from transportation fuels and invest millions annually to achieve additional benefits through reduced emissions, cleaner transportation, healthier communities, and more resilient infrastructure.”  While I have my doubts about the efficacy of their proposals the key point for this analysis is that they propose a series of actions that could reduce transportation sector emissions only up to 25%.

The reduction projections table also estimates the emission reductions necessary if electric sector were reduced by 9.76 MMtCO2e and transportation sector emissions were reduced by 25%.  Because these reductions are for two large sectors the remaining sectors would have to make much higher reductions.  I estimate 80% from all the other sectors.

Conclusion

This analysis shows that the 2030 40% reduction target is a stretch.  If every sector in the economy was required to make the same percentage reduction, then each sector would have to reduce emissions 31%.  If electric sector and industrial GHG emissions went to zero, then all the remaining sectors would have to reduce emissions 14%.  If electric sector emissions went down an amount I believe is reasonable based on historical emissions and transportation sector emissions went down by the highest percentage proposed by the TCI, then all remaining sectors would have to reduce emissions by 34%.

 Incredibly it is even worse because in my analysis I assumed that the emission reduction programs would be implemented over the 14-year period 2016 to 2030.  CLCPA § 75-0103 establishes the New York state climate action council.  It will consist of 22 members who have the charge to develop a scoping plan.  Two years of the effective date of the legislation the climate action council will prepare and approve a scoping plan outlining the recommendations for attaining the statewide greenhouse gas emissions limits in accordance with the schedule.  On or before three years of the effective date of the legislation, the council shall “submit the final scoping plan to the governor, the speaker of the assembly and the temporary president of the senate and post such plan on its website”.  In other words, the State will finally have the plan to meet the 2030 target of a 40% reduction in emissions in the summer of 2022 which leaves eight years to meet the emission reductions.

In the summer of 2022, the residents of New York will finally get an estimate of how many renewable resources will be necessary to displace the existing GHG emissions.  Not until then will we see how many wind turbines and how many solar panels will have to blanket the countryside, how much energy storage will be required to support these intermittent sources of energy, and how much transmission will be need to move the diffuse renewable energy from where it is produced to where it is needed.  Obviously, we will also have to wait until then to get an estimate of the costs projected to meet this aspirational goal.  Based on these preliminary first-guess numbers, the 2030 target of a 60% reduction by 2030 is so daunting that only the energy innumerate could possibly think that it can be met.

While some may say that once the plan is unveiled that a more reasonable target will be adopted, I disagree.  The zealots who have advocated for this virtue-singling law will never be satisfied and will be the first ones to litigate the State to meet these goals however unreasonable and expensive implementation may be.  Absent a magical solution, the only reasonable recourse is to repeal the CLCPA and start over by developing the plan first and then setting the targets.

NY Climate Leadership & Community Protection Act Emissions Targets

UPDATE March 4, 2020:  I mis-interpreted the 2030 GHG emissions reduction target.  I thought it was supposed to be a 60% reduction but it is only a 40% reduction.  As a result the sector reductions needed to meet that target have been modified.

In the summer of 2019 the Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) which was described as the most ambitious and comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation in the country when Cuomo signed the legislation.  In one of the first implementation tasks the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has started the process to calculate a statewide Greenhouse Gas emissions (GHG) limit for this law.  This is a background post that defines the emissions targets that I will  reference in future posts about the reductions necessary.

Emissions Inventory

New York State greenhouse gas emissions are available from the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA) in their annual inventory of GHG emissions.  The most recent report, Greenhouse Gas Inventory 1990-2016 contains a detailed inventory of historical greenhouse gas emission data from 1990-2016 for New York State’s energy and non-energy sectors.  Table S-2 New York State GHG Emissions 1990–2016 (MMtCO2e) from that report lists emissions from different sectors in million tons of CO2 equivalent (CO2e).  They use this unit of measure in order to include all greenhouse gases in the control strategy as a function of global warming potential (GWP).  Despite the fact that this is a perfectly good emissions inventory the law mandates a new inventory with slightly different methods.

The CLCPA inventory requirements are included in § 75-0105: Statewide greenhouse gas emissions report.  The regulation states that “No later than two years after the effective date of this article, and each year thereafter, the department shall issue a report on state-wide greenhouse gas emissions, expressed in tons of carbon dioxide equivalents, from all greenhouse gas emission sources in the state, including the relative contribution of each type of greenhouse gas and each type of source to the statewide total”.

There are two methodological differences between the CLCPA inventory requirements and the methodology used for the NYSERDA report.  Firstly, the legislation states “§ 75-0105(3): The statewide greenhouse gas emissions report shall also include an estimate of greenhouse gas emissions associated with the generation of imported electricity and with the extraction and transmission of fossil fuels imported into the state which shall be counted as part of the statewide total.”  Secondly, in the definitions § 75-0101(2) “Carbon dioxide equivalent” is defined as “the amount of carbon dioxide by mass that would produce the same global warming impact as a given mass of another greenhouse gas over an integrated twenty-year time frame after emission”.

I have not quantified how those differences will affect the emissions relative to the NYSERDA report.  The lifecycle approach to the GHG inventory has not been used to date by the agencies to estimate extraction and transmission of fossil fuels emissions.  Presumably this will increase the historical numbers.  I was not familiar with the nuance of global warming impact time frames so did some internet research.  The GHG Management Institute “What is global warming potential and which one do I use?”  states:

The second complication is one that occasionally trips people up. Remember above when we defined GWP by saying “cumulative radiative forcing…integrated over a period of time”? Well, that means that we have to define a time period for the integration to occur. You have to know what the integration period is to make sure you are using the correct GWP. The typical periods that the IPCC has published are 20, 100, and 500 years (the latest report quit publishing values for 500 years).

Now, to be clear, everyone pretty much universally uses 100 year GWP values, so you often never see the time period even cited. It is just assumed you know it is 100 years. But occasionally, someone will use something different, not realizing that they are breaking convention. It is also possible to compute an infinite time horizon GWP value, which would basically mean that accounted for every bit of radiative forcing of every molecule of gas as long as it existed in the atmosphere.

It is notable that this author says: ”everyone pretty much universally uses 100 year GWP values” but the CLCPA uses 20 year values.  In Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change fifth assessment report Chapter 8 IPCC Table 8.7 GWP and GTP with and without inclusion of climate–carbon feedbacks lists GWP values for methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and carbon tetrafluoride but not sulfur hexafluoride which is a listed chemical in the CLCPA.  The 20 year GWP is greater than the 100 year GWP for methane, hydrofluorocarbons, and perfluorocarbons.

Emissions Targets

The CLCPA specifies reductions in the future from 1990 emission levels per “§ 75-0105(5): The statewide greenhouse gas emissions report shall also include an estimate of what the statewide greenhouse gas emissions level was in 1990”.  As noted above these levels will have to be re-calculated using the CLCPA methodology but we can get an idea what is needed by looking at the NYSERDA inventory.

The CLCPA GHG Emissions Targets 2016 Update table presents the emissions status for the 2030 CLCPA target to reduce GHG emissions 40% from the 1990 level and the 2050 CLCPA target to reduce GHG emissions 85% from the 1990 level.  According to the NYSERDA methodology 1990 GHG emissions were 236.2 million metric tons of CO2e. The 2030 target limit is 94.5 million metric tons and in 2016, the last year of the NYSERDA inventory, NYS emissions were 205.6 million metric tons.  Therefore, in order to meet the CLCPA target in 2030 another 63.9 million metric tons have to be reduced.  By 2050 emissions have to be reduced 170.2 million metric tons from 2016 levels.

Conclusion

This post specifies the CLCPA emission targets for future reference.  Originally, I was going to develop these numbers and combine them with the observed cost efficiency for existing NYS GHG emission reduction investments to estimate the potential cost of the program but there are other things to look at too.  For example, New York state reduced GHG emissions 30.6 million metric tons in the 26 years between 1990 and 2016 but has to reduce them another 63.9 million metric tons in 14 years to meet the 2030 CLCPA target.   That deserves analysis and its own post. Rather than a huge post covering all the aspects of these numbers I will prepare shorter posts on each aspect that reference these numbers.  Stay tuned.

New York Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act

Updated March 1, 2020 to clarify and correct typographical errors.

In February 21, 2020 New York governor Andrew Cuomo proposed a 30-day budget amendment that will “streamline the process for environmentally responsible and cost-effective siting of large-scale renewable energy projects across the state”. The proposed legislation, if adopted, will create a new Office of Renewable Energy Permitting to streamline the consenting process for large-scale projects across New York.  This post addresses this latest hypocritical over-reach of the Cuomo Administration.

Permitting Process

New York’s Environmental Conservation Law requires NY regulatory agencies to consider environmental impacts equally with social and economic factors when making permitting decisions and that they must balance those factors when making a decision to approve an action.  New York has different rules for different sized projects.  For any electric generating facility greater than 25 MW in capacity the permitting requirements are specified in Article 10.  The Power NY Act of 2011 established the process for siting generating facilities in Article 10.  That law established a multi-agency siting board and was supposed to streamline the permitting process.  Unfortunately, its requirements are so strict that it is still unwieldy and cumbersome.

As on February 25, 2020 there are 49 projects under permitting review in the active Article 10 queue   and five projects have been certified. There are 16 wind facilities proposed with 899 turbines generating 3,117 MW.  There are 25 solar projects proposed for 3,914 MW of capacity and 4 solar projects with storage proposed for 740 MW of capacity covering at least 11,324 acres.  There also are three gas-fired projects and one waste energy project.  Since the new requirements were established only five projects have been approved with two completed in 3.2 years, two completed in 3.5 years and one in 4.5 years.

The governor’s office said the state’s existing process for energy-generating sites was designed for plants that used fossil fuels and created before new clean-energy standards were put in place.  The existing Article 10 process is cumbersome but the insinuation that only fossil fuel facilities have significant enough environmental, social and economic impacts to warrant a complete review of the potential impacts is a stretch in my opinion.

Cuomo’s Environmental Impact Hypocrisy

There is no better illustration of the Cuomo’s administration hypocrisy than the decision to block the Finger Lakes LPG project.  On July 12, 2018, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos issued a decision for a proposal to construct and operate a new underground liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) storage facility for the storage and distribution of propane in the town of Reading in the Finger Lakes region of New York.  The decision denied the permit applications for the proposed project on the grounds the facility would have a significant adverse impact on community character in the local area and the Finger Lakes region.  In my post on that decision I pointed out that the community character rationale was based on the State Environmental Quality Review Act section: “impacts to noise and aesthetic resources as revealed on the current record are essential components in the evaluation of impacts on community character in the context of this proposed project”.

So how did the Finger Lakes LPG project affect community character? The project proposed modifications during the application process to reduce the scale and environmental impacts of the project in response to local stakeholder concerns.  The modifications eliminated the proposal to store liquid butane at the facility and reduced the underground propane storage capacity from 2.1 million barrels to 1.5 million barrels; eliminated the project’s rail and truck loading facilities so all deliveries of liquefied petroleum gas would be by pipeline; eliminated one of the brine ponds; and, for lack of a better term offered bribes as they proposed to “provide resources ranging from financial resources to technical resources (mining data) to support community initiatives for the preservation and improvement of water quality in the area, including Seneca Lake”.  The unacceptable aesthetic community character of final proposed plan of the Finger Lake LPG Storage project was a brine pond, a compressor station, and a support building.  The unacceptable noise community character of the project was two electric 75 horse power pumps to pump product from the tanks into the pipeline to the electronically driven injection pumps despite the likely use of insulated walls and advanced fan technology to dampen sound.

It is unclear how an Administration that claimed that Finger Lake LPG Storage project’s minimal aesthetic and noise projected impacts affected community character so badly that the project could not be permitted but can somehow claim that industrial wind and solar project don’t also affect community character.  As noted, there are at least 899 wind turbines and solar panels covering at least 11,324 acres in the existing permitting queue.  Consider, for example, the aesthetic impact of the Ball Hill Windpark.  This facility has been approved (note that it was not permitted under Article 10) to install 29 wind turbines generating around 100 MW with 13 miles of access roads, 5.7 miles of above-ground utility lines, a substation, a switchyard and an operations and maintenance building.  According to the 2018 Proposed Modifications Summary of Environmental Impacts wind turbines will be visible in 33.9% of the area within the 5-mile viewshed.  According to the 2008 Environmental Assessment Form the smaller turbines originally proposed would be visible from greater than 5 miles from a parcel of land which is “dedicated to and available to the public for the use, enjoyment and appreciation of natural or man-made scenic qualities” and “an overlook or parcel of land dedicated to public observation, enjoyment and appreciation of natural or man-made scenic qualities”, and a “site or structure listed on the National or State Registers of Historic Places” and between ½ and 3 miles to a State Wildlife Management Area.

 Environmental Protection

Cuomo is quoted as saying: “Climate change is the existential challenge of our time, and New York State has risen to the occasion by enacting the strongest laws in the nation to protect and preserve our environment” It is utter hypocrisy to claim to protect and preserve our environment while simultaneously proposing to circumvent the permitting process that “Requires environmental and public health impact analyses, studies regarding environmental justice and public safety, and consideration of local laws”.

As far as I can tell the State Administrative Procedure Act (SAPA) and the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) requirements for environmental reviews do not apply to the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA).  One of the requirements of an air quality assessment for a new fossil-fired electric generating unit is to consider the cumulative impact of all local emitting sources as well as the new source itself.  While I think that while an individual industrial wind facility or solar facility Article 10 application analysis may conclude there isn’t a significant environmental impact the cumulative impact of all the facilities required by the CLCPA to provide enough power to meet the reliability needs of the state will likely have significant environmental impacts.  I don’t think it is fair to ask each renewable energy developer to consider cumulative impacts but I also don’t think that cumulative impacts can be ignored.

The obvious solution would be for the state to evaluate cumulative impacts.  Note, however, that the first step for such an analysis would be to determine how many wind turbines and solar panels would be required and where they would be located.  The CLCPA is just starting the process to prepare a scoping plan that will document the state’s plan to implement the law.  First problem is that scoping plan won’t be available for a couple of years.  In the meantime, I have prepared my own estimate of the renewable resources necessary to meet this legislation.  In order to meet the mandate that all electricity will be generated by non-emitting sources in 2040 and provide enough power to cover the needs of an example winter peak period I estimate that New York will require 11,395 MW of residential solar, 16,117 MW of utility-scale solar, 18,457 MW of on-shore wind and 16,363 MW of off-shore wind.  If the on-shore wind turbines are rated at 4.8 MW that mean that over 3,845 on-shore wind turbines.  Using numbers from one of the solar permit applications, I estimate that 176 square miles will be needed to meet the 16,117 MW of utility scale solar estimate.  The bottom line is that while an individual industrial wind facility or solar facility may not have a significant environmental impact the cumulative impact of 176 square miles of utility-scale solar panels and at least, 3,845 on-shore wind turbines certainly could have negative environmental impacts.  I also determined that for a fifteen-hour period from January 3, 2018 at 1600 until January 4, 2018 at 0600 there was a storage deficit totaling 134,545 MWh which would require energy storage which also needs to be considered in a cumulative environment impact analysis.

Conclusion

The Niagara County Legislature recently passed four resolutions directed squarely at an amendment to revise the Article 10 rules.  The amended rules only said that if there were minor changes to the proposed facility it did not require the entire application process to be opened up again.  In other words, it was a relatively innocuous change as opposed to the Governor’s plan to entirely ignore the Article 10 process.  Niagara County and other Upstate New York municipalities are already upset that Article 10 has taken away control of local siting decisions.  This proposal to remove the checks and balances included in Article 10 will not be appreciated.

The CLCPA is all style and no substance.  There is no plan to convert all energy sectors away from fossil fuels only a mandate to do it.  If there is no plan then there are no costs, no quantified benefits, and no starting point to balance environmental impacts with social and economic factors for the state as a whole.  The Article 10 permitting process requires that kind of assessment on the local level.  Cuomo’s proposal to remove that check would mean that anyone, anywhere in New York State that could possibly be affected by anything related to the ambitious plan to convert the New York energy to carbon-free resources will have no recourse.  I suspect that when the folks who whined their way to get the Finger Lakes LPG project cancelled are going to be more than a little upset when industrial wind and solar facilities blanket their community.

CLCPA Implementation Part 1

In the summer of 2019 the Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) which was described as the most ambitious and comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation in the country when Cuomo signed the legislation.  In one of the first implementation tasks the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has started the process to calculate a statewide Greenhouse Gas emissions (GHG) limit for this law.  This post addresses that rulemaking.

DEC Rulemaking

DEC recently released a stakeholder draft for their statewide greenhouse gas emission limit rule.  This barebone draft lists six gases that will be considered in the inventory and lists potential economic sectors that might be covered.  As part of this process DEC announced a webinar for February 14 and again on February 28 to provide the public the opportunity to learn and ask questions about the rulemaking.  During the first webinar DEC said that they would post a recording of the webinar.  If you are unfamiliar with New York’s rulemaking process the webinar provided a good summary.

Existing New York GHG Inventory

The New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA) works with DEC to prepare an annual inventory of GHG emissions.  The most recent report, Greenhouse Gas Inventory 1990-2016 contains a detailed inventory of historical greenhouse gas emission data from 1990-2016 for New York State’s energy and non-energy sectors.  I have been involved with all aspects of emissions inventories from developing emission factors, using inventories for air quality modeling, to preparing reports for regulatory agencies over my entire career.  I can assure you that this is a non-trivial task.  Although I have some quibbles with the NYSERDA numbers I believe that it represents New York’s emissions adequately for all purposes.

CLCPA Inventory Requirement

The CLCPA requires a report on GHG emissions, § 75-0105: Statewide greenhouse gas emissions report.  The regulation states that “No later than two years after the effective date of this article, and each year thereafter, the department shall issue a report on state-wide greenhouse gas emissions, expressed in tons of carbon dioxide equivalents, from all greenhouse gas emission sources in the state, including the relative contribution of each type of greenhouse gas and each type of source to the statewide total”.  The law specifies reductions in the future from 1990 emission levels so this section includes “§ 75-0105(5): The statewide greenhouse gas emissions report shall also include an estimate of what the statewide greenhouse gas emissions level was in 1990”.  DEC is interpreting this legislation to mean that they have to implement a new regulation that codifies the GHG emission inventory process.

It is not clear to me how much difference there is between the CLCPA inventory requirements and the methodology used for the NYSERDA report with one exception.  In particular, the legislation states that “§ 75-0105(3): The statewide greenhouse gas emissions report shall also include an estimate of greenhouse gas emissions associated with the generation of imported electricity and with the extraction and transmission of fossil fuels imported into the state which shall be counted as part of the statewide total.”  NYSERDA does not try to estimate extraction and transmission of fossil fuels emissions.

Lawmaking without Technical Expertise

I have no experience lobbying politicians to influence legislation and, frankly, have no desire to do so.  If I had been involved in this instance, I would have said that the legislation should specify the use of the NYSERDA inventory.  It has all the numbers you need, no development is necessary, and represents GHG emissions well.  Unfortunately, someone, somewhere convinced somebody to include the requirement for “an estimate of greenhouse gas emissions associated with the generation of imported electricity and with the extraction and transmission of fossil fuels imported into the state”.  At a minimum this component will have to be added to the NYSERDA inventory.  I do not know what else, if anything, DEC has deemed to be incompatible between the CLCPA law and the existing NYSERDA inventory.

As a numbers guy, I oppose including extraction and transmission emissions because the uncertainty bounds on the extraction and transmission values are large today and much worse for 1990.  In 1990 coal and oil generation was much higher than today and it is not clear to me how you could figure out the source and methodology used to extract the fuel.  The fuel specification data needed to estimate that information has been purged from company records, not only because it was so long ago but also because most of the companies who operated the 1990 facilities no longer own them.

Because including the extraction and transmission provision was a political decision, it is appropriate to discuss possible motives with the caveat that this has never been considered a skill of mine.  Clearly, including these numbers will increase the 1990 baseline and current emissions.  Note that the language says transmission and not transportation.  Coal and oil in New York are transported but natural gas is transmitted.  Therefore, my guess is that it was included by someone who wanted to make natural gas look bad by showing higher emissions.

Conclusion

The extraction and transmission emissions requirement has unintended consequences.  NY has a perfectly good emissions inventory but that provision means a lot of work has to be done to include those emissions. And DEC has no choice but to try to follow the requirements of the legislation.  As I noted above emissions inventories are difficult under any circumstances but when handicapped by requirements to adjust the numbers for ulterior motives the result is going to be significant effort for very little tangible benefit.

If it is correct that the extraction and transmission provisions were included by anti-natural gas advocates then I have to laugh.  I am convinced that the New York State anti-natural gas position is only supportable if the numbers are ignored or mis-understood and this is a vivid example.  In particular, the addition of extraction and transmission emissions to the 1990 baseline is going to show a larger relative decrease for coal and oil than natural gas.  Extracting coal has to be more GHG intensive than drilling and fracking a natural gas well.  Transporting the coal by rail or oil by pipeline to a refinery and then residual oil by ship or train to the power plants have much larger emissions than a natural gas pipeline to a power plant.  Worse still for the individuals who got this included is the fact that the higher baseline means that % reduction limits will also be higher.  In other words the CO2 limits will be higher so more CO2 can be emitted.