CLCPA NYS Wind Energy Resource

New York has established energy policy based on conceptions that do not hold up to numerate scrutiny.  This post addresses the idea that New York wind energy can reliably power the electric system and in tandem with solar energy can replace existing generating resources.  In order for the statewide wind energy resource to be considered a reliable source the distribution of wind energy must not include significant periods with low power output.

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.  The Citizens Budget Commission developed an overview of the CLCPA targets in Green in Perspective: 6 Facts to Help New Yorkers Understand the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.

The legislation requires 70% of the generation supplying New York to be renewable in 2030, statewide emissions of greenhouse gas emissions are to be reduced to 60% of 1990 emissions and elimination of fossil-fired electricity production altogether by 2040.  Unfortunately, the politicians that passed this law never bothered to figure out how it could be done.  I have written a series of posts on the feasibility, implications and consequences of this aspect of the law based on evaluation of data.  This post addresses the wind energy resource of New York.

Approach

I used two sources of data from New York Independent System Operator (NYISO).  For an overview I used the annual report that presents load and capacity data including historical and forecast seasonal peak demand, energy usage, and existing and proposed generation and transmission facilities.  The Load and Capacity Date Report or Gold Book is a featured report in the NYISO document library.  This post and a summary I posted in April 2019 use data in Table III-2 Existing Generating Facilities from those reports to describe the annual wind energy resources available.  I used the 2019 wind date from the April 2020 Gold book in this analysis.  Note that in 2019 all wind energy came from on-shore facilities.

The NYISO Real-Time Dashboard includes a window for the real-time fuel mix that includes the amount of wind generation being generated in the state.  The window also includes a link to historical data.  I downloaded data from June 2018 through September 2019, sorted out the wind production numbers, and then calculated hourly averages.  I use Statgraphics Centurion software from StatPoint Technologies, Inc. to do my statistical analyses and in this case I loaded the hourly data and calculated frequency distribution statistics.

Results

The New York State Wind Facility Status table lists 2019 wind data from the NYISO 2020 Gold Book for all the New York wind energy facilities.  The NYISO table provides the name plate ratings and 2019 net energy produced.  In 2018 there were 1,982 MW of wind energy nameplate capacity that generated 3,985 GWh of electrical energy for a state-wide annual capacity factor of 24.5%.  Note that there is a wide variation of capacity factors, that the highest is 37.4%.  All the capacity factors greater than 30% are from more recent larger turbines. The Chateaugay Wind Power facility and the Jericho Rise Wind Farm are in the same general area so I expect that the wind resource would be similar.  In 2019 the Chateaugay capacity factor was 21.1% and the Jericho Rise capacity factor was 33.4%.  I believe the main reason for the difference is the size of the turbines – the blade tip height for Jericho Rise is 18.5m (60.7 ft) higher than at Chateaugay. The Chateaugay turbines have a hub height of 80m and a rotor diameter of 77m while the Jericho Rise turbines have a hub height of 80m and a rotor diameter of 114m.  Overall, New York wind facilities only provide a quarter of their name plate capacity.

Another wind-resource issue is the distribution of the hourly output.  The NYS Hourly Wind Frequency Statistics June 2018 through September 2019 document lists frequency distribution data for sixteen months of operations in New York.  The histogram of wind output categories shows that low output is more frequent than high output.  The frequency tabulation for wind table shows that there were 25 hours when none of the 24 wind facilities in the state produced any power and that 36% of the time less than 200 MW per hour was produced.  The probability plot graphically shows the skewed distribution and the percentiles indicate that half the time hourly wind output is less than 324 MW.

If New York has to rely on renewable energy in the future it is important to know the frequency distribution of wind at night.  I addressed this by simply looking only at four hours either side of midnight.  The NYS Night Hourly Wind Frequency Statistics June 2018 through September 2019 document lists the same statistics for this limited data set.  While there are only a couple of hours with no wind output and the frequency of hours with output less than 200 MW was down to 31% there still is a significant number of hours when the lack of solar and low wind output.  That means that energy storage is going to be absolutely necessary.

Another aspect of concern is the duration of low wind periods.  I used the same data format as the wind frequency statistics but only included 2018 data to determine how long light periods lasted – a critical parameter when it comes time to try to rely on wind energy to provide reliable power.  I calculated the length of time the total NYS wind energy resource failed to exceed various thresholds from 100 MW to 600 MW.  The 2018 Total NYS Wind Energy Light Wind Energy Periodss table lists the longest calm periods for each threshold.  For example, the longest period when less than 100 MW of the state’s total wind capacity of 1,982 MW was 58 hours ending on 9/13/2018 at 1800.  In the second section of the table frequencies are listed.  There were 12 periods when less than 100 MW of wind capacity was available for 24 hours, 5 periods for 36 hours, and one period of 48 hours.

Conclusions

Annual capacity factors average 25%.  All the turbines with capacity factors greater than 30% are using turbines that with tip heights greater than 425 ft.  Although that improves performance it also means that there are greater environmental impacts.  I believe we cannot expect much improvement for future on-shore wind development simply because I assume that the best locations have already been developed.

The distribution of hourly wind output was a mild surprise to me because  I did not think it would be as bad as it is.  Advocates for renewable power maintain that it is possible to address the problem of calm winds at one location by simply adding facilities in other locations so that somewhere the wind will be blowing.  If that were the case using New York resources the hourly distribution would not show that 5% of the time the total wind energy production for the entire state was less than 20 MW.  Furthermore, I suspect that even expanding the location of wind facilities to off-shore New York and adjoining jurisdictions is not going to significantly reduce the number of hours when wind resources are going to have to be supported by significant amounts of energy storage.

The fact that night time wind generation also shows significant hours with low levels exacerbates the need for energy storage.  In an earlier post I estimated how much energy storage would be needed for one example period.  These results reinforce my position that New York State has to do a comprehensive analysis of the availability of renewable resources to determine a strategy for meeting demand with an all-renewable system.  Until that is complete we are only guessing whether the ambitious goals of the CLCPA can be met much less how much this is all going to cost.

The Futility of New York Energy Policy

A major theme of this blog is analysis of New York energy policy as it relates to climate change.  I have found that at the conclusion of every such post I am tempted to include an overview of my conclusions of the reality of the policy.  This post is a reference for three fatal flaws in the arguments used to justify those policies.

Background

I am a retired electric utility meteorologist with nearly 40 years experience analyzing the effects of meteorology on electric operations. I believe that gives me a relatively unique background to consider the potential quantitative effects of energy policies based on doing something about climate change.  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.

My biggest concern is that I am convinced that the general public has no idea what is going on with these energy policies and the possible ramifications.  My posts on New York energy policy are here.  I have described the reasons I think catastrophic anthropogenic climate change is unlikely  here and tried to explain to the layman why their direct experience should guide their opinion on global warming here. I have written a series of posts on the feasibility, implications and consequences of New York’s  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 it was passed.

The remainder of this post describes three fatal flaws that could be included in the conclusion of all of my posts on the CLCPA.

Fatal Flaws

New York State energy policy is based on the following: “climate change is a reality”, “our future is at stake”, and “That’s why New York State is committed to the most aggressive clean energy and climate agenda in the country”.  The presumption is that the 97% climate consensus that climate change is real means our future is at stake.  However, the consensus that matters is whether 97% of the scientists who have relevant background and experience are very worried about climate change.  A survey of members of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) showed that while two-thirds of those who responded believe humans are causing a majority of recent warming only 30% are very worried about it. Fully 40% of AMS members believe climate change impacts have been primarily beneficial or equally mixed between beneficial and harmful. Only 50% expect the impacts to be entirely or primarily harmful over the next 50 years. These results do not support the basis of massive changes to New York energy policy.

Further support of the rationale for committing to the “most aggressive clean energy and climate agenda in the country” is found in New York’s description of potential effects of climate change. The CLCPA notes that sea levels along New York’s coastlines are approximately one foot higher than they were in 1900.  The New York Department of Environmental Conservation adopted 6 NYCRR  Part 490, Projected sea-level rise projections for five probability categories ranging from low to high.  The problem is that the high-risk category projection of six feet rise by 2100 that garnered attention from the media is more properly labeled as virtually impossible.  In order to project future impacts, modelers have to simulate the climate changes due to greenhouse gas concentrations and project what those concentrations will be based on future emissions estimates. The problem is that the worst-case impacts rely on a future emissions scenario that was not intended to be plausible but it does make for the scary story needed to justify New York’s  “most aggressive” energy agenda.

Ultimately, however, the reality of climate change and future impacts does not matter if the proposed actions have no impact.  New York State started consideration of greenhouse gas reduction programs in 2003 when the discussions of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.  Since then there have been multipleregulations, rules and other initiatives but the State has never quantified how much of a global warming reduction could be expected as a result of their programs.  In April 2019 I calculated the effect of the CLCPA reduction of total elimination of New York’s 1990 218.1[1] million metric ton greenhouse gas emissions on projected global temperature rise.  I found there would be a reduction, or a “savings,” of approximately 0.0032°C by the year 2050 and 0.0067°C by the year 2100.  To give you an idea of how small this temperature change is consider changes with elevation and latitude.  Generally, temperature decreases three (3) degrees Fahrenheit for every 1,000-foot increase in elevation above sea level.  The projected temperature difference is the same as going down 27 inches.  The general rule is that temperature changes three (3) degrees Fahrenheit for every 300-mile change in latitude at an elevation of sea level.  The projected temperature change is the same as going south two thirds of a mile.

Conclusion

New York’s politicians constantly claim that their energy policies have scientific support and they typically lean on the popular conception of an overwhelming consensus that the observed warming is necessarily bad.  In reality most scientists believe humans are causing some warming, but only a minority are very concerned about it.  The catastrophic impacts touted as proof that something needs to be done invariably rely on a future emission projection scenario that is so unlikely that it is inappropriate to use for policy decisions.  Finally, if the problem is global warming then it logically requires a global solution.  The reality is that New York’s possible impact on global warming is too small to measure and would have effects that could not conceivably alter any of the purported catastrophic impacts.

The Public Service Commission has statutory obligations to ensure the provision of safe and adequate service at just and reasonable rates. Based on my work I believe that it is only a matter of time before it becomes obvious that New York’s virtue signaling energy policies will negatively affect that obligation in the form of higher rates and decreased reliability.  Until such time as the State proves they can provide reliable energy when and where it is needed relying primarily on renewable energy, we cannot even estimate costs.  This reckless endangerment of one of society’s necessities will end badly.

[1] This was the total for 2015 NYS emissions in NYSERDA Greenhouse Gas Inventory 1990-2015. Subsequent editions have lowered the most recent total so this is a conservative value for impacts.

Accelerated Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act: Additional 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.  When this was proposed I posted an essay describing the hypocrisy and over-reach aspects and recently published another post showing why there are significant risks to the electric system.  This post addresses other concerns including logistics, permitting differences with existing regulations, and environmental impact assessments

 Background

I refer you to the previous post’s background description for an overview of the legislation but I will note that the legislation was incorporated into the 2020-21 New York State budget by Governor Cuomo despite the fact that it might have been more appropriate to concentrate on the financial implications of the coronavirus pandemic.   Worse, it included tight deadlines at the time it was approved when it was obvious that the State was pretty much in a holding pattern for an indefinite amount of time.  It would have been far better to postpone this legislation so that it could be properly vetted and a reasonable schedule developed.

In order to introduce my other concerns, I will repeat my description of section 4 from § 2. Legislative findings and statement of purpose.  I copied section 4 of the legislation and inserted my comments in italics.

  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.

(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.

(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 political base.

(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.

(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.

This is window dressing designed to appear to address environmental issues when in fact it falls far short of environmental protections.  I will discuss this aspect of the legislation below.

Logistical Concerns

The revised permitting process for AREGCBA sets up a new bureaucracy to handle permitting.  The Office of Renewable Energy Siting (ORES) responsibilities will be established in the Department of State and charged with “accepting applications and evaluating, issuing, amending, approving the assignment and/or transfer of siting permits.”  Within one year the Office is supposed to “establish a set of uniform standards and conditions for the siting, design, construction and operation of each type of major renewable energy facility relevant to issues that are common for particular classes and categories of major renewable energy facilities”.  The goal is to “minimize or mitigate potential adverse environmental impacts”.  Also, within one year, ORES will “promulgate rules and regulations with respect to all necessary requirements to implement the siting permit program established in this section and promulgate modifications to such rules and regulations as it deems necessary”.

With all due respect to the authors of this legislation, implementing those requirements within one year is an overly ambitious goal.  In the first place, the Depart of State has limited existing staff for environmental issues.  The Department of Environmental Conservation, Department of Public Service, Department of Agriculture and Markets, and New York State Energy and Research Development Authority do have staff who support renewable energy development project permitting already.  There is language in the legislation stating that ORES can request support and services from those agencies and language addressing personnel transfers.  The relevant staff in those agencies are already working on projects, so what happens to projects already in the Article Ten queue?  I would not be surprised if there are staff within the agencies who support permit applications for a variety of projects not just renewable energy so what happens to other permit applications?  Consequently, if ORES just commandeers staff for this requirement other agency commitments will suffer.

In the second place, developing uniform standards for siting, design, construction, and operation is going to take time to draft, review and present.  Converting those to rules and regulations also will take time to prepare and the staff with the most experience in this regard have permitting obligations.  Importantly, there are New York Administrative Procedure Act requirements for adopting rules that include the opportunity for public involvement and specific schedule obligations.  All these factors suggest that it is unlikely that all this can be completed within one year.  Once the effects of the coronavirus pandemic are factored in, I am comfortable saying this cannot be implemented on the timeframe legislated.

Permitting Differences

New York’s Article Ten process was enacted during the days when regulated utilities proposed all the major electric generating station developments.  In its original form it was very unwieldly, time-consuming and required enormous resources to complete.  When de-regulation came along and the state realized that they would have to deal with non-regulated generating companies they revised the Article 10 process hoping to streamline its onerous provisions.  To some extent the 2011 revisions made improvements but the fact it that permitting still takes a minimum of over three years and often much more.

The Article Ten Environmental Assessment Form describes the Part 1001 requirements that specify what information is needed in applications to allow the Siting Board to make permit application findings and determinations.  The Article Ten application contains sections specifying general application requirements and exhibits concerning overview and public involvement, location of facilities, land use, electric system effects, wind, natural gas and nuclear power facilities, electric system production modeling, alternatives, consistency with energy planning objectives, preliminary design drawings, construction, real property, cost of facilities, public health and safety, pollution control facilities, air pollutant emissions, safety and security, noise and vibration, cultural resources, geology, seismology and soils, terrestrial ecology and wetlands, water resources and aquatic ecology, visual impacts, effects on transportation and communications, socioeconomic effects, environmental justice, site restoration and decommissioning, state and local laws and ordinances, other filings, electric, gas, water, wastewater and telecommunications interconnections, electric and magnetic fields, back-up fuel, and applications to modify or build adjacent to existing facilities.

One of the first things the ORES will have to do is to specify what information is needed for its application process.  There is no question that there are some topics in the Article 10 applications do not need to be included for renewable energy projects but the reality is that the Article 10 applications are not being held up much by addressing those topics.

In order to reduce permitting time, the AREGCBA’s biggest apparent difference is to eliminate the extensive public outreach components of Article 10 permits.  The Public Involvement Program and Scoping Statement components are the first two steps in the Article 10 permit process.  They include timing requirements that mandate eight months before the permit application can be submitted.  As far as I can tell there is nothing equivalent in the AREGCBA.  The public’s first inkling of a project under AREGCBA is not clear by my reading.  Once the application is received the law states the permit cannot be considered complete “without proof of consultation with the municipality or political subdivision where the project is proposed to be located”.  Once it is considered complete then there is a 60-day comment period.  Without some sort of legal requirement, the general public may only find out about a project that affects them when the 60-day comment period starts.

Article 10 applications are reviewed and approved by a siting board made up of seven people including two local community members.  AREGCBA decisions are made by the Executive Director of ORES.  Cynics like me suspect that the new law makes it easier for the Cuomo administration to control the outcome by reducing the number of people needed to approve a project.

Article 10 requires public notification and scoping statements be prepared with plenty of time for the public to get involved.  Both Article 10 and AREGCBA include provisions to give money for intervenors but finding out about a project, figuring out who and what needs to be addressed, hiring someone to do the evaluation and then getting it done in time to make substantive comments all within the 60 day permit period is ambitious at best and more likely impossible.  In fact, it is such an unrealistic schedule that I suspect that it was included to deliberately forestall local resistance to renewable energy projects.

Another major difference between Article 10 and AREGCBA is that there are no provisions in Article 10 to over-ride local ordinances limiting or prohibiting renewable energy developments.  The Cuomo Administration has already modified the Article 10 rules to forestall a township or county passing an ordinance limiting renewable developments during the Article 10 process.  AREGCBA goes much further stating that when making the final permit decision ORES “may elect not to apply, in whole or in part, any local law or ordinance which would otherwise be applicable if it makes a finding that, as applied to the proposed major renewable energy facility, it is unreasonably burdensome in view of the CLCPA targets and the environmental benefits of the proposed major renewable energy facility”.  It is not hard to read between the lines of that statement to see that Cuomo’s law ensures that renewable energy developments are going to be built whatever the locals think. The Article 10 process is so long that affected communities have replaced elected officials that supported projects with those who opposed them.  Clearly the AREGCBA schedule prevents that from happening.

The hubris of politicians never ceases to amaze me.  In order to make the locals happy the law includes what can only be described as a bribe.  The legislation specifies that “The final siting permit shall include a provision requiring the permittee to “provide a host community benefit, which may be a host community benefit as determined by the public service commission pursuant to section eight of the chapter of the laws of two thousand twenty that added this section or such other project as determined by the office or as subsequently agreed to between the applicant and the host community”. Another changes states that “The public service commission shall, within 60 days from the effective date hereof, commence a proceeding to establish a program under which renewable owners would fund a program to provide a discount or credit on the utility bills of the utility’s customers in a renewable host community, or a compensatory or environmental benefit to such customers.”  The affected locals lose their community character, have their housing values reduced and, depending on what the uniform standards are, could have adverse health effects but not to worry here is a community benefit project.

Environmental Concerns

I have been doing environmental assessments for over 40 years and really worry about the environmental impacts of the CLCPA because there is no commitment to evaluate the cumulative impacts.  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 it because it is a legislative action. Up to this point Article 10 did at least require extensive “environmental and public health impact analyses, studies regarding environmental justice and public safety, and consideration of local laws” so at least the local impacts were thoroughly evaluated.  The AREGCBA legislation sets up an entirely new permitting process for renewable energy and it is not clear how environmental impacts will be handled in the new system.  It all depends on the uniform standards developed by ORES in the first year.

The problem proponents of renewable energy have with the Article 10 process is that it takes time.  When Article 10 was revised in 2011, the politicians thought that they were going to streamline the complete process down to a few years. The environmental staff people in the agencies and industries agreed at the time that it was still going to take four to five years to complete an application.  As of March 17, 2020, six projects have had their applications approved taking between 3.2 and 4.5 years since the first filing in the process.

Those completion times are from the first formal submittal in the Article 10 regulatory process.  When a developer starts to evaluate a site for a renewable development a lot of work has to be done to assess the local impacts by mapping and evaluating the property.  The plan has to be drafted, reviewed and submitted in order to start the clock. There is no way to speed those preliminary steps up.  The revised AREGCBA permitting requirements may eliminate some of the Article Ten considerations described below but many will remain so I estimate at least nine months and more like twelve months will be needed to develop that information.  For Article Ten projects that means that from the time a developer starts a project you are talking at least 4 to 5 years to have all the necessary permits to start construction.  Apparently AREGCBA hopes to cut that time mostly be reducing the public involvement requirements.  At a time when the State is emphasizing environmental justice concerns it is odd that this regulation ignores public involvement.  Cynics like me suspect that rural EJ communities don’t matter.

I argued in my more recent post on AREGCBA that a feasibility study was necessary to see if the CLCPA targets are realistic and affordable.  It may be possible to argue that on an individual basis industrial wind and solar facilities may not have acceptable unavoidable environmental impacts.  However, the cumulative impact of all the facilities required by the CLCPA to provide enough power to meet the reliability needs of the state could have unacceptable unavoidable environmental impacts. 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. I made assumptions about sizes of turbines and solar arrays and estimate that those facilities would require over 3,845 on-shore wind turbines and 176 square miles of solar arrays.

The bottom line is that the massive areal extent of the renewable energy resources needed for the CLCPA obviously needs a cumulative environmental impact analysis to determine how the law will affect the environment.  Instead the AREGCBA legislates a plan to implement “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 any wind turbine?

It gets even worse.  The AREGCBA states that: “To the extent that environmental impacts are not completely addressed by uniform standards and conditions and site-specific permit conditions proposed by the office, and the office determines that mitigation of such impacts may be achieved by off-site mitigation, the office may require payment of a fee by the applicant to achieve such off-site mitigation.” So where does this money go? The legislation includes an amendment to environmental conservation law establishing the endangered and threatened species mitigation bank fund.  The fund may pay for contracts with not-for-profit corporations, private or public universities, and private contractors for mitigation services and may “enter into contracts with a not-for-profit corporation to administer grants made pursuant to this title, including the approval and payment of vouchers for approved contracts.”  Gee, do you think there is any chance that this will enable Cuomo to fund his environmental base.

Conclusion

I subscribe to Politico’s daily New York Energy newsletter.  In the April 6, 2020 edition the New York League of Conservation Voters sponsored the following message supporting AREGCBA:

“A broad coalition of environmental, clean energy, real estate and labor groups applaud Governor Cuomo, Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Speaker Heastie for including critically needed renewable energy siting and transmission reform in the State Budget that will support New York’s ambitious climate goals and economic development across the state! Learn more.

The learn more link includes the statement “The improved siting process for renewable energy projects will help New York to achieve 70 percent renewable electricity by 2030, as required by NY’s 2019 climate law, and maintain New York’s strong environmental and public participation standards.”  It is not clear to me what they read that gave them assurances that public participation will not be endangered by this regulation but the knowledge that there is a pot of money out there for the environmental non-profits sure gives incentive for their rationale to support this law.

I understand the desire to revise the Article 10 process to handle the upcoming surge of renewable energy projects necessary to implement the CLCPA but believe this should have been addressed differently.  New York State’s budget process has never been a template for good governance because decisions are made by very few players 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, to any needed reforms to Article 10 for renewable energy projects.  It is very disappointing that there is a broad coalition of groups that think this was a good idea.

It remains to be seen how the uniform standards will play out.  Will there be adequate protections for environmental impacts, local community character, property values, and health impacts?  Another aspect is community involvement.  Article 10 had eight months for public involvement before the permit application was submitted.  There is no specification for local community involvement in the legislation.

This legislation includes two mitigation stipulations: community benefits and the endangered species mitigation bank fund.  Cynics like me suspect this more about payola than mitigating impacts.  Ultimately, I cannot see how anyone can support the CLCPA and AREGCBA legislation without a feasibility study and cumulative environmental impact analysis.

Finally, ORES “may elect not to apply, in whole or in part, any local law or ordinance which would otherwise be applicable if it makes a finding that, as applied to the proposed major renewable energy facility, it is unreasonably burdensome in view of the CLCPA targets and the environmental benefits of the proposed major renewable energy facility”.  This provision runs rough shod over home rule provisions of rural Upstate communities.  The rationale for the CLCPA targets is the climate emergency.  Is it too much for the State to quantify how their programs will affect global warming?  It has never been done by New York State.  When I calculated the effect of the CLCPA reduction of 218.1[1] million metric tons on projected global temperature rise I found there would be a reduction, or a “savings,” of approximately 0.0032°C by the year 2050 and 0.0067°C by the year 2100.  You cannot measure and therefore you cannot expect any effect on any of the purported impacts of climate change.  Based on my analyses to date these laws recklessly endanger electric reliability and the environment in the name of virtue-signaling climate “leadership”.

[1] This was the total for 2015 NYS emissions in NYSERDA Greenhouse Gas Inventory 1990-2015. Subsequent editions have lowered the most recent total so this is a conservative value for impacts.

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 other 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 legislation 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 (f) 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 any 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.