Pragmatic Take on the Climate and Community Protection Act

I blog on pragmatic environmentalism because I am convinced that it is necessary to balance environmental impacts and public policy. This means that evidence-based environmental risks and benefits (both environmental and otherwise) of issues need to be considered. I have developed a set of principles that under lie my concerns. New York’s Climate and Community Protection Act exemplifies the opposite of a pragmatic approach to the problem of climate change. This post references my pragmatic environmentalist principles to explain my concerns.

In the 2019-2020 regular legislative sessions the New York State (NYS) legislature is debating the Climate and Community Protection Act (CCPA). The fundamental problem with this legislation is that it calls for a statewide greenhouse gas emissions limit of 0% of 1990 emissions in 2050.

One of my biggest problems with the CCPA is that the legislation sets its goal before it requires a scoping plan explaining how this will be done and how much it will cost. In almost all environmental issues there are two sides. Pragmatic environmentalism is all about balancing the risks and benefits of the two sides of the issue. In order to do that you have to show your work before you implement the policy and clearly this is not the case with the CCPA.

The rationale for the CCPA trots out many extreme weather events attributed to climate change. These brief sound bite descriptions only tell one side of the story. As a result they frequently are misleading, are not nuanced, or flat out wrong. The level of effort necessary to respond to them is large. As Alberto Brandolini put it: “The amount of energy necessary to refute BS is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.” In addition, the more extreme a climate or weather record is, the greater the contribution of natural variability, which is known as the Cliff Mass Golden Rule of Climate Extremes.

Ultimately advocates for this legislation ignore economic realities. Roger Pielke, Jr says the “iron law” simply states that while people are often willing to pay some price for achieving environmental objectives, that willingness has its limits.  There is no question in my mind that this legislation will test that willingness. Furthermore, Gresham’s Law of Green Energy observes that “bad money drives out the good.” The green energy subsidies necessary to implement the CCPA transfer wealth and do not create wealth. The subsidies or “bad” money take money out of the system that was “good” inasmuch as it was being used productively. Subsidized renewable resources will drive out competitive generators, lead to higher electric prices, and reduce economic growth.

Whatever the supporters say about costs the fact is that they will be significant. This legislation is presented as necessary but does not does not consider that in order to implement the initiatives tradeoffs are required simply because the resources available are finite. We can do almost anything we want, but we can’t do everything. Building resiliency to historical weather extremes seems to me to be a much better expenditure of resources.

 The economics issues are particularly relevant because of the ambitious goal. One of my principles states that: as the pollution control efficiency increases the control cost per ton reduced increases exponentially. This is particularly true for electrical system fossil emissions reductions. In New York the electrical generating plants reduced CO2 emissions 27% by switching from coal and oil to natural gas at essentially no cost because natural gas was cheaper than coal. Replacing natural gas generation to renewables is going to cost more because natural gas is cheaper. (If natural gas was not cheaper then no renewable subsidies would be necessary). Because the renewables are diffuse the transmission grid must be maintained but renewables do not support the grid so at some point that support must be added to the cost of displacing fossil fuels. Because renewables are intermittent at some point energy storage has to be added to the cost further adding to the cost of every incremental displacement. The final displacement to complete elimination of fossil fuel necessarily must expand the need for storage and grid support for the peak periods which are inherently the most difficult.

The final relevant principle is Ridley’s Paradox: Economic damage from man-made ‘climate change’ is illusory whereas damage from man-made ‘policies’ to fight the said change is real. Advocates for climate change action insinuate that all the extreme weather listed in the CCPA cause economic damage but are noticeably short on documenting how much the legislation will affect that weather. No one has ever claimed that hurricanes will not exist when we reduce CO2 emissions so the reality is that climate change might tweak a storm a little stronger. How much does that incremental change influence cost impacts and how much can we affect that change? In the absence of quantitative estimates this economic damage is an illusion. On the other hand, when we, for example, use food for fuel (ethanol subsidies) and drive up energy costs there are real tangible impacts to those least able to pay.

In conclusion my opinion on the legislation is uniformly negative because it has no plan and violates so may pragmatic environmental principles.

NYS Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act Effect on Global Warming

Update: 1 September 2019: Title changed and reference to signed legislation added

In the 2019-2020 regular sessions the New York State (NYS) legislature is debating the Climate and Community Protection Act (CCPA). On July 18, 2019 New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), which establishes targets for decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing renewable electricity production, and improving energy efficiency.  This post calculates how much this legislation will reduce global warming.

The legislation definitions include “Greenhouse gas” means carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulfur hexafluoride, and any other substance emitted into the air that may be reasonably anticipated to cause or contribute to anthropogenic climate change.

The emission reduction goals are listed below

  • 75-0107. Statewide greenhouse gas emissions limits.
    1. No later than one year after the effective date of this article, the department shall, pursuant to rules and regulations promulgated after at least one public hearing, establish a statewide greenhouse gas emissions limit as a percentage of 1990 emissions, as estimated pursuant to section 75-0105 of this article, as follows:
          1. 2020: 85% of 1990 emissions.
          2. 2025: 65% of 1990 emissions.
          3. 2030: 50% of 1990 emissions.
          4. 2035: 35% of 1990 emissions.
          5. 2040: 20% of 1990 emissions.
          6. 2045: 10% of 1990 emissions.
          7. 2050: 0% of 1990 emissions.

In the absence of any official quantitative estimate of the impact on global warming from CCPA or any other New York State initiative related to climate change I did my own calculation. I simply adapted data for this emission reduction from the calculations in Analysis of US and State-By-State Carbon Dioxide Emissions and Potential “Savings” In Future Global Temperature and Global Sea Level Rise. This analysis of U.S. and state by state carbon dioxide 2010 emissions relative to global emissions quantifies the relative numbers and the potential “savings” in future global temperature and global sea level rise.   These estimates are based on the MAGICC: Model for the Assessment of Greenhouse-gas Induced Climate Change) so they represent projected changes based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates. All I did in my calculation was to pro-rate the United States impacts by the ratio of New York emissions divided by United States emissions to determine the effects of a complete cessation of all CO2 emissions in New York State in 1990 proposed in the CCPA plan.

The first step is to quantify NY emissions. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority Greenhouse Gas Inventory 1990-2015 contains an inventory of historical greenhouse gas emission data from 1990-2015 for New York State’s energy and non-energy sectors. In 1990 the NY total was 218.1 million metric tons. The New York impacts were calculated by the ratio of the NY emissions reductions to the US reductions in the report. For example, the NY % of global total emissions equals the % of US global total (17.88%) times the CCPA reduction emissions goal (218.1) divided by the US emissions (5631.3). The CCPA Potential “Savings” in Future Global Temperature Table lists the results.

These calculations show current growth rate in CO2 emissions from other countries of the world will quickly subsume New York total emissions much less any reductions in New York CO2 emissions. According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) and based on trends in CO2 these emission reductions will be subsumed by global emissions growth in 99 days. Furthermore, using assumptions based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Reports we can estimate the actual impact to global warming for CCPA. The ultimate impact of the CCPA 100% reduction of 218.1 million metric tons on projected global temperature rise would be a reduction, or a “savings,” of approximately 0.0032°C by the year 2050 and 0.0067°C by the year 2100.

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

Although this change is too small to measure I am sure some will argue that there will nonetheless be some effect on the purported impacts. However if these numbers are put into perspective of temperatures we routinely feel then that argument seems hollow. For example, in Syracuse NY the record high temperature is 102°F and the record low temperature is -26°F so the difference is 128 °F which is over 27,000 times greater than the predicted change in temperature in 2050. The annual seasonal difference ranges from the highest daily average of 71.6°F to the lowest daily average of 23.2°F, or a difference of 48.4°F which is over 10,000 times greater than the predicted change in temperature in 2050. The average difference between the average daily high and average daily low temperature is 10.4°F or nearly 4,000 times greater than the predicted change in temperature in 2050. Clearly the projected temperature change is so much less than what we routinely encounter there will be no personal effect.

Another way to give you an idea of how small this temperature change consider changes with elevation and latitude. Generally, temperature decreases three (3) degrees Fahrenheit for every 1,000 foot increase in elevation above sea level. The projected temperature difference is the same as going down 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.


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

NYS Climate and Community Protection Act Rationale

In the 2019-2020 regular sessions the New York State (NYS) legislature is debating the Climate and Community Protection Act (CCPA). This post addresses the claims of increasing severity and frequency of events attributed to climate change in the CCPA rationale.

The bill states:

Climate change is adversely affecting economic well-being, public health, natural resources, and the environment of New York. The adverse impacts of climate change include:

      • an increase in the severity and frequency of extreme weather events, such as storms, flooding, and heat waves, which can cause direct injury or death, property damage, and ecological damage (e.g., through the release of hazardous substances into the environment);
      • rising sea levels, which exacerbate damage from storm surges and flooding, contribute to coastal erosion and saltwater intrusion, and inundate low-lying areas, leading to the displacement of or damage to coastal habitat, property, and infrastructure;
      • a decline in freshwater and saltwater fish populations;
      • increased average temperatures, which increase the demand for air conditioning and refrigeration among residents and businesses;
      • exacerbation of air pollution; and
      • an increase in the incidences of infectious diseases, asthma attacks, heart attacks, and other negative health outcomes.

This rationale is similar to most calls for action. Invariably there is a listing of weather events, claims of increasing severity and frequency, notes that extreme weather causes damages and, finally, insinuations that the proposed action will reduce damage.

When I first started this blog I developed a list of pragmatic environmentalist principles that describe my beliefs. This post illustrates my first principle that there are two sides to environmental issues and my latest principle that arguments about the issue are usually based on how each side interprets conflicting data. In this case the focus on one interpretation obscures the possibility that direct action would likely be a more effective policy alternative than the indirect policy proposed to control greenhouse gas emissions in hopes that will affect one of the drivers of the rationale examples.

Extreme Weather Events

The CCPA claims that climate change is adversely affecting New York now and cites storms, flooding, heat waves and rising sea-levels. If the CCPA were correct then all the occurrence of all these events should be increasing in frequency and intensity. In fact, the data on these extreme weather events are all easily available, and clearly show that there are no increases in any category other than normal fluctuations, and certainly nothing that can be attributed to human influences. Here is a link to a definitive document prepared by Francis Menton compiling evidence in all these categories and others. Judith Curry recently prepared a Special Report on Hurricanes and Climate Change that assesses the current status of hurricanes and climate.

The NY CCPA rationale for extreme weather events echoes the constant barrage of popular media accounts that attribute any unusual weather to climate change but in every instance there are data that indicate otherwise.

Decline in freshwater and saltwater fish populations

One example of the claim that declining fish populations are due to warming seas is the recent paper Impacts of historical warming on marine fisheries production. It states that “temperature-dependent population models to measure the influence of warming on the productivity of 235 populations of 124 species in 38 ecoregions. Some populations responded significantly positively (n = 9 populations) and others responded significantly negatively (n = 19 populations) to warming, with the direction and magnitude of the response explained by ecoregion, taxonomy, life history, and exploitation history. Hindcasts indicate that the maximum sustainable yield of the evaluated populations decreased by 4.1% from 1930 to 2010, with five ecoregions experiencing losses of 15 to 35%.” This description of the study seemingly supports CCPA rationale. It states that the study “looked at the impact of rising ocean temperatures on 124 marine species representing about one-third of the global catch from 1930 to 2010. It found that the “maximum sustainable yield,” or the amount of fish that could be caught each year without jeopardizing future harvests, dropped by 4.1 percent over this period as a result of climate change.”

Actually the study did not say anything nearly as alarming. It looked at 235 populations and found that warming had a positive influence on 9 populations, no influence on 207 populations and a negative influence on 19. Reality is that the 4.1% decrease in maximum sustainable yield only could be attributed to 19 of 235 populations. There is no question that decreasing fish stocks is a serious environmental problem. However the problem is over-whelmingly due to over-fishing “Increased human demand for fish and subsidies for fishing fleets have resulted in too many boats chasing too few fish”.

The NY CCPA rationale does not address the root cause of the decline in fish populations so it is unlikely that the legislation will have any effect on fish populations.

Increased average temperatures

I agree that average temperatures are increasing but I do want to point out that even this relatively uncontroversial statement is complicated. For example, consider the points made about the United States average temperature trend in this video. It shows that if you calculate the trend using the raw data the trend is cooling but recent adjustments have shifted it to warming.

The primary concern for increased temperature is heat waves and the National Weather Service NYC office determined the trend of decadal heat waves that clearly showed an increase in the length of heat waves since 1880. However, I believe that it can be argued that the urban heat island mentioned in the report is a primary driver of the Central Park trend. Trying to determine how much of the temperature and heat wave trend is caused by the greenhouse gas effect (the target of CCPA) compared to land use change and natural variation is a non-trivial task completely ignored by simply claiming that average temperatures are increasing.

Exacerbation of air pollution

The only air pollutant regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency that can possibly be exacerbated by warmer temperatures is ozone. Ozone is a secondary air pollutant created by a complex photo-chemical reaction from nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds and that reaction is temperature dependent. However regarding ozone levels, the relative effect of temperature compared to emission rates is small as shown by the fact that New York State ozone concentrations have been decreasing even though temperatures are increasing.

Increased incidences of diseases

The CCPA rationale claims climate change can increase the incidences of infectious diseases, asthma attacks, heart attacks, and other negative health outcomes. According to the World Health Organization report on climate change and infectious diseases it is well known that climatic conditions affect epidemic diseases. That report goes on to state that “Malaria is of great public health concern, and seems likely to be the vector-borne disease most sensitive to long-term climate change”. However, it also is well known that during the construction of the Erie Canal canal fever was a concern, particularly during construction across the Montezuma Marsh.   In fact there were malaria problems even further north in Ontario when the Rideau Canal was built. This article explains that malaria can be controlled by “reducing the numbers of malaria parasites to a point low enough to break the infection cycle.”

The argument for asthma attacks and climate change is that it increases water and air pollution. One study claims that there is an increase in heat-induced heart attack risk in recent years. But they go on to note that “Individuals with diabetes or hyperlipidaemia were particularly at risk over the latter period. The researchers suspect that this is partly a result of global warming, but that it is also a consequence of an increase in risk factors such as diabetes and hyperlipidaemia, which have made the population more susceptible to heat.”

All these examples are similar and the rationale that reducing greenhouse gases will have an effect is flawed.   For malaria the effect of long-term climate change can be mitigated much better by directly breaking the infection cycle than indirectly reduce mosquitos by trying to control temperatures. Directly mitigating air and water pollution is more effective than trying to reduce it by controlling temperature. Finally, directly reducing other heart attack risk factors is likely more effective than indirectly reducing temperature.


Advocates for this legislation and other similar programs in New York State claim that they are all for the science. So am I. There is no question that global temperatures have been warming since the end of the Little Ice Age in the early 1800’s. There also is no question that increased levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases reduce out-going long-wave radiation and that warming results. Because human activities have added to those gases there is no question in my mind that at least some of the observed warming is very likely due to mankind. The question is how much of the observed warming is due to greenhouse gases relative to other human factors and the natural causes that have driven all previous climatic change. That makes all the difference.

Despite the constant barrage of popular media accounts that simply state that climate change is real and caused by mankind, reality is much more complex and it is not clear that mitigating greenhouse gases will necessarily affect climate change. We do not understand the natural causes of climate variation responsible for historic climate change. If we did understand them then we would be able to predict the weather for the next season, for example how much snow and how much cold. Clearly we don’t.

More importantly, for societal policy there is a trade-off. I tried to show that if we are concerned about the issues in the CCPA rationale that are ascribed to climate change that directly addressing them will likely be more effective than trying to control the climate. Moreover, the Ridley’s Paradox should also be considered: Economic damage from man-made ‘climate change’ is illusory whereas damage from man-made ‘policies’ to fight the said change is real.

Air Source Heat Pumps In New York

New York’s proposed Community and Climate Protection Act has a goal for “the state of New York to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from all anthropogenic sources 100% over 1990 levels by the year 2050, with an incremental target of at least a 50 percent reduction in climate pollution by the year 2030”. In order to reach that ambitious CO2 reduction goal all sources of CO2 emissions have to be reduced. One energy sector with relatively large emissions is residential home heating and the clean energy alternative for home heating is electric heat pumps. In this post I explain why I think that air source heat pump deployment in New York coupled with the simultaneous goal to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions is fatally flawed based on a case study for conversions near Caledonia, NY.


How Stuff Works explains that “heat pumps use a small amount of energy to move heat from one location to another”. Air conditioners cool our homes by removing heat from the air inside and moving outside. An air-source heat pump acts like an air conditioner in the summer and in the winter works in reverse moving heat from the outside air into the home to warm it. Obviously this kind of heat pump eliminates the need to have two separate systems and advocates tout its energy savings too. According to the Department of Energy (DOE):

An air-source heat pump can provide efficient heating and cooling for your home. When properly installed, an air-source heat pump can deliver one-and-a-half to three times more heat energy to a home than the electrical energy it consumes. This is possible because a heat pump moves heat rather than converting it from a fuel like combustion heating systems do.

Air-source heat pumps have been used for many years in nearly all parts of the United States, but until recently they have not been used in areas that experienced extended periods of subfreezing temperatures. However, in recent years, air-source heat pump technology has advanced so that it now offers a legitimate space heating alternative in colder regions.

For example, when entire units are replaced in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships (NEEP) found that the annual savings when using an air-source heat pump are around 3,000 kWh (or $459) when compared to electric resistance heaters, and 6,200 kWh (or $948) when compared to oil systems. When displacing oil (i.e., the oil system remains, but operates less frequently), the average annual savings are near 3,000 kWh (or about $300).

Reading this statement gives the impression that this technology is a “no regrets” solution for replacing oil heating CO2 emissions because it saves money for home heating. However, there is a critical caveat for New York State. Air-source heat pumps only work when they move heat and when it is really cold (below zero degrees Fahrenheit) there is no heat in the air to move.

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy published a paper that illustrates this issue with air source heat pumps: Field Assessment of Cold Climate Air Source Heat Pumps (ccASHP) ( The report describes a Center for Energy and Environment field study in Minnesota where cold climate air source heat pumps were directly compared to propane and heating oil furnaces. The report notes that “During periods of very cold temperatures when ccASHPs do not have adequate capacity to meet heating load, a furnace or electric resistant heat can be used as backup.” Figure 2 (ASHP Supplemental Energy Use) from that document graphically shows the problem. In this field study homes were instrumented to measure the heat pump and furnace backup usage. Backup furnace usage was relatively low and the heat pump provided most of the heat until about 20 deg. F. For anything lower, heat pump use went down and the furnace backup went up. Below zero the air source heat pumps did not provide heat and furnace backup provided all the heat.

I believe that there are two problems with the plan to deploy air source heat pumps. I suspect but will not try to evaluate that because a fossil fired furnace or electric resistant heat must be used as backup in a typical New York State winter the cost savings from a more efficient heat pump are offset by the need to maintain a second heating system. The other problem is what might happen to peak electrical loads if electric resistant heat is the preferred backup system. The analyses that I have reviewed point out that converting a natural gas system to an electric heat pump system increases operating costs because natural gas is so low. Propane or fuel oil conversions save money so would be the first to convert because of the higher costs of propane and fuel oil. However, I am not sure that homeowners who convert would want to maintain an oil or propane furnace simply because of the storage system requirement. Consequently, I believe radiant electric heat will be the preferred option for air source heat pump conversions. If residential home heating is electrified significantly electric load will increase and I wonder what could happen to load when the efficient heat pump is replaced with radiant electric heat when the temperatures get really cold.


I hypothesize that the combination of widespread air source heat pump deployment and increased reliance on wind and solar renewable energy will create unacceptable reliability issues during peak winter load periods. I evaluated energy usage for one week before and one week after the 2017-2018 peak winter day (January 5, 2018). I had previously analyzed data near Caledonia, NY and will use that for this analysis.

 I used two sources of data. Electric load data for New York State are available from the New York State Independent System Operator and meteorological data are available from the NYS Mesonet meteorological system. The NYS mesonet is a network of 126 weather observing sites across New York State. The official website of the Mesonet includes a tab for live data that brings up station information for the 125 operating individual sites that shows that available data include wind direction and speed, temperature at two levels, relative humidity, precipitation, pressure, solar radiation, snow depth, and camera images. I obtained hourly and 5-minute archived meteorological data for two sites near Caledonia, NY where a 180 MW solar farm has been proposed.

The Winter 2017-2018 load peak occurred during an intense cold snap. From December 29 to January 8 the temperature did not get above freezing and there were four days with below freezing temperatures as shown in the table of Daily temperature and load statistics. Note that the highest load did not occur on the coldest day. This was because the coldest day was a Saturday when business loads are lower. Also note that the New Year’s holiday occurred during this period which also reduced the load. The graph of load, temperature and wind speed for winter peak 2017-2018 shows how hourly load varies with temperature over the 15 day peak period.

In order to estimate how much renewable energy would be available during these conditions I converted to solar insolation and wind speed into power generated in MW using example utility-scale facilities. For solar power I used the 180 MW Horseshoe Solar Farm estimated output because it is near the NYS mesonet stations. In my analysis of Solar Issues in Upstate New York using that facility I assumed that 180 MW of power would be generated when the solar insolation equaled 600 watts per square meter and power output the rest of the time would be proportional so observed solar insolation. I believe that is a conservative assumption but would welcome comment.

There aren’t any wind farms nearby. So I estimated power output for a 100 MW wind farm. I found a reference that stated “Wind turbines start operating at wind speeds of 4 to 5 metres per second and reach maximum power output at around 15 metres/second”. I assumed that below 9 mi/hr wind output was zero and that power output was proportional to the wind speed difference between 9 mi/hr and 33 mi/hr consistent with that reference. The NYS mesonet measures wind at 10m and I assumed that the wind farm hub height was 90m. I modified observe wind speed using the wind profile power law with a coefficient of 1/7 to account for the relationship between wind speed and height.

I used Field Assessment of Cold Climate Air Source Heat Pumps Figure 2 (ASHP Supplemental Energy Use) to estimate the amount of power needed when an individual home convert to an air source heat pump and uses radiant electric heat when the heat pump becomes ineffective (assumed to be 15 deg F). I crudely digitized the lines in Figure 2 and calculated the best fit lines for ASHP Consumption and Furnace Backup Consumption. I converted the energy use to electrical energy by converting Btu to watts by dividing the Btu energy use by 3.41. The Energy Use for Residential Home Heating Electrification Table Table illustrates my concern that residential home heating conversion to air source heat pumps has the unintended consequence that when it gets below 15 deg F and consumers really need to heat their homes that the rate of energy use increases over six times per five degree drop in temperature.

Case Study

The purpose of this analysis is to determine if there are problems if the 100% renewable solar and wind target is coupled with widespread implementation of residential home heating with air source heat pumps. The Housing Units by Space Heating Fuel Table lists the number of occupied housing units for two counties near Caledonia. The Field Assessment of Cold Climate Air Source Heat Pumps report states that liquefied propane (LP gas) and fuel oil or kerosene space heating are the most likely sectors to convert to heat pumps because of fuel cost savings. There are 18,244 housing units that burn those two fuels. I calculated the electricity required for 10%, 15% and 25% conversions for 18,244 housing units.

The figure entitled Residential Home Heating ASHP Conversion and Renewable Power Case Study shows the relationship between home heat electrical load and meteorological conditions affecting renewable wind and solar power. Colder days in Upstate New York often occur on clear, windless nights. When the sun rises the temperature increases quickly. Although cloudless skies maximize solar power the sun is low in the sky and the days are short so the power output is low. Of course the cold weather increases the need for home heating energy.

The Cumulative Renewable Charging and Discharging Margins graph attempts to estimate energy storage requirements. Clearly the only way that solar and wind can be expected to cover winter peak loads is by incorporating energy storage. During this windless case study energy storage needs to discharge to cover the residential home heating power requirement as shown in blue. During the day solar power recharges the energy storage as shown in red. In this case study the maximum storage needed was 372 MW-hr on hour 82. It turns out that renewable excess power charged to the system before this case study was sufficient to cover that requirement.


This case study illustrates my concern that wide-spread implementation of air source heat pumps coupled with increased use of renewables will be difficult. In this analysis the meteorological conditions on New Year’s Eve 2018 show that the proposed Horseshoe solar facility with a nameplate capacity of 180 MW and a wind farm with a nameplate capacity of 100 MW would have been just able to cover the conversion of 2,737 homes to air source heat pumps. However, energy storage capable of at least 372 MW-hr has to be available somewhere. There already are 47,000 homes using electricity and another 15,000 homes that are supposed to be cost-effective candidates for conversion just in two local counties. Most importantly, this is just one component of residential electricity load which is one component of total load.

The Horseshoe Solar Farm – Public Involvement Program claims that the facility will provide enough electricity to meet the average annual consumption of 33,000 or 50,000 households, based on average annual household electric consumption of 10.8 MWh for the U.S. and 7.2 MWh for New York State, respectively. I bet that these household electric consumption averages do not reflect an electrically heated home in cold regions. If I guess that the average consumption for this 15 day period is a decent number for the heating season and assume a 90 day heating season that more than doubles the electric consumption for a New York State household. In other words there is no way Horseshoe Solar Farm is going to provide enough electricity for 50,000 homes using air source heat pumps.

Even though this is a crude “back of the envelope” analysis, the sobering results suggest that the Legislature should do a complete winter peak analysis correctly before codifying reductions that eliminate fossil fueled power plants and require the conversion of residential home heating to meet some arbitrary CO2 reduction goal. According to Patterns and Trends – New York State Energy Profiles: 2002-2016 there are over a million homes currently using fuel oil or kerosene, 500,000 homes using electricity and another 200,000 using propane in New York State.

Based on my analysis I think that even moderate air source heat pump deployment for the residential home heating sector in New York coupled with the simultaneous goal to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions using extensive deployment of wind and solar power is fatally flawed.  I cannot imagine how much wind power, solar power and energy storage would have to be deployed to cover the winter peak, much less the winter peak adding significant electrification of residential home heating, for the entire state because those renewable resources are very weak during winter peak load periods. It is incumbent upon the advocates for the Climate and Community Protection Act to determine what renewable resources will be required and how much they will cost before their legislation is considered by the Legislature.