Response to My Comments on the New York Value of Carbon Guidance

The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) mandates that the state establish a value of carbon for use in the implementation of the law.  On December 30, 2020 New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced finalization of this guidance.  This post summarizes the final guidance and describes the response to comments on the draft guidance document.  In general, the guidance document and the responses all are consistent with the CLCPA narrative that climate change is an imminent, inevitable disaster that can only be averted by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

I submitted comments because this law will affect the affordability and reliability of New York’s energy.   I am a retired electric generation utility meteorologist with nearly 40-years of experience analyzing the effects of environmental regulations on electric and gas operations.  I have written a series of posts on the feasibility, implications and consequences of this aspect of the law and another series of posts on carbon pricing initiatives.  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

On July 18, 2019 New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed CLCPA, which establishes targets for decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing renewable electricity production, and improving energy efficiency.  It was described as the most ambitious and comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation in the country when Cuomo signed the legislation.  I have summarized the schedule, implementation components, and provide links to the legislation itself at CLCPA Summary Implementation Requirements.

The CLCPA requires the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), in consultation with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), to establish guidance for a value of carbon for use by State agencies. According to the DEC press release:

“The guidance is different than a regulation and does not propose a carbon price, fee, or compliance obligation. It is a metric that will be broadly applicable to all State agencies and authorities to demonstrate the global societal value of actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The guidance establishes a value of carbon focused on the federal social cost of carbon and incorporates public comments DEC received when the draft guidance was proposed earlier this year, including recommending a lower central discount rate of two percent, which should be reported alongside a one and three percent discount rate for informational purposes. In some decision-making contexts, particularly those that have a history of valuing carbon, such as the New York electric industry, the guidance suggests that alternative approaches to valuing carbon may be more appropriate for both resource valuation and benefit-cost analyses.  Use of the lower central discount rate translates into a 2020 central value of carbon dioxide of $125 per ton; methane of $2,782 per ton; and nitrous oxide of $44,727 per ton.”

The Value of Carbon Guidance provides values for carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide for use by State agencies along with recommended guidelines for the use of these and other values by State entities. Four documents were made available:

In section §75-0113, Value of Carbon the CLCPA states that the “social cost of carbon shall serve as a monetary estimate of the value of not emitting a ton of greenhouse gas emissions” and that “As determined by the department, the social cost of carbon may be based on marginal greenhouse gas abatement costs or on the global economic, environmental, and social impacts of emitting a marginal ton of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, utilizing a range of appropriate discount rates, including a rate of zero.”  The law states that DEC “shall consider prior or existing estimates of the social cost of carbon issued or adopted by the federal government, appropriate international bodies, or other appropriate and reputable scientific organizations.”

Response to Comments

In general, a major point in my comments was that I believe the focus of the guidance is wrong.  According to the document:

“The purpose of this guidance is to aid State entities in decision making by establishing a monetary value of greenhouse gas emission reductions or increases that reflects global societal impacts. This guidance does not itself establish a price or fee on emissions, and the value of carbon presented here is not the only value that may be used by the State. Alternative methods for establishing a value of carbon may be used by State entities, including the Department, as needed to achieve the goals and requirements of the CLCPA as well as other State goals, such as to protect public safety, welfare, and the environment.”

The guidance does not recognize that the CLCPA has specific targets so the proper way to address social costs is through a cost efficiency approach.  The damages approach recommended in the guidance is an efficiency concept inappropriate when developing control measures.  The emphasis of the guidance is on state agency use and not for supporting the Climate Action Council scoping plan mandate.

DEC’s responses to comments are listed below with my italicized reply below each paragraph.

“The Department received comments from individuals, elected officials, municipal officials, environmental advocacy groups, community groups, academic and other nonprofit research institutions, and private businesses particularly those related to the electricity sector. Most commenters responded to DEC’s specific request for input on the selection of a central discount rate or commented on three other areas: the use of a range of discount rates, the application of other approaches such as marginal abatement, or technical details of the damages-based or marginal abatement approaches. As discussed in the Guidance, DEC is providing guidelines regarding the use of the damages-based approach to enable New York State agencies to use this tool, where needed. DEC is not seeking to develop guidelines for the use of other approaches, such as marginal abatement, at this time.”

My comments explained that there are other metrics that describe ‘equivalences’ between climate-changing species used to determine contributions to climate impacts.  Tol et al (2012) present a unifying framework that clarifies the relationships among four metrics establishing ‘equivalences’ among emissions of various species. Importantly, the framework distinguishes between cost benefits and cost effectiveness. This paper explains that once a cap is set, you should not use the social cost of carbon. The social cost of carbon is an efficiency concept. Establishing a price incentivizes society to develop the most efficient response to that price but does not guarantee specific emission levels. Once a specific target is established in a cap that violates the efficiency principle inherent in the social cost of carbon.  Instead, the cap requires that emissions are valued to the shadow price of the cap. There was no response to this argument.

 “The majority of commenters who responded to DEC’s request for feedback on the selection of a central discount rate support the lower of the two suggested values, i.e., 2% rather than the 2.5% that was previously established as the lower bound of discount rates by the federal government. Some of these commenters suggested that the central rate should be no higher than 2%. Other commenters requested a rate that is lower, such as zero or 1%, or suggested that the DEC should adopt higher rates that would be consistent with that previously used by other New York State agencies and the federal government.”

 A lower discount rate produces higher values which supports the narrative of the CLCPA and likely the majority of the commenters who have a vested interest in climate change catastrophes.  My argument that on a global basis using lower discount rates memorializes the status quo for the world’s poor was ignored.

“While DEC maintains that the public is best informed by reporting a range of discount rates, given the responses received, DEC has revised the Guidance to apply a central 2% discount rate. However, as many commenters pointed out, the damages-based approach is continually refined and improved and DEC will continue to consider incorporating new research. DEC will also consider additional ways to address uncertainty and intergenerational equity issues raised by the commenters, such as through a declining discount rate or the incorporation of a 95th percentile on the central discount rate, as the research continues to improve. While not specifically raised in the public comments, one issue with applying a non-standard discount rate, such as 2%, is that this affects the applicability of published analyses, because the analyses are unlikely to apply the same discount rate.”

I raised problems with damages-based approaches in my comments but one would not know that from this response. 

“Several commenters took issue with the use of a range of discount rates and stated a preference that DEC require all State entities to use one discount rate. DEC has revised the Guidance to clarify the initial intent of the Guidance. Namely, DEC’s guidance follows the federal government’s approach to using the damages-based value of carbon, under which agencies use the central rate, but also report the results for a higher and lower rate. DEC did not intend to suggest that State entities use any discount rate within the range. Instead, DEC suggests that, if State agencies apply a damages-based value of carbon as a part of their decision-making, they should use the 2% discount rate to estimate the value (as opposed to the federal government’s central rate of 3%) and also report the values estimated using the 1% and 3% discount rates. This enables the public to see the effect of the discount rate and, in the case of the 3% rate, compare their assessment to federal actions and previous State policies.”

I agree with the DEC response that the public should be able to see the effect of the discount rate.  The suggestion in my comments that the public should also be able to see the effect of the time horizon, the location of impacts, and equilibrium climate sensitivity was ignored.  I also argued that the one reference used to justify using a lower discount rate was inadequate and that additional justification was needed.  There were no changes to the document to respond to that.

“The remaining comments covered a diverse set of topics, including topics beyond the scope of the Guidance. DEC will use all relevant feedback in refining the Guidance and in developing future guidance. An example is to provide additional guidance on how to consider public health impacts and the social costs for co-pollutants. The CLCPA specifically refers to the social cost of emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, but the Guidance does discuss how the damages-based approach can be used to assess other impacts and other pollutants. The Guidance is a complement to other, more standard methods used.”

Topics beyond the scope of the Guidance are ignored if they don’t fit the narrative.  I raised fundamental issues raised about the mis-use of the value of carbon when emission targets have been chosen and no response.  Instead, they highlight comments that claim the values are too low.  Honestly, if they want to provide New York’s citizens information rather than just propaganda they should describe both sides of the valuation issues, explain why they chose what that chose, and explain why only the negative externalities of fossil fuels are considered without any consideration of the benefits.

Conclusion

Because it appears that a primary goal of this process is to memorialize a value of carbon to justify agency actions, the public deserves to know how the real costs are balanced against the theorized cost benefits.  When CLCPA strategies are announced and cost savings are claimed the public deserves to know that the savings are based on global not New York benefits, savings out to 2300, do not represent the latest climate sensitivity science, and that no consensus exists on what approach or rate to use for discounting uncertain climate impacts over long time horizons.  Instead, the basis is buried in a technical document that does not even acknowledge that there are uncertainties and issues with basis for cost savings based on these values of carbon.

Furthermore, there are fundamental technical considerations overlooked or ignored by the guidance and response to comments. New York State CLCPA implementation is trying to choose between many expensive policy options while at the same time attempting to understand which one (or what mix) will be the least expensive and have the fewest negative impacts on the existing system. If good picks are made then state ratepayers will spend the least amount of a lot of money, but if they are wrong, we will be left with lots of negative outcomes and even higher costs for a long time.  A value of carbon approach that addressed that concern as its primary goal would be great support to address this problem.

 

 

 

 

 

Another Cautionary RGGI Tale from New York

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is likely to generate over $149 million in fiscal year 2021-2022 for New York State investments to support comprehensive strategies that best achieve the RGGI greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals pursuant to 21 NYCRR Part 507.  This post describes the comments I submitted for the New York RGGI Operating Plan Amendment for 2021.

I have been involved in the RGGI program process since its inception sometime in 2004.  I blog about the details of the RGGI program because very few seem to want to provide any independent review of the program. 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

RGGI is a market-based program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is a cooperative effort among the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont to cap and reduce CO2 emissions from the power sector.  According to a RGGI website: “The RGGI states issue CO2 allowances which are distributed almost entirely through regional auctions, resulting in proceeds for reinvestment in strategic energy and consumer programs. Programs funded with RGGI investments have spanned a wide range of consumers, providing benefits and improvements to private homes, local businesses, multi-family housing, industrial facilities, community buildings, retail customers, and more.”  Note that New Jersey has re-joined RGGI and Virginia will be joining in 2021.

On December 16, 2020 a stakeholder advisory group meeting was held to provide an overview of the draft operating plan amendment.  Meeting materials included the following:

The presentation provides an overview of the meeting.  The introduction of the operating plan describes New York’s RGGI approach.  Implementation responsibilities are shared by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

NYSERDA’s RGGI Operating Plan is reviewed and revised on an annual basis. The operating plan document represents the 2021 Operating Plan Amendment and provides program descriptions and funding levels for the April 2021-March 2024 timeframe.  NYSERDA regulations include a provision to annually convene a group of stakeholders representing a broad array of energy and environmental interests. This group advises NYSERDA regarding strategies to best utilize RGGI funds. NYSERDA holds an open meeting of the stakeholder group each year, inviting input on how to achieve greater scale of implementation, advance activities that realize benefits in disadvantaged communities, expand private investments and partnerships, and address barriers to program success.

The draft Amendment explains that New York State invests RGGI proceeds to support comprehensive strategies that best achieve the RGGI greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals pursuant to 21 NYCRR Part 507.  The programs in the portfolio of initiatives are designed to support the pursuit of the State’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals by:

      • Deploying commercially available energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies;
      • Building the State’s capacity for long-term carbon reduction;
      • Empowering New York communities to reduce carbon pollution, and transition to cleaner energy;
      • Stimulating entrepreneurship and growth of clean energy and carbon abatement companies in New York; and
      • Creating innovative financing to increase adoption of clean energy and carbon abatement in the State.

Proposed Programs

In my  comments , I evaluated the programs proposed for the draft Amendment. NYSERDA’s New York State Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative-Funded Programs status reports were used to estimate the ability of these program to reduce CO2.  The latest report, Semiannual Status Report through December 31, 2019 includes a summary of expected cumulative annual program benefits.

Operating Plan Table 1 lists those programs that are funded going forward in the draft Amendment and includes annual program benefits for existing programs.  There are 18 proposed programs that have been allotted funds for the revised FY20-21 through FY23-24 budget years.  I classified them into five categories and provided summaries of the programs themselves in 2021 RGGI Operating Plan Program Descriptions.

The programs in the first two categories are expected to produce emission reductions.  Eight programs were funded before 2020 and have estimates of the cost to reduce CO2.  They are allocated $416.2 million or 69% of the budgeted funds and, based on the NYSERDA report estimates, could reduce CO2 emissions just over 807,000 tons.  This translates to a expected CO2 cost reduction efficiency of $516 per ton.  Two new programs are similar to exiting programs and using the overall cost efficiency for the existing programs could reduce CO2 emissions another78,431 tons.

The next two categories are existing and new programs that do not directly reduce CO2 emissions. There is one existing program and four existing administrative line items totaling $76.8 million or 13% of the total that do not directly reduce CO2 emissions. It is disappointing that two new proposed programs totaling $14 million or 2% of the total that will also not directly reduce CO2 emissions.  New York’s proportion of line items that do not directly reduce CO2 emissions is the highest of any RGGI state.

Finally, the draft amendment includes a program that will increase CO2 emissions.  The draft Amendment proposes to allocate $52.8 million or 9% of the total budget to the ChargeNY program that will promote plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) adoption by consumers across New York.

Environmental Justice

Clearly the operating amendment funding represents a lot of money.  The Operating Plan amendment for 2021 notes that:

“RGGI programs have and will continue, alongside other state programs, to contribute to economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions reductions and provide benefits to New York’s historically overburdened and underserved communities. NYSERDA’s CO2 Allowance Auction Program regulations reflect the provision of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act “that 40%, and no less than 35%, of the overall benefits from the investment of the [CO2 Allowance Auctions] proceeds” will be realized in disadvantaged communities.”

It is entirely appropriate that there should be an emphasis on environmental justice but I have concerns about the State’s approach.

Unfortunately, meeting that goal means even less emphasis on cost effectiveness.  I noted in my comments that the CLCPA and the draft Amendment emphasize support to disadvantaged communities.  Given that all other jurisdictions that have attempted to reduce GHG emissions have increased the cost of energy, it is likely that will be the case in New York too.  Therefore, I think there are two priorities to reduce the regressive impact on those who can least afford those increased costs.  Overall, the funding emphasis should be on the most cost-effective GHG reduction programs to lower overall costs.  The exception to that emphasis are programs that directly reduce costs for anyone, regardless of location, who is living in energy poverty or has a disproportionate energy burden.  I worry that the emphasis on disadvantaged communities will hurt energy paupers living outside of those communities, particularly those in rural areas.

A focus on reducing the energy burden of disadvantaged in general and in overburdened and underserved communities in particular is more appropriate than the state’s plans to fulfill a mandate for spending a particular amount in a particular way. In order to address the effect of climate change on dis-advantaged communities adapting and becoming more resilient to extreme weather rather than attempting to mitigate those impacts would also be more appropriate than funding wind and solar projects that have their own environmental consequences.

 Conclusion

The draft Amendment budget total covering fiscal years 2020 to 2024 is over $600 million and is projected to reduce annual CO2 emissions 807,024 tons for a cost efficiency of $744 per ton reduced.  Over 30% of the budget is apportioned to programs or line items that do not directly reduce CO2.

The cost reduction efficiency is $516 per ton for the programs that will directly reduce CO2.  The recently adopted Value of Carbon Guidance recommended a 2020 value of carbon dioxide of $53-421 per ton, with a central value of $125 per ton; a 2020 value of methane of $1,527-6,578 per ton, with a central value of $2,782 per ton; and a value of nitrous oxide of $19,084-140,766 per ton, with a central value of $44,727 per ton.  If we only consider the carbon dioxide values, the cost effectiveness exceeds the purported negative externality costs and that means that the RGGI operating plan programs do not meet this basic cost-benefit test.

Clearly the draft Amendments should put greater emphasis on investments with better cost effectiveness rates or develop programs to bring those costs down.  Moreover, if the costs of the emission reduction programs exceed the purported negative externality costs then it suggests that it would be more appropriate to invest the proceeds elsewhere.  Note that in the future the State is going to have to breakout expected methane and nitrous oxide emission reductions, if any, in order to reflect the full value of RGGI proceeds investments.

There is one final aspect of this that troubles me.  RGGI is an electric sector emissions reduction program.  New York State is already abusing the RGGI objectives with all the programs that produce no CO2 reductions.  I am sure that a detailed review of the programs would uncover funding that should be covered by existing programs and not with RGGI funds.  While it is understandable that RGGI funding will be used to meet the CLCPA dis-advantaged community mandates it will likely further dilute the effectiveness of future reductions.  Funding the ChargeNY program that will promote plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) adoption by consumers across New York will actually increase CO2 emissions and I recommended that those funds be re-allocated elsewhere.  The ultimate problem that the operating plan overlooks is at some point the sources affected by RGGI will be unable to lower their emissions.  In order to meet the RGGI cap zero-emission generating and reductions in load funded by the RGGI proceeds will be needed.  If all the money is distributed elsewhere problems will ensue.

 

Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act Potential Savings of Future Global Warming

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.  It was described as the most ambitious and comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation in the country when Cuomo signed the legislation.  However, no one has shown what effect this law could actually have on global temperatures.  This post provides that information.

I am following the implementation of the CLCPA closely because its implementation affects my future as a New Yorker.  Given the cost impacts for other jurisdictions that have implemented renewable energy resources to meet targets at much less stringent 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.

Analysis

For this analysis I simply adapted 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[1]  to estimate the potential effect.  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 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 different New York inventory emissions divided by United States emissions to determine the effects of a complete cessation of all New York’s emissions.

There is a fundamental assumption in this approach.  The emissions in the primary reference are based on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) methodologies.  In order for these estimates to be correct the emission inventories have to be calculated the same way.  New York’s CLCPA inventory only followed IPCC approaches when the results comported with the political narrative and differ when more “appropriate” numbers can be derived.  The largest issue in this regard is that the CLCPA inventory includes upstream emissions from the extraction and transport of fossil fuels so their inventories include emissions from outside the state.  Consequently, you cannot directly compare New York’s inventory to other jurisdictions because of the double counting of these emissions.  The CLCPA inventory also uses a global warming potential GWP) of 20 years whereas everyone else uses GWP of 100 years.  The CLCPA regulation does provide the GWP-100 emissions for comparison purposes and in the response to my comment about the upstream component I was assured that somebody else would address that problem some day some place.  In the meantime, we cannot directly compare inventories.

Next best thing is to provide all the inventory results for your information.  The official CLCPA 1990 emission inventory was recently promulgated in New York’s Part 496 regulation.  As shown in the CCPA Part 496 Potential “Savings” in Future Global Temperature I estimated the benefits of getting 1990 emissions to zero for four inventories.  I evaluated the CLCPA Part 496 inventories for all the greenhouse gases (CO2, CH4, N2O, PFCs, HFCs and SF6) included in the law and just CO2.  In order to compare the potential effects the way the rest of the world prepares inventories, I evaluated the CO2 and GHG inventories from Table S-1 in the last New York State Energy Research and Development Authority inventory.

Results

The table shows that for the CLCPA Part 496 inventories there would be a reduction, or a “savings,” of between approximately 0.0097°C and 0.0081°C by the year 2100.  To give you an idea of how small these temperature changes are 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 for all the greenhouse gases is the same as a 39-inch change or 32 inches if only the CO2 emissions are considered.  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 a change in latitude of less than a mile.  The impacts calculated using inventories the way the rest of the world calculates them are even less.

The CLCPA should also be considered relative to the rest of the world.  According to the China Electricity Council, about 29.9 gigawatts of new coal power capacity was added in 2019 and a further 46 GW of coal-fired power plants are under construction.  If you assume that the new coal plants are super-critical units with an efficiency of 44% and have a capacity factor of 80%, the reductions provided by the CLCPA greenhouse gas inventory will be replaced by the added 2019 Chinese capacity in less than two years or four and a half years if the 2019 capacity and the units under construction are combined.  Recall that the CLCPA inventory is incompatible with IPCC methods.  When using the compatible NYSERDA inventories New York’s impact on global warming will be replaced by the added 2019 Chinese capacity in less than on year or two and a half years if the 2019 capacity and the units under construction are combined.

Conclusion

There is an obvious reason that New York has never provided an estimate of the impact of any of its greenhouse gas reduction initiatives on global warming.  The impacts are simply too small to be measured much less have an effect on any of the purported damages of greenhouse gas emissions.  In the context of global emissions New York’s efforts will be subsumed quickly by other countries that are morally obligated to provide the tangible benefits of affordable abundant energy to their citizens.  At this time those benefits are only possible using fossil fuels.  Until such time that there is a lower cost alternative to fossil fuels for those countries it is immoral to expect them to forgo those benefits because of marginal climate impacts as aptly explained by Dr. Bjorn Lomborg in his book “False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet”.

 

 

Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act Implementation Strategies Overview

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.  It was described as the most ambitious and comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation in the country when Cuomo signed the legislation.  In the past year strategies to implement this legislation have started to take shape and this post summarizes the strategies presented to the Climate Action Council at the last two meetings in 2020.  This is an overview post that puts the strategy material in one place. I will address the specific advisory panel strategies as time permits.

I am following the implementation of the CLCPA closely because its implementation affects my future as a New Yorker.  Given the cost impacts for other jurisdictions that have implemented renewable energy resources to meet targets at much less stringent 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

I have summarized the schedule, implementation components, and provide links to the legislation itself at CLCPA Summary Implementation Requirements.  Section § 75-0103 in the CLCPA establishes the New York state Climate Action Council (CAC). The CAC is charged with planning responsibility:

“The council shall on or before two years of the effective date of this article, prepare and approve a scoping plan outlining the recommendations for attaining the statewide greenhouse gas emissions limits in accordance with the schedule established in section 75-0107 of this article, and for the reduction of emissions beyond eighty-five percent, net zero emissions in all sectors of the economy, which shall inform the state energy planning board’s adoption of a state energy plan in accordance with section 6-104 of the energy law. The first state energy plan issued subsequent to completion of the scoping plan required by this section shall incorporate the recommendations of the council. “

In order to “provide recommendations to the council on specific topics, in its preparation of the scoping plan, and interim updates to the scoping plan, and in fulfilling the council’s ongoing duties”, the CAC (§ 75-0103, 7) “shall convene advisory panels requiring special expertise and, at a minimum, shall establish advisory panels on transportation, energy intensive and trade-exposed industries, land-use and local government, energy efficiency and housing, power generation, and agriculture and forestry”.

CLCPA implementation was proscribed by the legislation.   In order to “provide recommendations to the council on specific topics, in its preparation of the scoping plan, and interim updates to the scoping plan, and in fulfilling the council’s ongoing duties”, the CAC (§ 75-0103, 7) “shall convene advisory panels requiring special expertise and, at a minimum, shall establish advisory panels on transportation, energy intensive and trade-exposed industries, land-use and local government, energy efficiency and housing, power generation, and agriculture and forestry”.  Once the process started it became clear that another panel covering waste would be needed.

Strategies

During the last two Climate Action Council meetings the transportation, energy intensive and trade-exposed industries, land-use and local government, energy efficiency and housing, power generation, and agriculture and forestry advisory panels presented their strategies. Each strategy was presented in a slide that listed the rationale, equity considerations, potential implementation challenges, issues to explore, and additional thoughts. The waste panel started late and did not present a strategy in the same format.

In the following I list the strategies for each panel and link to an extracted copy of their presentation to the Climate Action Council.  You can also listen to their presentations and get the meeting power point slides for the 24 November 2020 and 15 December 2020 meetings where these strategies were presented.

Land Use and Local Government Advisory Panel

This advisory panel presented ten strategies from three subgroups.

      • Land Use Strategies
          • Promote and facilitate county and inter-municipal smart growth planning efforts, including focusing development in priority growth centers
          • Build capacity at the regional level and provide support to municipalities to promote smart growth, facilitate clean energy siting, and reduce vehicle miles traveled
          • Promote coordinated regional approaches to meet climate goals while integrating transportation, housing, and land conservation needs
          • Streamline and incentivize Smart Growth project review
          • Coordinate State planning funds/activities/entities to ensure that transportation, housing, and conservation actions are not in conflict and achieve VMT, clean energy, and equity goals
      • Clean Energy Strategies
          • Establish statewide higher energy codes, benchmarking, building performance mandates, and PACE Financing to avoid a patchwork of policies.
          • Encourage local governments to initiate CCA programs and community campaigns to increase local access to clean energy products and services.
          • Overcome legal, financial, regulatory, and technical barriers to greening municipal building, facilities, and fleets
      • Adaptation and Resilience Strategies
          • Develop policies, programs and resources to reduce risks associated with acute climate hazards
          • Seek to ensure State and local investments assess climate change and resiliency impacts of projects

Energy Efficiency and Housing

This advisory panel presented 16 strategies in six categories.

      • Mandates that require energy efficiency improvements and on-site emissions in building and appliance with dates as market signal
          • Expand State energy & building codes (w/date signals) -> transition to electrification & building efficiency;
          • Modify State Appliance Standards (e.g. ban fossil fuel appliances sale/install.). Consider building performance standards for large buildings to meet 2050 & interim targets –focus on onsite emissions.
      • Financing and incentives for building efficiency and electrification at scale
          • Inducing market/behavioral change (e.g. taxes, registration fees, carbon levies) that incentivize market providers (owners, developers, lenders etc.) & residents to reduce emissions & transition to electrification;
          • Shift lenders to quantify energy efficiency in single/multifamily/commercial (e.g. underwriting to savings);
          • Financial incentives for owners, developers and residents (e.g. cash incentives, pay as you save, low-interest financing, more agile of existing programs to get to 2050 and interim targets, etc), with emphasis on LMI.
      • Training and education of building decarbonization to improve behavior and operations for health and comfort and build workforce (enabling strategy)
          • Workforce development to provide skilled pros to design, build, operate, & enforce decarbonized building stock;
          • Education -owners, developers, design professionals and other stakeholders: resources on capital planning, all-electric buildings, electrification-ready, etc. Mandatory energy performance disclosures & building consumption data (public facing); certified product declarations for materials/equipment; etc.
          • Education-residents/businesses: performance, econ., environmental quality, O&M for low-carbon tech.
      • Technology innovation and demonstration to drive better performance, reduce costs, and increase customer confidence
          • R&D to improve cost/performance of solutions for all-electric buildings (e.g., cold climate heat pumps, geothermal, etc.)
          • R&D & demon. for hard-to-electrify buildings (e.g., on district steam, steam-heated, hydronic distribution) & advance scalable solutions & potential cost reductions (e.g., community geothermal, industrialized fabric/modular, virtual tools);
          • De-risking demos to help critical customer groups who make lack access to resources/info (e.g., coops/condos);
          • Approaches to reducing embodied carbon (e.g. new tech to reduce GHG emissions from materials/construction/transp.)
      • Resilience and climate adaptation strategies for all-electric building, hazard mitigation planning and building retrofits
          • Supporting/coordinating improved resiliency solutions for all-electric building & resilient spaces for vulnerable pops.;
          • Grid and transmission resilience and independence;
          • Electrification paired with supplemental heating sources;
          • Improving building stock to withstand the impacts of climate change.

Agriculture and Forestry

This advisory panel presented 12 strategies in six categories.

      • Livestock/Dairy Management
          • Alternative Manure Management
          • Precision Feed Management
      • Soil Health and Nutrient Management
          • Nutrient (Fertilizer) Management
    • Soil Carbon Sequestration
      • Agroforestry
          • Silvopasture, Alley Cropping, and Riparian Forest Buffers
      • Land Conversions
          • Agricultural Protection and Access
          • No Net Loss of Forestland
      • Forestry:
          • Urban Forestry
          • Statewide Afforestation/Reforestation Efforts
          • Improved Forest Management
          • Increase Manufacture and Use of Harvested Wood Products
      • Bioeconomy
          • Support opportunities to substitute fossil fuels

Transportation

This advisory panel presented six strategies in four categories.

      • Transportation Electrification
          • Adopt regulatory approaches and supporting policies to increase the sale of M/HD ZEVs to 30% by 2030 and the sale of LD ZEVs to 100% by 2035, and require greater use of ZEV non-road vehicles.
      • Clean Fuels
          • Adopt a market-based approach and supporting policies to increase the availability and affordability of clean transportation fuels (renewable biofuels, green hydrogen, electricity) in NYS.
      • Public Transportation
          • Identify policies and programs that would double the availability/accessibility of upstate and downstate suburban public transportation services statewide by 2035;
    • Identify policies and programs to support system reliability/network expansion projects identified by MTA in their twenty-year needs study.
      • Smart Growth and Transportation System Efficiency
          • Transportation-Oriented Development—Align roadway, residential and commercial development to be proximate and accessible to public transportation and consider holistic GHG emissions in smart growth developments;
          • Low-and Zero-Carbon Transportation Modes—Expand access to low-or zero-carbon transportation modes (biking, walking, carpooling) for first mile/last mile connections to transit and destinations.

Power Generation

This panel presented ten strategies in four categories

      • Equity
          • Community Impact–Develop recommendations to identify and proactively address community impacts relating to health concerns, access to renewables and energy efficiency, and siting
          • Access and Affordability for all (Enabling) –Develop recommendations to ensure New Yorkers have access and can afford to participate meaningfully in NYS’s clean energy future
          • Workforce Development (Enabling) –Develop recommendations to enable an equitable clean energy workforce
      • Barriers
          • Clean Energy Siting
          • Energy Delivery & Hosting Capacity
      • Solutions for the Future
          • Technology and Research Needs
          • Market Solutions –Maximize the market participation of different technologies in a way that adds to system efficiency & send correct price signals to resources over time
      • Resource Mix
          • Growth of renewable generation and Energy Efficiency
          • Effectively Transitioning away from Fossil Fuel Energy Generation
          • Deploying Energy Storage and Distributed Energy Resources (DERs)

Energy-Intensive and Trade-Exposed Industries

This panel presented 12 strategies in six categories.

      • Provide financial incentives and technical assistance for the decarbonization of the EIETE sectors
          • Provide technical assistance to help identify economically viable decarbonization pathways and to provide comprehensive energy management planning
          • Provide financial incentives for decarbonization projects
          • Refer economic assistance recipients to resources that will result in lower-emitting projects
          • Leverage low-cost hydropower to provide support for industry
      • Create incentives for business to capitalize on low-carbon economy opportunities
          • Create preferential standards for the public procurement of low-carbon building materials
      • Identify and support technological innovations to enable deep industrial decarbonization
          • Develop a comprehensive Innovation Roadmap to address knowledge gaps and to guide key priorities for deep decarbonization investment in the areas of carbon-tech, low-carbon fuels, and carbon removal
          • R&D funding for early stage decarbonization technologies
          • Demonstration pilot funding for high impact solutions in coordination with private market
          • Identify potential for innovation clusters to leverage supply chains and infrastructure for novel solutions
      • Workforce development training to support energy-intensive and trade-exposed industries
          • Provide workforce development on existing and new innovative emission reduction technologies that effect EITE industries
      • Increase the available data on industrial GHG emissions to help prioritize efforts and monitor progress
          • Expand the universe of industrial facilities that are required to report on their GHG emissions.
      • Provide economic incentives to grow the green economy
          • Leverage the State’s climate policies to develop an in-state supply chain of green economy companies by engaging in business development discussions and offering incentives through programs such as NYSTAR, NY Ventures and Excelsior Tax Credits.

Summary

Now the implementation work begins.  There is an enormous amount of information in these strategies.  In the first place consider that the six advisory panels presented a total of 66 strategies in 29 categories:

        • Land Use and Local Government Advisory Panel: ten strategies in three categories
        • Energy Efficiency and Housing: 16 strategies in six categories.
        • Agriculture and Forestry: 12 strategies in six categories.
        • Transportation: six strategies in four categories
        • Power Generation: ten strategies in four categories
        • Energy-Intensive and Trade-Exposed Industries: 12 strategies in six categories.

Given that many strategies I believe the first task is to start to rank the importance of the strategies.  But in order to do that the Climate Action Council has to establish its priorities.  Is it to maintain reliability and affordability of the energy supply, is it meet the CLCPA emission reduction targets, or is it equity for all?

Someone, somewhere will need to summarize these strategies so they can be ranked by the importance criteria established by the Council.  Despite the massive amount of information there still are many things missing.   For example, technological feasibility, GHG reduction potential, and most importantly to me, costs are all will be needed.  Stay tuned.

Response to My Comments on Part 496 – Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act 1990 Emissions Baseline

In late October 2020 I submitted personal comments on the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) proposed Part 496 that defined the emissions limits for the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA).  That law sets targets based on 1990 emissions and this regulation developed the emission inventory for 1990.  The rule was recently adopted and the regulatory package included a document that assessed public comments.  This post follows up on the post on my comments and describes their response to my comments.  It is relevant to CLCPA implementation because the DEC did not respond to my primary objective – monitoring data do not support the emphasis on methane emissions in the inventory and the CLCPA.

I am following the implementation of the CLCPA closely because it affects my future as a New Yorker.  If DEC gets the 1990 baseline wrong it will be all the more difficult to get to the aggressive CLCPA targets.  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

This 1990 emissions inventory is important because many of the targets of the CLCPA are based on reductions from this baseline.  For example, there is a target to reduce GHG emissions to 60 percent of 1990 emissions levels by 2030.  The CLCPA includes specific requirements for the 1990 emission inventory that I am positive no legislator who voted for the law understood.  

The law mandates an aggressive schedule for developing this inventory.  The CLCPA 1990 baseline is supposed to be set by the end of 2020 but the first statewide greenhouse gas emissions report isn’t due until 2021.  The statewide emissions report is defined as a “comprehensive evaluation of the inventory best available science and methods of analysis, including the comparison and reconciliation of emission estimates from all sources, fuel consumption, field data, and peer-reviewed research”.  It “shall clearly explain the methodology and analysis used in the department’s determination of greenhouse gas emissions and shall include a detailed explanation of any changes in methodology or analysis, adjustments made to prior estimates, as needed, and any other information necessary to establish a scientifically credible account of change”.  The 1990 baseline for the statewide GHG emission limits has similar quality requirements: “In order to ensure the most accurate determination feasible, the department shall utilize the best available scientific, technological, and economic information on greenhouse gas emissions and consult with the council, stakeholders, and the public in order to ensure that all emissions are accurately reflected in its determination of 1990 emissions levels”.

I compared the proposed Part 496 1990 emission inventory with the previous “official” New York greenhouse gas emission inventory that was prepared by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) in two earlier posts.  The Part 496 Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) includes a section titled Key Requirements of the 1990 Emission Baseline section that explains the CLCPA mandates that required DEC to develop a new official inventory.   These requirements significantly affect the greenhouse gas (GHG) emission total for the State.  According to the latest edition of the NYSERDA GHG emission inventory (July 2019) Table S-2 New York State GHG Emissions 1990–2016 the New York State 1990 GHG emissions were 236.18 MMtCO2e The proposed Part 496 regulation 1990 emissions inventory total is 401.38 MMtCO2e for an increase of 165.2 MMtCO2e.  When the draft Part 496 regulation came out, I described the differences between these two inventories.

Summary of 1990 Emission Inventories   
Final Rule Regulatory Impact Statement Table 1 Inventory in GWP20.
SectorCO2CH4N2OPFCsHFCsSF6Total
Energy259.9671.761.32  4.00337.04
IPPU1.76  0.900.050.012.72
AFOLU0.0513.074.01   17.13
Waste3.0349.350.50   52.88
Total264.80134.195.830.900.054.01409.77
        
NYSERDA July 2019 Table S-2 Emission Inventory in GWP100
SectorCO2CH4N2OPFCsHFCsSF6Total
Energy168.84 3.120.83   172.80
IPPU1.16   0.349.48 0.17 11.15
AFOLU 4.51 4.25   8.86
Waste 12.2 0.61    12.80
Total170 19.835.790.349.480.17205.61

Response to Comments

To its credit New York State requires that DEC respond to comments on proposed regulations.  Unfortunately, too often the answer is in the back of the book and this is considered just a formality.  In my opinion this was the case with the response to my  comment Part 496.  I consolidated and annotated all the responses to my comments in DEC response to Caiazza Comments.  I will just highlight a few of my concerns with their responses.

For a variety of reasons DEC dismissed my comments suggesting that the documentation was inadequate. I claim that in order to “utilize the best available scientific, technological, and economic information on greenhouse gas emissions and consult with the council, stakeholders, and the public in order to ensure that all emissions are accurately reflected in its determination of 1990 emissions levels”, that DEC must document each value listed in the inventory with the emission factor, activity factors or throughput, and the reference and rationale for each.  DEC claims that they provided the information.  I maintain that it is impossible to replicate their numbers with the information provided because the references are so vague that it is impossible to trace the necessary information back to the references provided.

It is particularly troubling to me that the response to comments does not address changes to the draft and final inventory.  As shown below there were substantive changes to the CO2 and CH4 emissions.   As it stands now the council, stakeholders and public just have to accept the numbers without explanation – hardly a hallmark of “best available scientific, technological, and economic information” required by the CLCPA.  Clearly, if there was adequate documentation he derivation of each number and the differences could be easily explained. 

Difference Between the Proposed Total Statewide Greenhouse Gas Emissions in 1990 by IPCC Sector and Gas, in GWP20 and the Final Emissions

SectorCO2CH4N2OPFCsHFCsSF6Total
Energy5.531.640.010007.17
IPPU0.090000.0300.12
AFOLU0000000
Waste01.100001.1
Total5.622.74000.0308.39

My over-arching comment was that there was too much of an emphasis on methane.  DEC summarized my comment as follows: “Some commenters suggested additional or alternative emission limits, including interim limits to maintain momentum or targets that recognize the long-term impacts of GHGs. Otherwise, the law over-emphasizes the role of methane or under-emphasizes the role of carbon dioxide by applying the 20-year rather than the more standard 100-year GWP.”   DEC evaded a direct response by correctly noting that the CLCPA required consideration of the upstream emissions and the 20-year GWP.  The authors of the CLCPA deliberately included those provisions as part of New York’s irrational war against natural gas.  While this accounts for much of the differences between the two inventories, the state’s choice of emission factors also contributes. DEC did not directly respond to a critical question about their inventory.

I have been involved with emissions inventories for over 45 years.   One thing I learned early on was that however much time and effort is spent on an emission inventory the ultimate check on any emissions inventory is comparison of the inventory estimate with observed ambient monitoring.  If there is a high quality, long-term monitoring network that measures the pollutant in the inventory and those measurements do not reflect the trend in the inventory then the inventory is wrong.

Lan et al., 2019 evaluated data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network and determined trends for 2006–2015.  This covers the period when the primary target of the CLCPA upstream emissions requirement, Pennsylvania shale-gas production, increased tremendously.  According to the plain language summary for the report: “In the past decade, natural gas production in the United States has increased by ~46%. Methane emissions associated with oil and natural gas productions have raised concerns since methane is a potent greenhouse gas with the second largest influence on global warming. Recent studies show conflicting results regarding whether methane emissions from oil and gas operations have been increased in the United States. Based on long‐term and well‐calibrated measurements, we find that (i) there is no large increase of total methane emissions in the United States in the past decade; (ii) there is a modest increase in oil and gas methane emissions, but this increase is much lower than some previous studies suggest; and (iii) the assumption of a time‐constant relationship between methane and ethane emissions has resulted in major overestimation of an oil and gas emissions trend in some previous studies.”

As a result of the fact that the relevant high quality, long-term monitoring network does not show a trend consistent with the Part 496 presumption that a big source of methane is from Pennsylvania natural gas extraction, I believe that unequivocally shows these calculations of methane emissions from shale gas are invalid.

Conclusion

The CLCPA mandates that the law will be implemented using “best” science.  Part 496 does not meet that condition.  Francis Menton explains the exposition of the scientific method from physicist Richard Feynman’s classic series of recorded lectures: “[W]e compute the consequences of the [hypothesis], to see what, if this is right, if this law we guess is right, to see what it would imply and then we compare the computation results to nature or we say compare to experiment or experience, compare it directly with observations to see if it works.  If it disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong.  In that simple statement is the key to science. . . . “

I found references that directly contradicted the Part 496 methane emissions and, more importantly, a citation that found that the observed monitoring observations of methane do not support the inflated values used in the inventory.  It disagrees, it’s wrong, so the Part 496 inventory fails a basic tenet of science.  DEC’s response to comments did not address this issue.

Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act Wind Power Economics Warning

A summary description of two reports prepared by Gordon Hughes, School of Economics, University of Edinburgh, Wind Power Economics – Rhetoric and Reality for the Renewable Energy Foundation should be required reading for anyone associated with implementation of New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.  Professor Hughes has evaluated the wind industry performance in the United Kingdom and Denmark.  His findings are directly related to New York’s plans and should be considered in the implementation process.

My thanks to the Stop These Things blog where the article, Starry-Eyed Dreams v Economic Reality: Why The Wind Industry’s Numbers Can Never Stack Up, alerted me to these analyses.  I am following the implementation of the CLCPA closely because its implementation affects my future as a New Yorker.   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

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.  I have summarized the schedule, implementation components, and provide links to the legislation itself at CLCPA Summary Implementation Requirements.  In this instance the relevant targets are 70% renewable energy for electric production by 2030 and 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040.  Incredibly, at the same time the State is mandating the shutdown of 2,000 MW of existing nuclear generating capacity.  The bottom line is that wind and solar are projected to provide most of the carbon-free electricity.

Off-shore wind is a prominent part of the CLCPA.  The press conference when Governor Cuomo signed the legislation announcing the “most ambitious and comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation in the country” lead not with that news but with the news that the state had “executed the nation’s largest offshore wind agreement and the single largest renewable energy procurement by any state in U.S. history – nearly 1,700 megawatts -with the selection of two offshore wind projects”.  The legislation itself mandates 9,000 MW of offshore wind by 2035.  At this time the Climate Action Council is developing the Scoping Plan that will outline “recommendations for attaining the statewide greenhouse gas emissions limits in accordance with the schedule established” by the law.  Estimates of the wind resources necessary have not been published yet.

The New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) is doing its own evaluation of the resources needed for the CLCPA.  On September 10, 2020 the Analysis Group presented a discussion of draft recent observations as part of the NYISO Climate Change Phase II Study.  That work etimates that the state will have to develop all the technically feasible wind resource potential projected by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory: 35,200 MW of onshore wind and 21,063 MW of offshore wind.

Wind Power Economics Approach

Professor Hughes presentation describes two  new reports he prepared for the Renewable Energy Foundation:

Wind Power Costs in the United Kingdom  – and

The Performance of Wind Power in Denmark

Professor Hill’s main academic field is applied statistics and economics, but much of his work has been on the interface between economics and engineering. He has written or co-written several studies of adaptation to climate change.

His presentation explains that both European policymakers and investors have “accepted the claims

of dramatic improvements in costs and performance made by wind operators for new

projects now and in the future”.   However, he points out that “Unfortunately, the propensity of both governments and companies to understate the costs and overstate the performance of new projects has a history that is long and inglorious.”

The presentation explains that he did not rely on the claims made by wind proponents.  Instead: “My starting point is the actual data reported by companies in their accounts over the last two decades. This is possible because the standard commercial arrangement is that solar, wind and other projects are operated via legal entities known as Special Purpose Vehicles whose accounts are usually audited and are filed with Companies House. I have collected data for more than 350 SPVs responsible for wind projects that have filed accounts since 2005. The dataset is unique and provides the basis for a detailed analysis of the actual costs of wind power.”

I believe that this is the appropriate approach to evaluate the potential of wind energy.  Observations always trump projections.  It would be foolhardy for New York to dive into an electric system that depends on wind energy without checking to see if there is water in the pool be evaluating what has happened elsewhere.

Using the wind project accounting documents, Professor Hughes developed data that provides the basis for a unique and detailed analysis of the actual costs of wind power.  Contrary to the narrative, he shows that the capital expenses have increased over time rather than decreased.  He explained that this is due to installations in increasingly more difficult locations and building bigger turbines.  Unfortunately, that is not the worst news.  The operating expenses also increased over time due for both onshore and offshore projects. 

Offshore wind operating expense is a particular issue.  Using data from 6,400 turbines in Denmark he found (His Figure 6 below) that the reliability of 2+ MW turbines, like the ones proposed for New York offshore wind, deteriorates over time so that risk of failure increases sharply once they have been operating more than ten years.  In both Denmark and Great Britain, the new generation of these larger turbines were accompanied by steep learning curves for organizations that had experience with smaller turbines.  New York proposes to skip the smaller turbine step which does not portend well. 

Finally note that there was a distinct decline in load factor with age.  The high capacity factors claimed by the offshore wind developers were not maintained over ten years.  As output decreases the operating expense ratio becomes less favorable.  He notes that:

“If wind farms do not receive offtake prices that are higher than the market price – or very much higher in the case of offshore wind – their expected revenues will not cover opex costs after 12 or 15 years. Operators will either cease production or drastically cut operating costs leading to closure within a relatively short period. There is no way out of this trap because opex costs are linked to reliability; the decline in reliability with age means that high opex costs must be incurred to maintain production. The consequence is that the assumption made by BEIS and many investors that the expected operating life of new wind farms will be 25 or 30 years is completely at odds with the underlying economic reality. Few modern wind turbines operate for more than 20 years and many offshore wind turbines are likely to be decommissioned before they reach an age of 20 years.”

I am not surprised by these results.  Offshore conditions are not friendly to any machinery, particularly electronics.  The tips of wind turbine blades are going to be going pretty fast relatively close to the water so there will be direct erosion effects.  Salt water is corrosive so all the electronics have to be protected.  The massive rotors have to spin on bearings that must also be protected but still allowed to rotate.  Finally, these are all chronic problems.  What happens when a major hurricane like the 1938 “Long Island Express” brings sustained winds of 121 miles per hour to New York’s offshore wind facilities?

Wind Power Economics Conclusions

I provide italicized context and commentary on the general lessons provided by Professor Hughes in the following:

In stark terms a significant portion of wind output is expensive to produce and of no value in terms of its contribution to national wellbeing. Other than sheer ignorance there is no excuse for policymakers tolerating, let along promoting, this outcome.  I will conclude with some general lessons from the study:

  1. Stop pretending! The projections of the costs of achieving Net Zero put out by government bodies and many others rely on cost estimates that are just wishful thinking. They have no basis in actual experience and a realistic appraisal of trends in costs. As a very broad brush calculation the cost of meeting the Net Zero target by 2050 is much more likely to be 10+% of annual GDP than the claimed 1-2% of GDP.
    1. Great Britain became the first major economy to pass a  net zero emissions law by 2030 so their target is even more ambitious than the CLCPA.  New York is smaller, 54,555 square miles, than Great Britain 80,823 square miles.  New York’s GDP is $1.44 trillion USD and Great Britain is $2.87 trillion USD but the GDP per capita for New York is $72,742 compared to Great Britain’s $42,202.
  2. Accelerating arbitrary targets is very expensive. If the Government persists with the goal of building 30 GW of extra offshore wind capacity by 2030 the costs discussed here are likely to be significant under-estimates. This will be reinforced by the adoption of similar targets elsewhere in NW Europe. The offshore wind sector does not have the capacity to build new projects at a rate of 3 to 4 times the last decade. Any familiarity with the history of offshore oil & gas and other energy projects tells us that the consequence will be a gold rush. It is plausible to assume that capex and opex costs will rise by a minimum of 20% and probably closer to 50% above the already high costs that we observe in the audited accounts. 
    1. New York has to build its offshore wind support infrastructure from scratch.  Even though the goal of 9 GW by 2035 is smaller there is a similar concern about the buildout of projects.  Given that projected costs have always been lower than the actual costs only time will tell for New York implementation.
  3. Bailouts of wind farms and financial institutions are inevitable. The Government is creating a situation in which it will have no option other than to bail out failed and failing projects simply to ensure continuity of electricity supply. There will be a game of pass the parcel over how the losses will be distributed but ultimately they will fall largely on taxpayers and energy customers. Any business investor outside the renewable energy sector should plan on the basis that electricity prices in 2030 will be 3-4 times in real terms what they are today.
    1. There is no reason to expect that the New York situation will be any different.
  4. Remember that not everyone has the same priorities. The UK and the EU are very minor bit players in what happens about climate change. The outcome will depend on choices made in China, the US and India. Focusing on China and India, they are only interested in options that are consistent with both economic growth and other environmental goals. Offshore wind is expensive and of limited interest in most of Asia.
    1. New York is also a minor bit plyer in what happens about climate change. 
  5. As a rich country, the UK can afford Net Zero by 2050 at the aggregate level. However, it will mean allocating the proceeds of 10 or 15 years of economic growth to that single goal. Past experience shows that the UK’s political system cannot handle the structural and redistributive consequences of following that path. A strategy that acknowledges the real economic costs and difficulties of trying to make the transition too quickly is much more likely to be accepted and implemented.
    1. I have no reason to expect a different outcome for New York.

Conclusion

Professor Hughes has prepared an important warning for New York.  While I have little hope that the lessons will be heeded, I hope that they are at least considered during the implementation of the rule.  I will submit a comment to the Generation Advisory Panel alerting them to this work.

I conclude with his summary:

“The theme of my talk is the disparity between predictions about the future costs and performance of wind power (especially offshore wind) – the Rhetoric – and the actual evidence that is available on what it costs to build and operate wind farms and the amount of power they produce over their lifetime – the Reality. The reality of what will happen to the costs of key renewable energy and other low carbon technologies is critical. The UK Government’s strategy for meeting its Net Zero target at an affordable cost rests on the core assumption that the costs of wind power have fallen – and will continue to fall. There is, however, a major problem with all of the projections produced by official agencies, academics and other organisations. Put bluntly, they are the product of wishful thinking applied to notional projects in the future with little or no connection to commercial reality.”

My Comments on the New York Value of Carbon Guidance Document

The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) mandates that the state establish a value of carbon for use in the implementation of the law.  This post describes my comments  on the draft guidance document “Establishing a Value of Carbon, Guidelines for Use by State Agencies” document released on October 29, 2020.  I submitted comments because this law will affect the affordability and reliability of New York’s energy.

I am a retired electric generation utility meteorologist with nearly 40-years of experience analyzing the effects of environmental regulations on electric and gas operations.  I have written a series of posts on the feasibility, implications and consequences of this aspect of the law and another series of posts on carbon pricing initiatives.  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

On July 18, 2019 New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed CLCPA, which establishes targets for decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing renewable electricity production, and improving energy efficiency.  It was described as the most ambitious and comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation in the country when Cuomo signed the legislation.  I have summarized the schedule, implementation components, and provide links to the legislation itself at CLCPA Summary Implementation Requirements.

The CLCPA requires the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), in consultation with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), to establish a value of carbon for use by State agencies. The Draft Value of Carbon Guidance provides values for carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide for use by State agencies along with recommended guidelines for the use of these and other values by State entities.  Three documents were made available:

In section §75-0113, Value of Carbon the CLCPA states that the “social cost of carbon shall serve as a monetary estimate of the value of not emitting a ton of greenhouse gas emissions” and that “As determined by the department, the social cost of carbon may be based on marginal greenhouse gas abatement costs or on the global economic, environmental, and social impacts of emitting a marginal ton of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, utilizing a range of appropriate discount rates, including a rate of zero.”  The law states that DEC “shall consider prior or existing estimates of the social cost of carbon issued or adopted by the federal government, appropriate international bodies, or other appropriate and reputable scientific organizations.”

My comments explain why I think the focus of the guidance is wrong.  The guidance does not recognize that when the CLCPA chose specific targets that the proper way to address social costs is through a cost efficiency approach.  The damages approach recommended in the guidance is an efficiency concept.  DEC emphasized use of their proposed values “that can be used by State entities to aid decision- making and used as a tool for the State to demonstrate the global societal value of actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”  The emphasis was clearly on state agency use and not for meeting the CLCPA targets and less on providing guidelines for state agencies.

Guidance Comments

An overview of the Value of Carbon Guidance was presented Maureen Leddy at the 24 November 2020 Climate Action Council Meeting. I will annotate the Value of Carbon Guidance slides  below with excerpts from the comments I submitted.

The first slide is titled “Value of Carbon Reduction” and notes that the “CLCPA requires DEC, in coordination with NYSERDA, to establish a Value of Carbon as an evaluation tool for agency decision making”.  The lists the following requirements:

        • Describe damages and marginal abatement cost approaches
        • Consider a range of discount rates, including zero
        • Consider the social cost of carbon in other jurisdictions
        • Provide values for non-C02 greenhouse gases

I think the guidance ultimately provides cost effectiveness justification for the CLCPA.  As a result, I believe that the document should explain the concept of the social cost approach targeted for the general public.  Blastland et al. (2020) describe an approach for evidence communication that I suggested would be an appropriate template for the public primer.  The authors suggest that communications should offer “balance, not false balance”.  I argued that this is a major short-coming in the guidance and supporting memo documents because the full range of opinions on social cost methodologies was not included.

My comments addressed technical aspects of the damages and marginal abatement cost approaches.  The biggest problem with their description and the recommendation to use the damages approach is that they ignored the concept that once a cap is set, you should not use the damages approach exemplified by the social cost of carbon. The social cost of carbon is an efficiency concept. Establishing a price incentivizes society to develop the most efficient response to that price but does not guarantee specific emission levels. Once a specific target is established in a cap that violates the efficiency principle inherent in the social cost of carbon.  I pointed out that in its recent review of the federal IWG social cost of carbon, the U.S. Government Accountability Office referred to the marginal abatement cost approach as a type of “target-consistent approach” to valuing emissions, which reflects the fact that this approach establishes a value that depends in part on the relevant emission reduction target.

Also included in the first slide was the target timeline of milestones to meet CLCPA deadline

Milestone Date
Stakeholder conference July 2020
Public comment period ends November 27, 2020
Final released (CLCPA requirement) January 1,2021

I pointed out that the time between the end of the public comment period and the final release date was very short given the importance of the document.  Importantly the implication that the document was required by the CLCPA is based on a mis-reading of the law that states it was supposed to be released “No later than one year after the effective date of this article”.  The law was signed in July 2019 so this should have been released back in July 2020.  Because the date has been missed delaying release long enough for full evaluation and response is appropriate.

 

The second slide, “Draft Value of Carbon Guidance” stated that the proposed guidance:

      • Provides background on different ways to value greenhouse gas emissions reductions
        • Damages approach and marginal abatement cost
      • Recommends the U.S. Interagency Working Group’s (IWG) damages-based value of carbon, also referred to as the social cost of carbon, as appropriate for most agency decision making
      • Considers a range of discount rates, including zero
        • Recommends 1%-3% ($421-$53per ton of C02 in 2020 dollars)
        • Seeking comment on central value of 2% or 2.5% ($125 or $79 per ton of CO2 in 2020 dollars)
      • Discusses how to value non-CO2 greenhouse gases
        • Values are provided for CO2, N02 and CH4, as per IWG
        • Values for other gases will be added as the research evolves
        • CLCPA20-yr GWP does not change these values
      • Details specific considerations for State agencies on how to use a damages-based approach

I think part of the rationale is that the IWG damages-based value of carbon is a more established concept and that more information would have to be developed to use the marginal abatement approach.  The guidance touts the IWG as the best approach but then goes on to ignore the recommendations of the IWG when it comes to the choice of the discount value.  I argued that they did not provide sufficient justification to recommend the changes proposed.

The guidance document recommends that the non-CO2 greenhouse gases be valued individually.  I agree with that approach but I pointed out that there are ramifications to that relative to methane.  Carbon dioxide is long-lived and accumulates over time because it stays in the atmosphere.  Methane is a short-lived (10 to 12 years) pollutant that lasts in the atmosphere less.  Because the CLCPA targets set a hard cap on methane emissions twelve years after the cap limit is reached the impact of methane on warming is done.  It stands to reason that the economic impact on aspects of the economy, such as energy use, health, and agriculture, projected from these climatic changes is also done.  I suggested that the social cost impacts needed to be revised to reflect that reality.

There is a basic problem with the way the guidance document is framed.  While it is valuable that State agencies have guidance on how to use a damages approach, it is even more important to provide support for the CLCPA implementation process.  The use of the damages approach over the marginal abatement cost approach handicaps CLCPA implementation of the most cost-effective strategies.

The second slide also stated that “This guidance is not a regulation and does not set a carbon price nor impose any fees.”  This caveat has been included in every DEC document on the value of carbon but the reality is that the guidance will be used to set a carbon price for the imposition of fees if the New York Independent System Operator Carbon Price proposal is implemented.  I would expect that it would be also used if New York joins the Transportation Climate Initiative.

The third slide, DEC Draft Value of Carbon Guidance, basically repeated all the points made in previous slides.  Two points do need to be addressed:

      • State agencies may utilize the Value of Carbon to aid many forms of decision-making related to permitting, environmental review, rulemakings, funding, procurement, etc.
      • Guidance does not create a price, fee, or compliance obligation.

It is not clear that if the value of carbon is used in decision-making related to permitting how that cannot be considered a compliance obligation.  Maybe it is just intended to “prove” that the actions can be justified because the costs may be less than the social costs calculated using the recommended values.  That may also explain why the IWG recommended values which yield lower social costs are not recommended.

I specifically suggested that the guidance document incorporate the Blastland et al., (2020) simple tip to display information in a table rather than stating them in the text to address the implications of the assumptions used to develop the recommended values of carbon.  I suggested that a table be included that lists the effects of assumptions on the social cost values.  My comments addressed the effects of location of benefits (guidance benefits are primarily global and not New York specific), time horizon (the benefits extend out to 2300), the sensitivity of the climate to greenhouse gases (IWG estimates do not use the most recent modeled estimates of the sensitivity), and the discount rate.  Of those parameters only the differences in discount rates were discussed.  However, the underlying ramifications of the discount rate choice were not explained.

Finally, I recommended that the evaluation of carbon pricing policies in Canada by McKitrick (2016) be considered.  He explains that “there may be many reasons to recommend carbon pricing as climate policy, but if it is implemented without diligently abiding by the principles that make it work, it will not work as planned, and the harm to the Canadian economy could well outweigh the benefits created by reducing our country’s already negligible level of global CO2 emissions”.  Clearly this is entirely relevant to New York.  Importantly he notes:

“However, a beneficial outcome is not guaranteed: certain rules must be observed in order for carbon pricing to have its intended effect of achieving the optimal balance between emission reduction and economic growth. First and foremost, carbon pricing only works in the absence of any other emission regulations. If pricing is layered on top of an emission-regulating regime already in place (such as emission caps or feed-in-tariff programs), it will not only fail to produce the desired effects in terms of emission rationing, it will have distortionary effects that cause disproportionate damage in the economy. Carbon taxes are meant to replace all other climate-related regulation, while the revenue from the taxes should not be funnelled into substitute goods, like renewable power (pricing lets the market decide which of those substitutes are worth funding) but returned directly to taxpayers.”

Conclusion

Because it appears that a primary goal of this process is to memorialize a value of carbon to justify agency actions, the public deserves to know how the real costs are balanced against the theorized cost benefits.  When CLCPA strategies are announced and cost savings are claimed the public deserves to know that the savings are based on global not New York benefits, savings out to 2300, and do not represent the latest climate sensitivity science.  If the total costs are close to the purported benefits this may be acceptable but I have no doubt that the total costs per ton will far exceed even these conjured values.

Furthermore, there are fundamental technical considerations overlooked or ignored by the guidance. New York State CLCPA implementation is trying to choose between many expensive policy options while at the same time attempting to understand which one (or what mix) will be the least expensive and have the fewest negative impacts on the existing system. If good picks are made then state ratepayers will spend the least amount of a lot of money, but if they are wrong, we will be left with lots of negative outcomes and even higher costs for a long time.  Picking the correct value of carbon metric and values is critical to doing this right.  A comprehensive response to comments justifying the choices made is an integral part of doing this right.

Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act Draft Standards and Conditions Comments

This post summarizes the comments I submitted on the draft regulations proposed by the New York Office of Renewable Energy Siting to implement the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act.  This is part of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act which mandates that New York electric system generation be zero-emissions by 2040.  In order to meet that requirement, the state envisions a vast build out of wind and solar generation.

I am following the implementation of New York’s climate mitigation efforts closely because its implementation affects my future as a New Yorker.  One environmental success story in the past 20 years is the resurgence of the bald eagle population.  It was not that long ago that a highlight of a trip to Alaska was seeing bald eagles and the thought of seeing one locally unimaginable.  Now, while it still remains a thrill, I routinely see them from my backyard or driving along the I-90.  As show below I fear that this proposed rule threatens New York’s bald eagle population.  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

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.  It was described as the most ambitious and comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation in the country when Cuomo signed the legislation.  I have summarized the schedule, implementation components, and provide links to the legislation itself at CLCPA Summary Implementation Requirements.  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.   I previously discussed my concerns that these laws do not include feasibility studies to determine whether this can work.

AREGCBA established the Office of Renewable Energy Siting which according to their website has the following objectives:

      • Establish a first-of-its-kind Office of Renewable Energy Siting to implement the timely consolidated review and permitting of major renewable energy facilities in a single forum that takes into consideration local laws, public health and safety, environmental, social and economic factors pertinent to the decision to permit such facilities.
      • Streamline and expedite the siting of major renewable energy projects and associated transmission facilities to help achieve the State’s clean energy and climate goals, while maintaining the State’s strong environmental and public participation standards.
      • Ensure that renewable energy projects deliver economic benefits to the local communities where they are built.

The Office of Renewable Energy Siting (ORES), housed within the Department of State, will “consolidate the environmental review of major renewable energy facilities and provide a single forum to ensure that siting decisions are predictable, responsible, and delivered in a timely manner along with opportunities for input from local communities”.  All large-scale, renewable energy projects 25 megawatts or larger will be required to obtain a siting permit from the Office of Renewable Energy Siting for new construction or expansion. ORES has the authority to issue a single permit for the construction of major renewable energy facilities from both a state and local law perspective, but applicants will still be required to obtain any approvals necessary under federal law, including federally-delegated permits.

New York’s Article Ten process defines the permitting requirements for all large-scale electric generating new construction or expansion and was previously used for renewable projects.  It includes extensive and time-consuming public notification and participation requirements.  The 2011 revisions to the Article Ten law were intended to speed things up but were largely ineffective in that regard.  The AREGCBA application requirements are intended to primarily speed the process up.  ORES has 60 days from the date of its receipt of a permit application to make a completeness determination. An application will not be complete without proof of consultation with the host municipalities and communities but the public notification requirements are much reduced relative to Article Ten. After a completeness determination, draft permit conditions will be issued by the Office of Renewable Energy Siting for public comment. The Office of Renewable Energy Siting must issue a final decision on the siting permit within one year of the date on which the application is deemed complete and within 6 months if the facility is proposed to be located on brownfield, former commercial or industrial, landfill, former power plant, and abandoned or underutilized sites.

Shortcoming Comments

My comments addressed three shortcomings in the proposed regulation.  The greatest deficiency of the CLCPA and AREGCBA is the failure to consider the cumulative environmental impact of the wind and solar resources necessary to replace the fossil-fired electric generating capacity of New York.  Recent studies indicate that the National Renewable Energy Lab projected total technical potential land-based wind capacity of 35,000 MW will be needed.  Assuming three MW wind turbines that means 10,000 turbines!  Unless a cumulative impact analysis is done by the Office of Renewable Energy Siting the public welfare and environment could be threatened.

I am particularly concerned about bald eagles.  There are actions necessary within a quarter of a mile from a bald eagle nest but to assume that will eliminate interactions with the birds who must fly further than that on a routine basis is a stretch.  While some argue that on an individual or even facility basis that most environmental impacts are generally acceptable, the impact of 10,000 turbines is different.  As it stands there is nothing to say that wind farms could surround the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge as long as there are more than a quarter mile away.

It may be a misunderstanding on my part but I did not see any provision to require applicants to provide capability information in the applications.  It is not enough to just say that there will be 10 three MW turbines for a total of 30 MW, applicants also need to provide the expected energy (MWh) output.  That information is absolutely necessary so I argued it should be specified.  I don’t think it is appropriate to short-change local participation and environmental issues for renewable facilities that will not provide renewable energy credit to New York so I recommended that if a facility cannot prove that the renewable energy credits generated by the facility will be used to meet New York’s goals that they be required to go through the existing Article Ten process.

Inadequacy Comments

I raised issues with this accelerated approval schedule.  I don’t think that there are enough safeguards in place to ensure that locally affected residents will be notified of the project early on in the process.  It is particularly troubling that the law includes deadlines for the agency staff reviewing the applications.  If they don’t respond on time the submittals are deemed complete.  ORES is a new organization and has no staff, procedures, or operating history.  Moreover, it is entirely likely that there will be many applications to process.  I recommended that a safety valve be included if the reviewing staff is over-whelmed.

I raised a couple of concerns about communications and references.  There is a discussion of the impact of wind turbines on weather radars.  My primary concern with 10,000 wind turbines is that false echoes from turbines across the landscape will make accurate tracking of the relatively small, low-level, and possibly intense lake-effect snow bands in downwind areas more difficult and affect the safety of local residents.  This issue should be addressed and not simply ignored.  I pointed out that the most recent  World Health Organization Guideline on community noise was not used  The fact that more recent guidance is not being used is disappointing.  That the more recent guidance inconveniently indicates that more restrictive limits on wind turbines are necessary to protect public health and welfare suggests that this may have been more than a simple oversight.

Conclusion

I cannot over-emphasize my belief that the lack of a cumulative environmental impact analysis is a danger to the environment of New York.  The number of wind turbines and solar panels needed to meet the CLCPA goals is staggering.  The idea that 10,000 wind turbines might not have an environmental impact that deserves analysis is absurd.

Overall, I do not think this regulation as proposed is in the best interests of anyone near a proposed renewable energy facility.  Without the thorough public participation requirements of Article Ten and with the threat of over-ruling any home rule limits on renewable energy development, the AREGCBA result may be New York’s first climate refugees.  The first Dutch climate refugees are a fact because local residents cannot cope with the noise of wind farms.

Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act Energy Efficiency Citizen Science

One of the reasons we have a dog is that I cannot avoid the need to take him out for a walk every day.  I don’t take along an audio system so the walk is a time for reflection and observation.  This morning’s observation is that when the frost is on the roofs you can tell who has good insulation and who doesn’t.  That lead to the thought that maybe I could do a “study” to determine how many houses in our neighborhood appear to be energy efficient and how many are not.  One of the primary presumptions of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act Energy Efficiency and Housing Advisory Panel is that the deep de-carbonization goals can be met by reductions in energy service demand by more efficient building shell and weatherization measures.  Those measures have been targeted for years so I have always wondered how many homes still could be updated to get the biggest demand reductions for the investments.

Background

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.  It was described as the most ambitious and comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation in the country when Cuomo signed the legislation.  I have summarized the schedule, implementation components, and provide links to the legislation itself at CLCPA Summary Implementation Requirements

I am following the implementation of the CLCPA closely because its implementation affects my future as a New Yorker.  Given the cost impacts for other jurisdictions that have implemented renewable energy resources to meet targets at much less stringent 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.

Energy Efficiency and Housing Advisory Panel

The Climate Action Council (CAC) is charged with preparing a scoping plan to achieve the goals of the CLCPA.  The CLCPA mandates that in order to “provide recommendations to the council on specific topics, in its preparation of the scoping plan, and interim updates to the scoping plan, and in fulfilling the council’s ongoing duties”, the CAC (§ 75-0103, 7) “shall convene advisory panels requiring special expertise and, at a minimum, shall establish advisory panels on transportation, energy intensive and trade-exposed industries, land-use and local government, energy efficiency and housing, power generation, and agriculture and forestry”.  Since the start of the implementation process the CAC realized that another advisory panel specifically addressing waste was appropriate.  You can follow the progress of this work at the State’s Climate Act webpage.

The Energy Efficiency and Housing Advisory Panel is, in my opinion, doing the best job addressing issues associated with their objective to “develop recommendations specific to the buildings sector for emissions reducing policies, programs, or actions that contribute to achieving the statewide emissions reductions established in the CLCPA, for consideration by the Climate Action Council for inclusion in the Scoping Plan”.  The Panel’s target is to “develop buildings sector-focused recommendations for emission-reducing policies and actions to achieve approximately 31-39% emission reduction in buildings by 2030 (and 85-93% emission reduction by 2050), from 2016 levels”.  (As an aside, these emission rate targets are subject to refinement because the CLCPA has its own unique emissions accounting approach and they have not made up the numbers yet.)

The following slide is an overview of the residential housing sector profile of New York prepared by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).  It was included in the Energy Efficiency and Housing panel presentation on October 16, 2020.

Citizen Science Survey

The hypothesis of this citizen science experiment is that it is possible to categorize building shell and weatherization effectiveness by comparing the appearance of frost on the roofs of similar homes to give a first order estimate of the potential for additional energy savings in this sector.

The following picture illustrates the difference between one home that appears to have better weatherization and insulation than another home.  This photo was taken at 8:09 AM on November 13, 2020.  A New York State Mesonet meteorological monitoring site several miles south showed that the temperature went below freezing about 9:00 PM the previous evening and that the temperature went above freezing around 7:00 AM.  By the time I got home around 8:15 AM there was a noticeable difference in the frost on my own home due to melting.  I categorize the house on the left as one that has inadequate insulation and weatherization.  Note that the entire roof is mostly frost free.  You can see under the roof over the garage and the area along the eaves has frost.  The house on the right appears to have adequate insulation and weatherization.  The entire roof has an even layer of frost.

One of the notable things about this survey was there was a third category as shown in the following picture.  My assistant Gus points to the one-story section of the house that has much less frost than the two-story section.  My own home showed  two different frost patterns too.  Unfortunately, I did not take a picture of my house because the frost had melted too much but the frost-free zone is located over my front porch.  I did not put insulation there because it was not enclosed but the roof pattern shows that something should be done there to improve the house energy efficiency.

The homes in this neighborhood were all built in the 1960’s which puts them right in the middle of the central age sector of the NYSERDA residential building survey shown above.  We surveyed 70 home roofs this morning.  Seven homes were in the inadequate insulation and weatherization category with roofs that were generally frost-free, 35 additional homes had uneven patterns of frost that indicate that improvements could be made to the insulation and weatherization, and the remaining homes had an even pattern of frost that indicates adequate insulation and weatherization.

Conclusion

I have the impression that advocates for insulation and weatherization to reduce home energy use base their estimates of future improvements from a baseline of uninsulated homes.  Ever since we purchased our first home in 1977 there have been many state and federal programs subsidizing insulation and weatherization.  For my home we meet the insulation standards for the attic, the exterior walls have been insulated, all the windows and doors have been upgraded, and we had a company come and do a leak check.  They noted the problem with porch, put in a barrier and resolved a couple of other issues.  Nonetheless, there still is an issue that needs to be addressed but the relative benefit for the cost will mean a small incremental reduction in energy usage.

These survey results suggest that there are limits on the potential energy savings reductions because many home owners have already implemented insulation and weatherization measures.  Only 10% of the homes in this neighborhood appear to have large potential reduction where the investments will produce the greatest reductions.  Half of the homes apparently could use more measures to improve energy efficiency but those investments will not have as large a cost benefit ratio.  It may be that there is a reason that there isn’t as much insulation in the roof.  For example, the house in the last picture may have cathedral ceilings which are much costly to insulate.  This problem occurred over the garages of most of the homes in this neighborhood with this problem showed up and that is another more complicated and costly problem to resolve.  For the remaining 40% of the homes, any further energy efficiency improvements will likely show much less potential for reductions at much higher costs.

Finally, I want to suggest that this is a methodology that shows promise for quick, broad survey results of actual energy efficiency potential.  The visual appearance of residential homes clearly indicates the insulation and weatherization standards.  Importantly, it is not just frost that could be used as the visual marker..  Light snow probably is a better indicator because frost patterns can be influenced by over-hanging trees.  Another indicator is icicles.  Moreover, this is simple enough that anyone can collect the data.  All you need is a camera, a car and the right conditions to target homes that could provide the greatest energy efficiency improvements.

My Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act Part 496 Comments

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.  I have summarized the schedule, implementation components, and provide links to the legislation itself at CLCPA Summary Implementation Requirements.  On August 14, 2020 New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos released proposed part 496 regulations that defined the 1990 baseline emissions inventory for the CLCPA.   This post summarizes the comments I submitted on October 26, 2020.

I am following the implementation of the CLCPA closely because it affects my future as a New Yorker.  If they get it wrong it will be all the more difficult to get to the aggressive CLCPA targets.  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

This 1990 emissions inventory is important because many of the targets of the CLCPA are based on reductions from this baseline.  For example, there is a target to reduce GHG emissions to 60 percent of 1990 emissions levels by 2030.  The CLCPA includes specific requirements for the 1990 emission inventory that I am positive no legislator who voted for the law understood.

The law mandates an aggressive schedule for developing this inventory.  The CLCPA 1990 baseline is supposed to be set in 2020 but the first statewide greenhouse gas emissions report isn’t due until 2021.  The statewide emissions report is defined as a “comprehensive evaluation of the inventory best available science and methods of analysis, including the comparison and reconciliation of emission estimates from all sources, fuel consumption, field data, and peer-reviewed research”.  It “shall clearly explain the methodology and analysis used in the department’s determination of greenhouse gas emissions and shall include a detailed explanation of any changes in methodology or analysis, adjustments made to prior estimates, as needed, and any other information necessary to establish a scientifically credible account of change”.  The 1990 baseline for the statewide GHG emission limits has similar quality requirements: “In order to ensure the most accurate determination feasible, the department shall utilize the best available scientific, technological, and economic information on greenhouse gas emissions and consult with the council, stakeholders, and the public in order to ensure that all emissions are accurately reflected in its determination of 1990 emissions levels”.

I compared the proposed Part 496 1990 emission inventory with the previous “official” New York greenhouse gas emission inventory that was prepared by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) in two earlier posts.  The Part 496 Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) includes a section titled Key Requirements of the 1990 Emission Baseline section that explains the CLCPA mandates that required DEC to develop a new official inventory.   These requirements significantly affect the greenhouse gas (GHG) emission total for the State.  According to the latest edition of the NYSERDA GHG emission inventory (July 2019) Table S-2 New York State GHG Emissions 1990–2016 the New York State 1990 GHG emissions were 236.18 MMtCO2e The proposed Part 496 regulation 1990 emissions inventory total is 401.38 MMtCO2e for an increase of 165.2 MMtCO2e.

Summary of 1990 Emission Inventories
Regulatory Impact Statement Table 1 Inventory in GWP20.
Sector CO2 CH4 N2O PFCs HFCs SF6 Total
Energy 254.43 70.12 1.31 4.00 329.87
IPPU 1.67 0.00 0.00 0.90 0.02 0.01 2.60
AFOLU 0.05 13.07 4.01 17.13
Waste 3.03 48.25 0.50 51.78
Total 259.18 131.45 5.83 0.90 0.02 4.01 401.38
NYSERDA July 2019 Table S-2 Emission Inventory in GWP100
Sector CO2 CH4 N2O PFCs HFCs SF6 Total
Energy 208.96
IPPU 3.99
AFOLU 8.37
Waste 14.86
Total 236.18

Comments

In my first comment I addressed the contradiction in the emission inventory requirements in two sections of the CLCPA.  How can § 75-0107, Statewide greenhouse gas emissions limits, establish a limit estimated pursuant to § 75-0105 which is due later than this requirement?  Both sections mandate the use of the “best available” information and consultation with the public, but the timing requirements preclude that from happening.

As shown above there are significant differences in the Part 496 proposed inventory and the July 2019 NYSERDA inventory.  The July 2019 emission inventory relied primarily on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) methods but because of CLCPA mandates, GHG emissions that occur outside of the boundaries of New York State have to be included if they are associated with the use of energy within the State and the carbon equivalent emissions have to use a global warming potential time horizon of 20 years instead of 100 years.  One basic flaw in the Part 496 regulation’s supporting documentation is that in order to be complete the emission factor, activity factors or throughput and the reference for those choices made for each value listed in the inventory has to be provided.  That information is not available.

The RIS is the only documentation provided for the proposed Part 496 inventory and it only provides less than ten applicable references justifying the values chosen.  Given the significant departure from IPCC protocols, the documentation is inadequate.  Reading the RIS gives the impression that methane inventorying is without controversy.  However, as shown in the references I provided, Methane Reference Summary, this clearly is not the case. The overview paper  M. Saunois et al.2020: The Global Methane Budget 2000–2017 notes in the abstract: “The relative importance of CH4 compared to CO2 depends on its shorter atmospheric lifetime, stronger warming potential, and variations in atmospheric growth rate over the past decade, the causes of which are still debated. Two major challenges in reducing uncertainties in the atmospheric growth rate arise from the variety of geographically overlapping CH4 sources and from the destruction of CH4 by short-lived hydroxyl radicals (OH)”.  In order to justify the values used in the inventory these issues should be addressed in the documentation.

The major difference in this inventory compared to previous NYS inventories is due to changes in the methane inventory.  I believe that the changes in the inventory due to methane can be traced to Dr. Robert Howarth.  He not only helped draft the Climate Act but also now is a vocal member of the Climate Action Council.  While this accounts for his outsized impact on the inventory that does not necessarily mean that his views justify the changes.  In the Howarth 2020 paper he claims “Some evidence indicates that shale-gas development in North America may have contributed one-third of the total global increase in methane emissions from all sources over the past decade (Howarth 2019).”  This paper and other similar papers claim that “methane emissions can contribute significantly to the GHG footprint of natural gas, including shale gas”.  There is a problem however, because much other evidence contradicts those claims.

In my comments I provided references with other evidence that I think should be included in the documentation.  While it may be that the State will choose to ignore those results, there is a CLCPA mandate to provide a “detailed explanation of any changes in methodology or analysis, adjustments made to prior estimates, as needed, and any other information necessary to establish a scientifically credible account of change”.  Clearly the existing documentation fails to meet that standard.

Based on my experience I believe there is a huge hurdle for Howarth’s methane inventory.  Although I have been involved with emissions inventories for over 45 years, I do not have specific experience with natural gas production emissions.  However, over that time I learned early on that the gold standard check on any emissions inventory is comparison of the inventory estimate with observed ambient monitoring.  If there is a high quality, long-term monitoring network that measures the pollutant in the inventory and those measurements do not reflect the trend in the inventory then the inventory is wrong.  Lan et al., 2019 evaluated data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network and determined trends for 2006–2015.  This covers the period when Pennsylvania shale-gas production increased tremendously.  According to the plain language summary for the report:

“In the past decade, natural gas production in the United States has increased by ~46%. Methane emissions associated with oil and natural gas productions have raised concerns since methane is a potent greenhouse gas with the second largest influence on global warming. Recent studies show conflicting results regarding whether methane emissions from oil and gas operations have been increased in the United States. Based on long‐term and well‐calibrated measurements, we find that (i) there is no large increase of total methane emissions in the United States in the past decade; (ii) there is a modest increase in oil and gas methane emissions, but this increase is much lower than some previous studies suggest; and (iii) the assumption of a time‐constant relationship between methane and ethane emissions has resulted in major overestimation of an oil and gas emissions trend in some previous studies.”

As a result of the fact that the relevant high quality, long-term monitoring network does not show a trend consistent with the work of Howarth I believe that unequivocally supports Dr Lewan’s conclusion that his ideas, perspectives, and calculations on methane emissions from shale gas are invalid.  If the State cannot explain this inconsistency then their inventory is wrong.

Conclusion

In order to meet the “best available science and methods of analysis” criteria of the CLCPA, the DEC documentation should address the current methane debate by summarizing articles on both sides of methodology differences, explain how those differences affect the Part 496 1990 emission inventory relative to previous inventories, and then provide the rationale for picking one approach over the other.  Because this level of detail is not provided, I recommended that the Part 496 inventory should be re-proposed with that information.

There is a big issue lurking in these numbers.  Part 496 lists the baseline GHG emissions inventory for 1990 but the State has not provided their estimated inventory for a recent year.  The GHG inventory with the most recent data covers the period 1990 to 2016 and was published in July 2019.  That inventory is not consistent with the requirements of the CLCPA, but in that inventory New York’s CO2 emissions went from 236.2 MMtCO2e to 205.6 MMtCO2e a 13% decrease.  I would not be surprised that the revised inventory’s emphasis on methane will show that there is a much smaller decrease over that time frame.  That will make attaining the 2030 CLCPA 40% reduction from 1990 emissions level harder to meet.