NYSERDA RGGI Investments – Status Through 2018

I have written previously on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) investment report such as The Investment of RGGI Proceeds in 2016  in this post.  This post covers the analogous New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) report New York’s RGGI-Funded Programs Status Report – Semiannual Report through December 31, 2018 (“Status Report”).  I believe that the reported benefits for these investments fall far short of what is necessary to meet the RGGI reduction goals and are a warning sign that the Climate Leadership and Climate Protection Act goals are going to be even tougher to meet.

I have been involved in the RGGI program process since its inception.  I blog about these details of the program because very few seem to want to provide any criticisms 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.  The program sets a limit on CO2 emissions and auctions allowances for each ton in the cap.  As the cap is ratcheted down over time emissions necessarily have to go down.  The auction proceeds are used for investments in CO2 emissions reductions.

According to the NYSERDA Status Report:

The State invests RGGI proceeds to support comprehensive strategies that best achieve the RGGI CO2 emission reduction goals. These strategies aim to reduce global climate change and pollution through energy efficiency, renewable energy, and carbon abatement technology. Deploying commercially available renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies help to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from both electricity and other energy sources in the short term. To move the State toward a more sustainable future, RGGI funds are used to empower communities to make decisions that prompt the use of cleaner and more energy-efficient technologies that lead to lower carbon emissions as well as economic and societal co-benefits. RGGI helps to build capacity for long-term carbon reduction by training workers and partnering with industry. Using innovative financing, RGGI supports the pursuit of cleaner, more efficient energy systems and encourages investment to stimulate entrepreneurial growth of clean energy companies. All of these activities use funds in ways that accelerate the uptake of low-to-zero emitting technologies.

That is the theory. In practice the results have been mixed and even environmental advocacy organizations have voiced their displeasure.  For example, Environmental Advocates of New York (EANY) recently released a report, “RGGI at a Crossroads”, that details the allocation of funds raised by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in New York State.  I published a post that agreed with their findings.  The overview for RGGI at a Crossroads states:

“For the past seven years, the Cuomo Administration has used funding made available to New York through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) for some authentic climate mitigation purposes as well as some highly questionable ones. While programs like Green Jobs – Green New York, 76West, and the Drive Clean Rebate owe their success to RGGI funding; the Governor has also diverted RGGI funds to subsidize power rates for Long Islanders and plug budget holes. These diversions are bad policy precedents that squander the opportunity to better the environment. An upcoming revision to state regulations offers the Governor an opportunity to take his hand out of the cookie jar and invest RGGI proceeds in a way that will propel New York to the forefront of climate justice.”

However, while I agree that if RGGI is supposed to be a CO2 reduction program that the auction proceeds should only be used for CO2 emissions reductions, I am less impressed with the value of their investments than EANY as I will show in the following.

Social Cost of Carbon

In order to put the value of RGGI investments in context of potential benefits some background on the social cost of carbon (SCC) is necessary.  Regulators necessarily have to balance costs and benefits.  This parameter was developed to estimate the cost of the long-term (that is to say hundreds of years) damage done by a ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted today.  This dollar figure also represents the benefit of a CO2 reduction. I have posted on some of the issues with this parameter but for the purposes of this post you need to know that the values range widely depending on assumptions.  For example, if you use a discount rate of 3% and consider global benefits like the Obama-era Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did then the current SCC value is $50.  On the other hand, the current Administration EPA SCC value for SCC is $7 for a 3% discount rate and $2 for a 5% discount rate that represents only benefits to the United States.  Needless to say, New York’s preference is to use the $50 value.

December 2018 Semi-Annual Report Status Report

According to the Status Report, New York State has accumulated $1,184,631,180 either from direct auction proceeds from the sale of more than 366 million CO2 allowances or interest earnings as of December 31, 2018.  Note that while the allowance prices are increasing over time the total number of allowances sold is decreasing.  For the three-year control period ending in 2011 144,305,904 allowances were sold but in the control period ending in 2017 only 72,401,365 were sold.  The increase in allowance costs does not offset the drop in allowances sold so annual proceeds are decreasing over time.

The Status Report  2018 Investment Summary Table 1 deserves special comment.  The lifetime net energy savings 62,466,470 mmBtu, renewable generation 8,243,824 MWh, net efficiency electricity savings 17,446,899 MWh, and net CO2 emissions reductions of 20,762,489 tons are all big numbers.  When you consider that total investments are $558 million you could be led to believe that the cost benefit ratio dollars invested per ton of CO2 reduced is $26.88.  That is well below the NY SCC target of $50.  However, using expected lifetime savings is bogus.

The CLCPA has a target to reduce annual CO2 emissions to zero compared to the 1990 emissions.  The key is that we need to know what the program investments do to annual emissions.  The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority Patterns and Trends document provides CO2 emissions data and that shows that in 1990 the NY total was 235.8 million metric tons.  In order to assess progress against that goal annualized reductions are the only ones that matter so the only cost benefit values that matter are for annual reductions.

The Status Report  2018 Investment Summary Table 2 and Table 2 notes provides the information necessary to determine progress relative to the goals.  There are six program categories: Green Jobs – Green New York, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Community Clean Energy, Innovative GHG Abatement Strategies, and Clean Energy Fund. The Consolidated Summary of Expected Cumulative Annualized Program Benefits through 31 December 2018 table summarizes the benefits and costs for those categories.  Note that the cost benefit ratio is $463.54, nearly ten times the NY SCC value.

Green Jobs – Green New York

As shown in my Consolidated Summary table total program costs were $172.5 million through the end of 2018 for programs that reduced CO2 264,048 tons for a cost benefit ratio of $653.29 per ton reduced.  Green Jobs – Green New York provides “funding for energy assessments, low-cost financing for energy upgrades, and technical and financial support to develop a clean energy workforce”. It is administered by NYSERDA and made available by the Green Jobs – Green New York Act of 2009.  As I recall the administrative costs associated with this program are notable.

Energy Efficiency

As shown in my Consolidated Summary table total program costs were $260.2 million through the end of 2018 for programs that reduced CO2 611,898 tons for a cost benefit ratio of $425.23 per ton reduced.  These programs provide “comprehensive energy efficiency services for single and multifamily existing buildings and new construction, including low-income households”. RGGI funds are provided to the Long Island Power Authority support energy efficiency programs administered by PSEG Long Island.  RGGI funds were also used to “fill gaps in residential energy efficiency services, offering incentives to implement energy efficiency measures related to petroleum fuel opportunities, or opportunities on Long Island and municipal electric districts”.

Renewable Energy

As shown in my Consolidated Summary table total program costs were $79.9 million through the end of 2018 for programs that reduced CO2 144,408 tons for a cost benefit ratio of $553.29 per ton reduced.  One program in this category tries to increase the use of biomass for renewable heating. NY-Sun provides “declining incentives for the installation of systems and works to reduce solar electric balance-of-system costs through technology advancements, streamlined processes, and customer aggregation models” with a goal to “achieve a sustainable solar industry that does not depend on incentives”.  There is another solar incentive program that funded “221 solar electric system installations outside of Long Island”.  The Advanced Renewable Energy Program supports “projects that foster the market introduction of a broad range of promising new and advanced renewable energy technologies, including advanced biomass, tidal, and offshore wind technologies”.

Finally, in a vivid example of Cuomo Administration creative accounting, RGGI funds the New York Generation Attribute Tracking System that records “electricity generation attribute information within NYS, and processes generation attribute information from energy imported and consumed within the State as a basis for creating tradable generation attribute certificates”.  Although there is a tortuous path linked to emission reductions linked to this program it really is an example of the type of program that really should be funded by the State and not RGGI that the EANY RGGI at a Crossroads report described.

Community Clean Energy

As shown in my Consolidated Summary table total program costs were $21.8 million through the end of 2018 for programs that reduced CO2 130,662 tons for a cost benefit ratio of $166.84 per ton reduced.  There are seven component programs in this general category.  It is notable that this category’s emphasis on funding specific GHG reduction projects makes this most cost-effective program area.  Mind you the Reforming the Energy Vision Campus Competition Program component award for Bard College’s Micro Hydro for Macro Impact project that will use local dams to develop micro hydropower is probably not going to help much meet the CLCPA target.  The Status Report breathlessly notes that “the  project is expected to avoid 335 metric tons of GHG emissions annually, equivalent to taking 70 cars off the road”.

Innovative GHG Abatement Strategies

As shown in my Consolidated Summary table total program costs were $6.2 million through the end of 2018 for programs that reduced CO2 1,804 tons for a cost benefit ratio of $3,436.81 per ton reduced.  This includes a longer-term Industrial innovations program that “supports development and demonstration of technologies with substantial GHG reduction potential and technologies relevant to NYS manufacturing industries and building systems”.   Another creative accounting effort includes the Climate Research and Analysis Program that “supports research studies, demonstrations, policy research and analyses, and outreach and education efforts”. According to the report these activities address “critical climate change related problems facing the State and the region, including the needs of environmental justice communities”.  All well and good but this is a mission of NYSERDA and should be funded out of the Administration’s budget and not detract from the RGGI mission to reduce CO2 emissions.  Also included in this program is the Clean Energy Business Development program that “seeks to support emerging business opportunities in clean energy and environmental technologies while maintaining the goal of carbon mitigation”.  Perhaps I have been reading to much of this but I am getting a wift of crony capitalism for the well-connected in Albany.  There are several programs similar to those listed here.

Clean Energy Fund

As shown in my Consolidated Summary table total program costs were $17.4 million through the end of 2018 for programs that reduced CO2 50,961 tons for a cost benefit ratio of $341.44 per ton reduced.  This program area is not described in the document.

Cost Recovery Fee

For your information, this is another example of New York State bureaucracy at its best.  The New York State Cost Recovery Fee is imposed on the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) by law to reimburse the State for the cost attributable to the provision of central government services to NYSERDA.  The available RGGI funding budget at the end of 2018 is $1.245 billion and $11.9 million is reimbursed to the state for the privilege of adding money for reducing emissions.

Remarks

There is a wide range of cost benefit ratios for the six program areas. At the high end Innovative GHG Abatement Strategies have a cost benefit ratio of $3,347 per ton reduced and the at the low end Community Clean Energy has a cost benefit ratio of $167 per ton reduced. Overall the cost benefit ratio was $464.  The cost benefit ratios can be used to estimate the total costs to meet the CLCPA target to eliminate CO2 emissions from the NY electric sector.  The  Status Report cost to reduce NYS fossil fuel 2018 CO2 emissions to zero table multiplies the 2018 CO2 emissions from the electric sector (27,786,614 tons) by the cost benefit ratios.  If NY eliminates CO2 emissions using the approaches in use for the RGGI investments, the total costs range from $4.6 billion to $95 billion with an overall cost of $12.9 billion.

Another important point is that there is likely a reason for the range of cost benefit ratios.  At the high end, the GHG Abatement Strategies category emphasizes long-term research and development.  Because this research could make a cost breakthrough the investments make sense.  Looking at the other categories it appears that the more investments are focused on direct reductions rather than indirect investments the better the cost benefit ratio.  For example, the best ratio is in Community Clean Energy and that category includes direct support for renewable energy projects.  Although the Renewable Energy category would seemingly meet the criteria for direct support, remember that the Cuomo Administration has diverted funds for other program areas that do not directly support climate mitigation efforts.  The Energy Efficiency category is a better example of indirect support.  Investments in this category do not directly reduce emissions.  Instead reducing energy use reduces the need for energy production and indirectly reduces emissions.

Conclusions

The most important conclusion is that none of the NYSERDA investments of RGGI auction proceeds meet the social cost of carbon criterion of a cost-effective benefit.  New York proposes to use the Obama era SCC value which is $50 in 2019 and the best investment category cost benefit ratio is three times greater than that value.  The cost benefit ratio for all the investments is over nine times greater than the $50 SCC value.

I also believe that there are important ramifications to the apparent reason for the range of cost-benefit ratios.  I think that the more focus on direct investments in emission reductions the better the ratio.  On one hand it could be seen as intuitively obvious but the point is that carbon pricing proposals rely on a completely indirect impetus for emission reductions.  As such those proposals, as theoretically appealing as they may be, may be much less cost effective than suggested.

The Status Report includes a table that lists the expected lifetime benefits of the projects.  Because our primary concern is meeting annual limits those numbers are at best a distraction and at worst a coverup attempt of the poor return on investments.

Finally, the total costs are staggering.  I estimate that the projected costs will be over $25 billion for just the electric sector to meet the CLCPA targets.  If NY relies on the approaches used by NYSERDA for the RGGI investments to eliminate fossil fuel CO2 emissions, the overall cost is $12.9 billion.  I earlier made an estimate of the costs for energy storage if fossil fuels generation is eliminated and that came out to $12.5 billion.

New York Green New Deal – What’s the Plan?

My biggest problem with Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Green New Deal proposal to achieve 70 percent renewable energy by 2030 and transition the state to a carbon-free power grid by 2040 is the lack of a feasibility study that shows just what will be necessary to achieve those goals. Once that is available then and only then will citizens of New York get an idea what he has signed us up for financially.

Instead of that analysis he announces integration and implementation projects. On May 30, 2019 Cuomo announced that $5 million is available for projects that will help New York integrate renewable energy resources in ways that will “improve the resiliency of the electric grid”. This program complements the $30 million announced last month by Governor Cuomo to “support the development and improvement of technologies, including automation and transmission renewable energy resources”.

The mission statement of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) is to “Advance innovative energy solutions in ways that improve New York’s economy and environment”. NYSERDA was created as a public benefit corporation in 1975. In 1996 the New York State Public Service Commission approved the ratepayer-supported System Benefits Charge Program and designated NYSERDA as the program’s administrator. The SBC is collected by investor-owned utilities from gas and electric customers in the State, and funds the majority of NYSERDA’s programs. The Public Service Commission also established in 1998 the scope of NYSERDA was expanded as New York State moved to a competitive electric utility industry.

When the electric utility industry was regulated with vertically integrated utilities New York State required a research set-aside for public benefit research and development, energy services, and environmental programs. The State provided oversight for that research and development, industry developed a world-class research program and there was a spirit of cooperation between industry and regulatory agencies but more importantly there was a check to balance against political interference. That has all changed now and NYSERDA, like every state agency in the Andrew M Cuomo micro-management era, is now a pawn to further his political agenda and that agenda now is “New York is leading by example in the fight against climate change, and modernizing our electric grid is a critical component of our path to clean energy and carbon neutrality”. Ultimately the problem is that the professional staff at the agency no longer makes decisions about future programs. Instead it is all about the political calculus of appearance for the political agenda.

However noble that agenda is the fact of the matter is that his vision for a modern electric grid has never been implemented on the scale he proposes. I don’t think it is asking too much for an analysis that shows how many clean energy resources will be required to achieve that vision. In particular I advocate that NYSERDA should do an analysis of renewable energy resources in New York State that compares observed load requirements with the solar and wind resources potentially available.

The Minnesota Solar Potential Analysis Report would be a great template to follow. A recent blog post at the Conversation summarizes the analysis that determined the “least costly combination of grid-connected solar, wind and storage necessary to provide round-the-clock, year-round energy services”.

This is exactly the kind of research that I believe is necessary in New York. We need to know what will be needed and, because this is all new, I believe we need to consider alternative approaches. For example, the key finding in this analysis was that overbuilding solar photovoltaic power and proactive curtailment was the least cost alternative, in no small part because energy storage is so expensive. I agree that the concept that simply assuming that the renewable resource output should match the observed power needed won’t work. However, the amount of overbuilding, the resulting curtailment and the impact on the energy market certainly should be a topic for debate because of competing interests in the market. Until New York State provides some kind of plan that debate cannot even begin.

The Minnesota Solar Potential Analysis Report concluded that Minnesota could achieve its goal of 10% solar by 2025 at costs comparable to the cost of natural gas generation and that the expected cost declines of solar, wind, and storage will enable Minnesota to achieve 70% solar and wind by 2050 with generation costs comparable to natural gas generation costs. With respect to New York the key point is that these goals are less ambitious than New York’s and as the control efficiency increases the control cost per unit of reduction increases exponentially. Consequently the same sort of analysis has to be done with the New York goals to determine whether we can afford to go as far as proposed.

While I agree with the general approach of this research I do have some reservations. The report acknowledges the issue of grid integration costs but it is not clear to me that they are included relative to the cost comparison with natural gas. While the report claims to eliminate the issue of intermittency I think there might be more involved. It is not just covering the unavailability of wind or sun there also is an impact to the grid when wind and solar vary dramatically in short periods. I think that problem can be handled but the question is whether the analysis included that cost too. One other technical issue I would like to see addressed if this kind of analysis was done in New York is the source of the solar irradiance data. The Minnesota study used 10km grid cell satellite data. I would prefer to use actual on-site data observed from the New York State Mesonet because the on-site data has more temporal resolution and I think that is an important factor to consider.

I would like to summarize where I think we are in New York State[1]. We’re choosing between as yet undefined but surely expensive options trying to understand which one (or what mix) will be the least expensive. Unfortunately we don’t know but we need to start now because we’ve been told by Governor Cuomo that we have to make reductions by 2030. If we make a good pick then we’ll spend the least amount of a lot of money and will be left with the fewest negative outcomes, but if we get it wrong we will be left with many more negative outcomes and even higher costs for a long time. Clearly the first step and priority for this effort should be a plan.

[1] I have paraphrased this language from the Behind the Executive Summary and Reality vs Dreams post from the highly recommended Science of Doom Renewable Energy posts.

NY Green New Deal – NYS 2010 Climate Action Plan

This is one of a series of posts on Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s New York State Green New Deal. The announcement noted that it will create the State’s first statutory Climate Action Council, comprised of the heads of relevant state agencies and other workforce, environmental justice, and clean energy experts to develop a plan to make New York carbon neutral.  Not mentioned was the fact that there was a previous Climate Action Council that was not created by statute. This post will highlight the draft plan produced by the first Climate Action Council in late 2010.

According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC):

Executive Order No. 24 set a goal to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in New York State by 80 percent below the levels emitted in 1990 by the year 2050. The Executive Order also created the New York State Climate Action Council (CAC) with a directive to prepare a climate action plan. The climate action plan would assess how all economic sectors can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change. The Plan would also identify the extent to which such actions support New York’s goals for a clean-energy economy.

On November 9, 2010, the CAC released an Interim Report that had been prepared with assistance from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), and other CAC member-agency staff, the Center for Climate Strategies (CCS) and other stakeholders. This Interim Report is presented by sections and chapters at the DEC website.

First Climate Action Council Plan

For my purposes, Chapter 4: Envisioning a Low-Carbon Future is of most interest. This effort is based in large part upon a Brookhaven National Lab white paper entitled Envisioning a Low-Carbon Clean Energy Economy in New York. The ultimate question is whether the earlier New York State 80 by 50 goal is feasible not only based on cost but on technical considerations. I had originally intended to dissect this vision of the future to address those points but I think the following Important Note to Readers from the white paper speaks to my concerns. I have highlighted the critical point.

Important note to readers:

This is the first complete draft of a paper designed to inform the NYS Climate Action Council’s work to develop a State Climate Action Plan.

The Council’s mandate is uncommonly broad in scope. It has a planning horizon far longer than what most planners address. It entails large uncertainties. No clear precedent for an enterprise of this scope exists.

Consequently, this draft paper is necessarily provisional. As the planning process proceeds, the paper will be revised, and it will steadily gain in value as fresh insights are acquired and the knowledge base it draws from expands.

One feature of this paper is a description of three scenarios that illustrate different versions of a low-carbon 2050 future for the state. It’s important that readers understand that these scenarios are offered for illustrative purposes only. In no sense do they constitute the elements of a plan, and indeed even a casual review of them reveals that there is no way in which they could be fashioned into a plan. Rather, they’re intended to facilitate and provoke thinking about the future.

We hope other parties will generate their own 80×50 scenarios and share them. The ability to imagine a sustainable future, model it rigorously, and explore it is as vital to achieving that future as the clean-energy technologies, best management practices, and behavioral changes that must be developed, advanced, and adopted.

Conclusion

The Brookhaven White Paper developed three future scenarios. One scenario expanded on existing programs to make the most obvious emission reductions. Although it assumed “significant changes to current practices, this scenario falls far short of achieving 80 percent emissions reduction by 2050.” The second scenario assumed electrification of the entire light-duty vehicle fleet to hydrogen fuel produced with nuclear or other low-carbon electricity, elimination of fossil fuel combustion in the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors and significant use of locally-sourced biofuels for trucks and aircraft but was only able to make a 79% reduction. In order to get to an 80% reduction the final scenario assumes 95% of all vehicle miles are all-electric miles, eliminates fossil fuel combustion in the residential/commercial/industrial sector with “part of the resultant increase in electricity demand met through local, point-of-use solar and much of the remainder with low-carbon generation and the wide-spread use of carbon-capture and sequestration”.

It does not take much effort to come to the same conclusion as Brookhaven that there is no way that these scenarios could be fashioned into a plan. Ultimately, the question is whether there is any possible plan to meet the ambitious goals of New York’s Green New Deal.

NY Green Deal: Mandate 100 Percent Clean Power by 2040

This is one of a series of posts on Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s New York State Green New Deal. As part of his 2019 Justice Agenda he included a “nation-leading clean energy and jobs agenda that will put the state on a path to carbon neutrality across all sectors of New York’s economy”.

Not surprisingly there are no details other than the announcement, no mention of potential costs, and no explanation how all this will affect any of the many impacts that he claims are caused by climate change. There is a proposal to provide the plan to make New York carbon neutral and I will blog on those plans as they become available. In the meantime this post discusses the language used to describe the proposal to mandate 100 percent clean power by 2040 in the New York Green New Deal.

In the following sections I list the text from the announcement and my indented and italicized comments follow.

As part of the Green New Deal, Governor Cuomo is proposing a mandate of 100 percent clean, carbon-free electricity in New York State by 2040, the most aggressive goal in the United States and five years sooner than the target recently adopted by California. The cornerstone of this new goal is an increase of New York’s successful Clean Energy Standard mandate from 50 percent to 70 percent renewable electricity by 2030. This globally unprecedented ramp-up of renewable energy will include:

Quadrupling New York’s offshore wind target to 9,000 megawatts by 2035, up from 2,400 megawatts by 2030

I addressed the offshore wind target in a different post.

Doubling distributed solar deployment to 6,000 megawatts by 2025, up from 3,000 megawatts by 2023

As a meteorologist I fail to see how solar this far north and in a climatic regime with as many clouds and as much snow as New York in general and near the Great Lakes in particular makes much sense. Furthermore a study by Ferroni & Hopkirk 2016 shows that after 25 years, solar panel farms in Germany & Switzerland produced only 82% of the energy required to manufacture, install, & maintain them. It also demonstrated that at this point in time (at current solar panel efficiency) latitude 35N (approximately the southern border Tennessee) is the solar energy break even line. After 25 years of operation, solar farms north of this line produce LESS energy than it takes to manufacture, install, & maintain them, while solar farms south of this line produce more. There is more discussion of this analysis and its conclusions here. In any event, I believe that adherents for the New York Green New Deal should explain how solar in New York is immune to these issues.

More than doubling new large-scale land-based wind and solar resources through the Clean Energy Standard

I hope that the State eventually provides a roadmap that quantifies which resources get which subsidies under which programs but I am not optimistic.

Maximizing the contributions and potential of New York’s existing renewable resources

I support this platitude but hope that this was part of the plan all along.

Deploying 3,000 megawatts of energy storage by 2030

None of the announcements for energy storage have included the amount of energy in MWh in their goals. Instead they always use MW or the power capacity to describe the projects. Because the amount of energy is the key parameter this suggests energy innumeracy on the part of the State’s politicians. I also note that I agree with those that believe that grid storage is impossible.

Achieving 100 percent carbon-free electricity will require investments in resources capable of meeting diverse demands throughout the state, as well as a substantial increase in cost-effective energy efficiency. Harnessing a complementary set of carbon-free energy resources will assure reliability and affordability for all New Yorkers as the electricity system is both modernized and optimized. To ensure that clean energy opportunities are available for those that need it most, as part of this nation-leading commitment, Governor Cuomo is directing the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), in concert with the Department of Public Service (DPS), to expand and enhance their Solar For All program and couple it with energy savings opportunities, increasing access to affordable and clean energy for low-income, environmental justice and other underserved communities.

I am not confident that renewables can ever supply enough energy to New York City to maintain reliability. Given that a blackout in the City is a bad thing this could be a fatal flaw. Consider that in order to prevent the situation that caused the 1977 New York City the New York Independent System Operator currently requires at least 80% of New York City’s electric generating capacity needs be met through in-City generation. The problem is that diffuse renewable generation needs space which is at a premium in the City. The State needs to show how they can possibly provide enough carbon-free electricity to cover peak generation. On the peak hour of generation in 2017 the load in the New York City zone was 10,671 MW. If the City were to rely on solar power to provide the load from the time that solar power added to the system until the next day you would need (219,078 MWh) and 80% of the total load would have to come from in-City or 175,262 MWh. I did a back of the envelope estimate of the solar and storage necessary to cover this peak in Table 1 New York City peak load generation with solar and storage. I used a solar hourly distribution curve for California in July which should be conservative to estimate hourly variation. I estimated the amount of solar needed by subtracting the daily solar output energy in MWh (daily sum of the Generation column) against 80% of the actual NYC load (the Limit column). I took a naïve approach and determined the necessary solar generation as the level that would eliminate any negative value in the Difference column. On the peak day there was a minimum positive difference of 10 MWh at hour 6 when the system would still rely on storage to provide power and determined that if there were 26,045 MW of solar capacity the needs could be met. That is a low estimate because there is no provision for clouds, battery charging times or charging efficiencies. Nonetheless, using a rule of thumb that 1kW needs 100 square feet of space that estimated capacity would need 629 square miles which is more than double the size of New York City.

This crude analysis is only meant to serve as an indication just how work has to be done to develop this plan. I think that the Governor and advocates for his agenda need to explain how this will work, how much it will cost and how much it will affect global warming before we are committed to this path.

 

NY Green Deal: Offshore Wind

This is one of a series of posts on Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s New York State Green New Deal. As part of his 2019 Justice Agenda he included a “nation-leading clean energy and jobs agenda that will put the state on a path to carbon neutrality across all sectors of New York’s economy”.

Not surprisingly there are no details other than the announcement, no mention of potential costs, and no explanation how all this will affect any of the many impacts that he claims are caused by climate change. There is a proposal to provide the plan to make New York carbon neutral and I will blog on those plans as they become available. In the meantime this post discusses the language used to describe the plan to make New York the national hub for offshore wind and deploy 9,000 megawatts by 2035 as part of the New York Green New Deal.

In the following sections I list the text from the announcement and my indented and italiczed comments follow.

New York is leading the nation on offshore wind, which, as an emerging clean energy industry in the U.S., has tremendous potential for both the energy sector and economic development in the state. Called for by Governor Cuomo and released in 2018, New York’s Offshore Wind Master Plan is the most comprehensive offshore wind strategy in the country and has charted the course for this energy resource to play a significant role in achieving a carbon-free electricity grid. In November 2018, New York issued its first major offshore wind solicitation for at least 800 megawatts, which will set the stage for large-scale development of this important resource and the economic advantages that come with it.

Although the course has been charted, aside from issuing a solicitation there really hasn’t been any implementation progress.

To ensure New York State is the focal point for offshore wind development and this growing industry, Governor Cuomo is proposing nearly quadrupling the State’s target for offshore wind deployment from 2,400 megawatts by 2030 to 9,000 megawatts by 2035, the most aggressive offshore wind goal in U.S. history.

The more relevant number is MWh or megawatt hour which is the measure of energy. New York State energy announcements usually report new facilities in MW or megawatts or power capacity. I believe this is mis-leading because a cursory comparison of this announcement’s 2,400 MW is close to Indian Point’s 2,311 MW capacity. However because wind energy is intermittent, the 2400 MW will only produce 8,977,000 MWh using National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) 42.7 capacity factor while Indian Point produced 15,305,000 MWh.

 I used the NREL capacity factor to determine the energy produced.   According to the NREL’s 2017 Cost of Wind Energy Review, the levelized cost of energy off-shore wind is over two and a half times more expensive ($124 per MWh vs $47 per MWh). For the 6,000 MW of offshore wind mandated the estimated cost would be $4.174 billion.

To complement this bold statement of national and global leadership, Governor Cuomo is directing new actions, as part of the Green New Deal, to accelerate offshore wind progress in three specific areas: port infrastructure, workforce development, and transmission infrastructure.

Ports: Invest $200 million in New York port infrastructure to unlock private supply chain capital and maximize the long-term economic benefits to the state from the regional development of offshore wind. This multi-location investment would represent the nation’s largest infrastructure commitment to offshore wind and would solidify New York’s position as the hub of the burgeoning U.S. offshore wind industry.

Workforce Development: Establish a New York State Advisory Council on Offshore Wind Economic and Workforce Development and invest in an offshore wind training center that will provide New Yorkers with the skills and safety training required to construct this clean energy technology right here in New York.

Transmission: Initiate a first of its kind effort to evaluate and facilitate the development of an offshore transmission grid that can benefit New York ratepayers by driving down offshore wind generation and integration costs.

In order to get the off-shore wind power to market, we have to add $200 million for port upgrades, train workers at some cost, and build an off-shore transmission grid. The NREL estimate of over $4 billion does not cover all the costs of off-shore wind!

The development and adoption of offshore wind is a critical component of the transition to a clean energy economy and presents a major economic opportunity for New Yorkers, including the creation of thousands of high-quality jobs. With these new commitments, the New York will continue to lead in this exciting and developing field.

Denmark has offered to help New York’s offshore wind development. However, in 2016 the Danish government decided to abort the plans to build five offshore wind power farms, which were to stand ready by 2020.  At the same time, Denmark is also scraping its green energy tariffs and abandoning some of its climate goals. “Since 2012 when we reached the political agreement, the cost of our renewable policy has increased dramatically,” said Minister for Energy and Climate Lars Christian Lilleholt to Reuters.  The real lesson maybe to beware this source of renewable energy.

NY Green Deal: Create a Carbon-to-Value Innovation Agenda

This is one of a series of posts on Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s New York State Green New Deal. As part of his 2019 Justice Agenda he included a “nation-leading clean energy and jobs agenda that will put the state on a path to carbon neutrality across all sectors of New York’s economy”.

Not surprisingly there are no details other than the announcement, no mention of potential costs, and no explanation how all this will affect any of the many impacts that he claims are caused by climate change. There is a proposal to provide the plan to make New York carbon neutral and I will blog on those plans as they become available. In the meantime this post discusses the language used to describe the plan to create a carbon-to-value innovation agenda as part of the New York Green New Deal.

In the following sections I list the text from the announcement and my indented and italicized comments follow.

Create a Carbon-to-Value Innovation Agenda and Establish the CarbonWorks Foundry

Avoiding the worst consequences of climate change will require not only reductions in emissions using existing technologies, but also innovation, particularly with respect to withdrawing CO2 from the Earth’s atmosphere. Innovative new technologies are emerging in response to this challenge that can capture CO2 from the atmosphere and either permanently sequester the carbon underground or transform it into valuable fuel or products, known as carbon-to-value. While many of these technologies are still in their infancy, they show promise in the collective fight to address climate change.

The concept is to turn carbon dioxide into fuel and wasteful chemicals. While I am not a chemical engineer the idea that the waste products can be turned into a fuel without a whole lot of energy going back into the system seems a bit far-fetched. On the other hand the concept of using CO2 instead of sequestering it underground is appealing.

Accordingly, Governor Cuomo is announcing that in 2019, New York State, with the help of experts, environmental groups, academic institutions, and other stakeholders will create a Carbon-to-Value Innovation Agenda as a blueprint for the future of carbon-to-value technology as well as carbon capture, utilization and storage in New York. NYSERDA will provide $15 million to support multiple efforts to further New York’s Carbon-to-Value Innovation Agenda. This will include NYSERDA and SUNY working with academic institutions, experts, and philanthropic partners to establish the CarbonWorks Foundry, a new incubator and accelerator devoted to carbon-to-value technology development with a focus on carbon harvesting. Finally, NYSERDA will engage other State agencies to create a framework for a low-carbon procurement standard, which can create a market for low-carbon cement and concrete, building materials, and other valuable low-emissions products.

For these types of blueprints I would be more supportive if they included provisions to make sure that the Foundry would terminate if certain criteria are not met. If it is promising great but if it is not then accept that we found out that the concept while promising in theory was not practical. If any of these ideas go forward they should include metrics and regular reporting.

NY Green Deal: Increase Carbon Sequestration

This is one of a series of posts on Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s New York State Green New Deal. As part of his 2019 Justice Agenda he included a “nation-leading clean energy and jobs agenda that will put the state on a path to carbon neutrality across all sectors of New York’s economy”.

Not surprisingly there are no details other than the announcement, no mention of potential costs, and no explanation how all this will affect any of the many impacts that he claims are caused by climate change. There is a proposal to provide the plan to make New York carbon neutral and I will blog on those plans as they become available. In the meantime this post discusses the language used to describe the plan to increase carbon sequestration and meet a land challenge as part of the New York Green New Deal.

In the following sections I list the text from the announcement with my indented and italicized comments.

Increase Carbon Sequestration and Meet the U.S. Climate Alliance Natural and Working Lands Challenge

In 2015, Governor Cuomo launched the Climate Resilient Farming Program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and to increase resiliency of New York State farms impacted by climate change. Just last year, New York accepted the U.S. Climate Alliance’s Natural and Working Lands challenge, ensuring that land stewardship and land sequestration efforts join energy reduction and adaptation activities as part of our collective climate solutions.

According to the New York Soil & Water Conservation Committee website “The goal of the Climate Resilient Farming Program is to reduce the impact of agriculture on climate change (mitigation) and to increase the resiliency of New York State farms in the face of a changing climate (adaptation).” The plan is to mitigate and adapt.

Estimates of annual greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture (apart from agricultural energy use, which is classified differently) in New York State range from 5.3 to 5.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. Manure management is responsible for roughly 15% of the emissions; emissions from soils are slightly under a third of the total. This represents a major opportunity to reduce emissions.

 While New York State is projected to increase precipitation overall, it is expected to come in short, extreme precipitation events in between mild droughts. This represents a major risk to farms, particularly those in low-lying or flood prone areas. Even very local downpours and cloud bursts can cause substantial damage to farms.

On the face of it this program is innocuous but is it effective? According to the most recent press release I could find: Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced nearly $2.2 million will be awarded to 34 farms across the state through the Climate Resilient Farming Grant Program. Launched by the Governor in 2015, the program helps farms reduce their operational impact on the environment and better prepare for and recover after extreme weather events. Through three rounds of funding to date, the state has provided $5.1 million to 40 total projects, assisting nearly 70 farms. I have included a description of the awards made for 2018 at the end of the post. My biggest problem is that the 34 farms received money from the state for projects that in some cases seem like business as usual practices. Unless a program can provide this kind of support to every farm in the state then where are we going with this? If my neighbor gets money to do a project why in the world would I do it, however appropriate for the environment, unless I get money too?

To meet our Natural and Working Lands commitment, Governor Cuomo will establish new research partnerships to incorporate forest and agricultural carbon into New York’s greenhouse gas inventory and climate strategy and to establish a carbon sequestration goal for our natural and working lands. To help achieve this goal, Governor Cuomo proposes doubling the State’s investment in the Climate Resilient Farming program and creating new forestry grant programs—enhancing the Healthy Soils NY program and enabling farmers, forest owners, and communities to achieve the economic and environmental co-benefits of sound management practices.

I think the concept that increasing the carbon content of the soil is a no regrets solution. The basic concept is that building healthy soil sequesters carbon dioxide. My point is that healthy soil is good for the planet whatever the effect of CO2 on climate. As mentioned above, however, I think the New York program has to take the big picture approach how to implement their plan across all the farms and forests rather than awarding grants to the politically connected.

Awarded Projects Climate Resilient Farming Grant Program April 27, 2018

  • Fulton County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $74,494 to assist one farm with the implementation of a 45-acre prescribed grazing and 5.7-acre riparian buffer system that will increase soil health and reduce farm based greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Herkimer County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $432,659 to work with a dairy farm to install a manure storage cover and flare. The system will dramatically reduce methane emissions from the farm’s manure storage, mitigate water quality concerns – especially during major precipitation events, and promote energy savings.
  • Schoharie County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $10,256 to work with one vegetable farm to implement cover crops using no-till planting methods. This project will plant 14 acres of diverse species cover crops to improve carbon sequestration and improve resiliency to the farm during periods of flood and drought.
  • Monroe County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $149,085 to work with one dairy farm to install a riparian buffer system and an irrigation water management system. The systems will mitigate nutrient and sediment runoff and allow the farm to store and convey water as needed in preparation for any drought situations.
  • Ontario County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $119,907 to work with four farms to implement cover crops to improve the carbon sequestration potential in the soils and improve resiliency to the farm during periods of flood and drought.
  • Wayne County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $281,686 to work with a diverse livestock farm to install a manure storage cover and flare to dramatically reduce methane emissions from the farm’s manure storage, mitigate water quality concerns – especially during major precipitation events, and promote energy savings.
  • Genesee County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $156,790 to work with one dairy farm to expand a clean water storage reservoir to an irrigation reservoir that will provide additional capacity for drought and flood periods and install a center pivot irrigation system.
  • Madison County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $128,600 to work with one farm to implement a water and sediment control basin system that will prevent erosion and protect the Village of Chittenango from an increased flooding potential due to runoff from the farm.
  • Onondaga County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $40,760 to work with one farm to implement a 78-acre prescribed grazing system that will increase soil health, improve soil carbon sequestration by promoting plant growth throughout the year, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Onondaga County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $180,856 to work with one farm to implement a 1.05-acre wetland that will allow for greater storage of stormwater. The project will help to reduce the flood volume downstream and ultimately reduce sedimentation into Skaneateles Lake.
  • Essex County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $103,500 to work with one farm to install riparian buffers systems and ponds for stormwater capture and irrigation. The systems will sequester carbon dioxide emissions and reduce farm runoff to the Boquet River and Lake Champlain.
  • Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $43,696 to work with one farm to install a riparian buffer system and livestock access control. The systems will reduce streambank erosion and sedimentation, provide a reliable water source for grazing animals, and improve the capability of the farm to withstand extreme weather conditions.
  • Chautauqua County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $85,024 to work with one farm to implement diverse species cover crops that will improve soil quality, reduce erosion during extreme weather events, and increase soil organic matter.
  • Erie County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $82,268 to work with five farms to implement cover crops. These projects will improve the carbon sequestration potential in the soils and improve resiliency to the farm during periods of flood and drought.
  •  Southern Tier
  • Chenango County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $77,255 to work with six farms to implement cover crops. Cover crops are planted to improve soil quality, reduce erosion, and to increase soil organic matter to improve resiliency to the farm during periods of flood and drought and decrease the impacts of flooding downstream.
  • Schuyler County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $205,000 to work with seven farms that include dairy, crop, and beef/sheep farms, in three priority watersheds, to implement cover crops. This project will allow for cover crops throughout nearly the entire growing season, which will conserve soil, improve water holding capacity to help mitigate impacts of extreme storm events, and help to protect several public drinking water sources.