Power Generation Advisory Panel Enabling Strategies Submitted to Climate Action Council

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.  According to a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) bulletin dated May 10, 2021, the Advisory Panels to the Climate Action Council have all submitted recommendations for consideration in the Scoping Plan to achieve greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions economy-wide.   My posts describing and commenting on the strategies are all available here. This post addresses the Power Generation Advisory Panel enabling strategy recommendations, including my impressions of the panel presentation itself.

I have written extensively on implementation of the CLCPA because I believe the solutions proposed will adversely affect reliability and affordability, will have worse impacts on the environment than the purported effects of climate change, and cannot measurably affect global warming when implemented.   I briefly summarized the schedule and implementation: CLCPA Summary Implementation Requirements.  I have described the law in general, evaluated its feasibility, estimated costs, described supporting regulationssummarized some of the meetings and complained that its advocates constantly confuse weather and climate in other articles.  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.

Power Generation Emissions

Although the presentations all follow the same format the details differ.  One of the more important components of the presentations is the emissions estimates and they all include a graphic showing historical emissions in 1990, “preliminary draft” emissions for 2018, and their projections for 2030 and 2050.  A constant theme with this panel compared to others is a lack of critical information for stakeholders trying to understand their recommendations.  The ultimate reason for the recommendations is for emission reductions and this presentation does not provide all the numbers whereas most of the presentations included the values for each year.

The 1990 emissions were defined in the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Part 496 regulations but the sectors used in that regulation are not comparable to this advisory panel’s sector.  In the following graph I estimate that the 1990 emissions are 100 million metric tons (MMt) of carbon dioxide equivalent[1] (CO2e) and 2018 preliminary draft emissions are 60 MMt. 


[1] The amount of carbon dioxide by mass that would produce the same global warming impact as the given mass of another greenhouse gas over a specific time frame, as determined by the IPCC, and as provided in Section 496.5 of this Part.

There are two emission reduction targets in the CLCPA: 40% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030 and 85% reduction in GHG emissions by 2050.   The slide provides the percentage reductions so that the emissions can be estimated.  The projected total reductions emission reduction goals for this advisory panel are a 71% reduction from 1990 by 2030 and a reduction of 95% by 2050.  However, the power generation sector has its own goals: 70% renewable energy by 2030 and 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040.  No documentation is provided to substantiate the claim that 70% renewable energy is equivalent a 50% reduction from the 2018 levels.

The power generation sector was the third largest source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2018.  Direct combustion emissions accounted for 57% of the total, imported fossil fuel 28%, oil and gas methane leakage 15%.  The inclusion of emissions by imported fossil fuels and leakage is mandated by law, ECL § 75-0101(13). These two categories represent an estimate of what may be referred to as the lifecycle, fuel cycle, or out-of-state upstream emissions associated with in-state energy demand and consumption.  However, these sectors are not included in internationally accepted emission inventory procedures.  I am working on a post that addresses this issue specifically.

 Power Generation Strategies

According to the meeting presentation, the advisory panel proposed fourteen enabling strategies:

1             Growth of Large-Scale Renewable Energy Generation

2             Clean Energy Siting & Community Acceptance

3             Distributed Generation / Distributed Energy Resources

4             Existing Storage Technology

5             Demand Side

6             Reliability for the future grid

7             Access and Affordability for All

8             Workforce Development

9             Market Solutions

10           Technology Solutions

11           Long Duration Storage Technology

12           Energy Delivery & Hosting Capacity

13           Gas Infrastructure, Transmission & Methane Leakage

14           Retirement of Fossil Fuel-Fired Facilities

The recommendations are available in a slide presentation.  I am not going to critique each of these strategies individually because it would take far too long.  Instead, I will comment on a few things with an emphasis on inconsistencies and implementation issues.  Because this panel is most closely related to my background and interest, I posted earlier on the draft recommendations.  I will also compare the proposed strategies to the draft strategies.

In September 2020 I also posted on the membership of this panel.  That post describes how this process was supposed to work.  I also described the background of the panel members.  I noted the members were mostly aligned with the ideological agenda of the Cuomo Administration rather than maintaining an affordable and reliable power generation system.  Sadly, the events of the last six months or so exceeded my expectations.  In order to make power generation recommendations it is necessary to understand how the power system works and how planning affects reliability and affordability.  Many of the members did not want to understand and did not try to understand the technological challenges.  Unfortunately, they were the loudest voices and their naïve insistence on speculative technologies has resulted in some risky enabling initiatives.

Discussion

One of the good things that this presentation did include were the category definitions.  Each mitigation strategy describes the potential effect of the strategy on GHG reductions by 2030, cost and funding expectations, and ease of implementation in three categories: low, medium and high.  The following tables define what they mean by low, medium and high.  This panel and the Energy Efficiency & Housing panel were the only ones to include these definitions and I note that there are subtle differences between them.  For example, the Power Generation panel defines the low mitigation strategy cost as <$250M total resource cost and most resources required for successful implementation are already on hand.  The other panel uses the same definitions but expresses the value as “equivalent annualized cost”.

I appreciate the inclusion of these definitions.  However, I don’t think some of the category definitions for the enabling initiatives are correct.  In particular, Initiative #1, Growth of Large-Scale Renewable Energy Generation states that the cost and funding considerations are $, <$250 million total resource cost for NYSERDA’s existing Tier 1, Tier 4, and offshore wind programs.  The only way those estimates can be correct is if they are referring only to the process for growing large-scale renewable generation.

The New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA) offshore wind website notes that the State’s five currently planned offshore wind projects total 4,300 MW.   The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) regularly assesses the levelized costs of all power sources, and only a year ago calculated that the cost of offshore wind was $115.04/MWh.  EIA claims a capacity factor of 45% which means that the 4,300 MW will generate 16,950,600 MWh.  Using the EIA levelized cost of electricity, see below, with that amount of generation yields $1.9 billion for the 4,300 MW of offshore wind.  Something else to keep in mind is that this projection does not include costs on the wholesale market, capacity market, or impacts on balancing and ancillary service markets which all add to the cost.  The biggest concern is providing power when the wind is not blowing.  It is hard to imagine how the authors of this slide managed to estimate that these costs would be less than $250 million unless they were only talking the process.  Then the question becomes where the heck do these costs show up in the recommendations.

Reliability

In general, the greatest threat to grid reliability is the transition away from fossil-fired power plants that provide dispatchable electricity whenever needed to intermittent and diffuse generation from wind and solar.  Donn Dears book “The Looming Energy Crisis” provides a detailed description of potential problems associated with this transition.  In this post I am only going to address two CLCPA aspects.

The final recommendations to the Climate Action Council at least emphasized the need to maintain reliability.  Incredibly, the first presentation from the Climate Action Council on the advisory panels did not mention reliability.  There are extensive electric system reliability requirements in place and despite numerous requests, no presentation on New York’s requirements was provided to this panel. 

Moreover, enabling initiative #6, reliability for the future grid, misses the point.  As shown in the following description the cost and ease of implementation refer to the process for maintaining reliability, not the difficulty of making the changes needed to make the system reliable.  For example, in August 2019 there was a blackout in England.  Initially triggered by a lightning strike followed by “Two almost simultaneous unexpected power losses” from an offshore wind farm and a gas-fired power plant resulted in a “cumulative level of power loss greater than the level required to be secured by the Security Standards” and the blackout ensued.  My point is that as the system transitions to renewables I expect this kind of trial and error de-bugging of the system reliant on intermittent renewable energy.  For example, the North Park Solar proposal calls for a facility with up to 450 MW of solar panels covering 2500 acres.  What happens on a partly cloudy day when the incident solar radiation varies wildly?  Could that trigger an unexpected power loss? 

A reliable electric power system is very complex and must operate within narrow parameters while balancing loads and resources and supporting synchronism. New York’s conventional rotating machinery such as oil, nuclear, and gas plants as well as hydro generation provide a lot of synchronous support to the system. This includes reactive power (vars), inertia, regulation of the system frequency and the capability to ramping up and down as the load varies. Wind and solar resources are asynchronous and cannot provide these necessary grid ancillary support services.  Earlier this year I wrote that no one seemed to want to take the responsibility to figure out was is needed to provide that support. 

Enabling initiative #9, Market solutions, is the only place in the recommendations where ancillary services is mentioned.  Similar to the problem for the reliability initiative, this recommendation discusses the market mechanisms rather than the problem itself.  The responsibility for the initiative is on the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO).  The barriers to success note that this “Will require several forward-looking market designs and the implementation of each design must be structured in a way that sends the correct price signal at the appropriate time”.  This panel unloads all the responsibilities onto the NYISO. Not only do they have to anticipate all the potential issues in an unprecedented system reliant on asynchronous generation but also have to create a market mechanism to get market participants to invest in that technology.  This is another trial-and-error exercise where the rate-payers of the state are lab rats.

Feasibility

I have always maintained that the fundamental flaw of the CLCPA is that it assumed it was only a matter of political will to completely transform the existing electrical system to one dependent upon renewable energy.  Clearly, it would be appropriate to define affordability and reliability metrics then do a comprehensive analysis to determine if the transition would threaten those metrics.  The following tables list the ease of implementation descriptions for all 14 enabling strategies.

There are three easy to implement strategies: Reliability for the future grid, Workforce Development, and Gas Infrastructure, Transmission & Methane Leakage. These strategies are supposed to have been implemented many times and/or can build off an existing NYS program, rely on Proven and widely available technology, and the key stakeholders are strong supporters, there were no strong opponents.  However, recall that the reliability strategy was more about the mechanics of assessing reliability than actually addressing the problem.  It is ludicrous for this panel to claim reliability for a wind and solar dependent electric generation system will be “easy”.

Most of the strategies had a medium ease of implementation defined as: strategy is new to New York State but has been successfully implemented in other comparable states/countries, proven technology with known GHG impact, but still small-scale, and key stakeholders are neutral, or balanced mix of supporters and opponents.  I think the biases of the panel members and their lack of technical backgrounds impact these ease of implementation estimates.  Consider the medium label for existing storage technology.  Despite all the fawning reports over Tesla’s utility-scale batteries, the press and this panel has not picked up on how they are being used.  The Australian Hornsdale Power Reserve battery system is making money for the operators and saving consumers money by providing frequency control ancillary support services.  It is not being used to provide meaningful energy storage for the system.  As a result I argue that claiming that utility-scale energy storage has been successfully implemented is dubious at best.

There are three initiatives that even this panel had to conclude would be hard to implement: long duration storage technology, energy delivery & hosting capacity, and retirement of fossil fuel-fired facilities.  I believe that both existing and long duration energy storage technologies should be difficult.  A recent article by Kevin Kilty “Why is Energy so Difficult to Store? Why is Stored Energy so Difficult to Use?” described the generic problems with energy storage systems. He concluded that “It took money spent over a century to learn the systems engineering currently built into the grid. It will take a lot of money to duplicate all this for a completely re-imagined grid in a decade.”  Long-duration storage is necessary so depending upon a technology that does not even exist in a pilot project is an incredible risk.

Energy delivery & hosting capacity refers to “planning and implementation processes to facilitate necessary energy delivery options for the renewable energy buildout”.  Like all the other strategies by this panel it is presumed that there are no technical challenges to accomplish this.  In fact, this reads like a wish list for the renewable energy developers on the panel. 

Retirement of fossil fuel-fired facilities engendered a non-consensus recommendation with majority support: “temporary moratorium on new or repowered fossil fuel-fired facilities until the full recommendation is adopted”.  The strategy description is to develop a plan and implement regulations to phase out fossil fuel-fired baseload and peaking generation resources as quickly as practicable while retaining system reliability by prioritizing efforts to lower emissions of co-pollutants in disadvantaged and environmental justice communities.   The current cause célèbre amongst environmental justice activists are power plants in disadvantaged communities because they just have to be causing health problems due to ozone and inhalable particulates.  The problem is that those are both secondary pollutants and form long after the precursor pollutants are emitted so any health effects are not due to neighborhood power plants.  The mitigating solution to this non-problem: “The recommendations from the Power Generation Advisory Panel focus on enabling strategies to assist in the transition away from fossil fuels. These include strategies to more rapidly deploy renewable technologies, including flexible resources, addressing barriers to renewables deployment, transmission and distribution upgrades, developing and deploying technology innovations, encouraging effective market structures, and ensuring a just and equitable transition.”  As near as I can interpret this, there is absolutely no inkling that there might be technological and physical barriers that could preclude any of these enabling strategies.

Affordability

The panel covers affordability with its own enabling initiative.  I find it rich that the panel presumes that Federal Relief Funds should be used first.  The problem is that similar efforts elsewhere have markedly increased costs.  According to Germany’s Enegiewende program, the share of renewables in electricity generation should reach 45 percent by 2030 and 100% by half century.  The costs have sky rocketed and now German electricity prices are three times higher than France.  The Global Warming Policy Foundation has analyzed the cost of Great Britain’s net-zero programs concluding that astronomical cost burden risks are becoming a “toxic issue” for the government. If CLCPA proponents could point to a single jurisdiction with high renewable energy use that did not experience a marked increase in costs, then I would not believe this is an insurmountable problem.

Conclusion

Two things about this advisory panel.  It is arguably the most import panel because achieving CLCPA will only be possible if zero-emission electric power is available.  It was inarguably the worst run panel by far.  John Rhodes “leadership“ was abysmal and by the time he retired the damage had been done.  A leader would have steered discussions to achievable solutions that could maintain current levels of reliability and affordability.  What happened is that the loudest voices in the room drove the recommendations and discussions. As David Zaruk, who writes at the Risk Monger blog, explains those voices are: “millennial militants preaching purpose from the policy pulpit, listening to a closed group of activists and virtue signaling sustainability ideologues in narrowly restricted consultation channels”.  Rather than trying to understand the technological challenges these idealogues made recommendations for processes that would enable what they believe only requires political will.  “It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.”– Thomas Sowell

Energy Efficiency & Housing Advisory Panel Enabling Strategies Submitted to Climate Action Council

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.  According to a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) bulletin dated May 10, 2021, the Advisory Panels to the Climate Action Council have all submitted recommendations for consideration in the Scoping Plan to achieve greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions economy-wide.   My posts describing and commenting on the strategies are all available here. This post addresses the Energy Efficiency & Housing Advisory Panel enabling strategy recommendations.

I have written extensively on implementation of the CLCPA closely because I believe the solutions proposed will adversely affect reliability and affordability, will have worse impacts on the environment than the purported effects of climate change, and cannot measurably affect global warming when implemented.   I briefly summarized the schedule and implementation CLCPA Summary Implementation Requirements.  I have described the law in general, evaluated its feasibility, estimated costs, described supporting regulationssummarized some of the meetings and complained that its advocates constantly confuse weather and climate in other articles.  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 & Housing Emissions

Although the presentations all follow the same format the details differ.  One of the more important components of the presentations is the emissions estimates and they all include a graphic showing historical emissions in 1990, “preliminary draft” emissions for 2018, and their projections for 2030 and 2050.  The 1990 emissions were defined in the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Part 496 regulations but the sectors used in that regulation are not comparable to this advisory panel’s sector.  In the following graph 1990 emissions are 103 million metric tons (MMt) of carbon dioxide equivalent[1] (CO2e) and 2018 preliminary draft emissions are 115 MMt. 


[1] The amount of carbon dioxide by mass that would produce the same global warming impact as the given mass of another greenhouse gas over a specific time frame, as determined by the IPCC, and as provided in Section 496.5 of this Part.

There are two emission reduction targets in the CLCPA: 40% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030 and 85% reduction in GHG Emissions by 2050.   The projected total reductions emission reduction goals for this advisory panel don’t meet either target only projecting a 27% reduction from 1990 by 2030 and a reduction of 83% by 2050. 

This sector was the largest source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2018 but there are two caveats.  The New York emission inventory includes upstream GHG emissions and the emission rates for methane are high so over half the emissions relative to combustion come from imported fossil fuels.  In a rational world that observation would suggest an analysis to see why such an illogical outcome is observed but in the CLCPA it is a feature not a possible flaw.  The other factor is that refrigerants are a large component of the total because the global warming potential for HFC is high. 

Energy Efficiency & Housing Strategies

According to the meeting presentation, the advisory panel proposed the following four mitigating strategies and six enabling strategies:

  • Mitigation strategy 1: Phase out fossil fuel use in buildings
  • Mitigation strategy 2: Require benchmarking
  • Mitigation strategy 3: Shift reliance on fossil gas to clean energy system
  • Mitigation strategy 4: Shift reliance on HFC use as refrigerant and in all products used in construction
  • Enabling strategy 1: Public financial incentives
  • Enabling strategy 2: Public and private low-cost financing
  • Enabling strategy 3: Workforce
  • Enabling strategy 4: Consumer education
  • Enabling strategy 5: Innovation
  • Enabling strategy 6: Embodied carbon

The recommendations themselves are available in a slide presentation.  I am not going to critique all these strategies because it would take far too long.  Instead, I will comment on some of the strategies with an emphasis on inconsistencies and implementation issues. 

There is no question that meeting the CLCPA goals for this sector will be a challenge.  The presentation explains that there are 6.2 million buildings in New York State: 4.9m single family homes, 250k multifamily buildings, and 370k commercial/institutional buildings.  The first mitigation strategy is to phase out fossil fuel use in buildings.  Obviously “Eliminating GHG emissions from New York’s building stock by 2050 will require broad, systemic changes”.

The Energy Efficiency and Housing presentation to the Climate Action Council presentation summarizes the first initiative to modify building codes and standards in this strategy in the following slide.  The plan is to amend the state codes for new construction, including additions and alterations, to require solar PV on “feasible” areas, grid-interactive electrical appliances, energy storage readiness, electric readiness for all appliance and electric vehicle readiness.  They propose to adopt these all-electric state codes for single family residences by 2025 and for multifamily and commercial buildings by 2030. The presentation notes that by 2030, more than 200,000 homes per year will be upgraded to all-electric and energy efficient standards.

I suspect most people are like me and don’t understand what some of these terms mean and how it will affect my personal choices if I want to buy a new house or remodel my existing house in 2025. Solar panels will be required where “feasible” but feasibility is not defined.  Electric readiness means “The installation of electrical service and panel capacity, conduit, fixtures, and outlets for a future installation of electric equipment for space heating and cooling, hot-water, cooking, and laundry”.  This initiative proposes to prohibit (“at end of useful life”) gas or oil replacements of “heating, cooling and domestic hot water equipment” in single family homes by 2030 so it makes sense to install the electric infrastructure sooner.  Electric vehicle readiness is defined as the “installation of electrical service and panel capacity, conduit, fixtures, and outlets for a future installation of EV chargers”.  The transportation advisory panel has proposed that all new vehicles sold by 2030 will be electric vehicles so this is another consistent requirement. 

I was surprised that there was a requirement for energy storage readiness: “The installation of electrical service and panel capacity, conduit, fixtures, and outlets for a future installation of electric batteries”.  The biggest problem with solar energy is its intermittency and the advisory panel is proposing that homeowners help provide a solution by providing space for the batteries and footing the bill for the electrical service.  I suspect there will eventually be a requirement to install the batteries themselves but not to worry because the panel suggests that this will pay for itself by providing revenues.   The most intrusive aspect of this proposal is the requirement for grid-interactive electrical appliances “as feasible (e.g., batteries, hot water heaters)”.  For batteries the ability of the grid operator to call up your stored energy when needed makes sense but I am not comfortable having someone else decide when I can have hot water.  Moreover, heating and cooling appliances surely will eventually be grid-interactive too.  Proponents point out that capability would have helped reduce the impacts of the Texas February 2021 blackouts but cynics like me argue that the existing system does not need that capability because fossil fuels work better.

The presentation to the Climate Action Council notes that “Electrification of heating and hot water systems in nearly all buildings is a key strategy for building decarbonization and depends upon energy efficiency improvements in all buildings and 100% zero-emissions electricity by 2040 under the Climate Act”.  The second mitigation strategy sets benchmarking standards for building energy use.  New York State has a long history of support for energy efficiency.  I have long argued that the fatal flaw of the CLCPA is that it presumes that the targets are achievable despite the lack of a feasibility study to determine whether achieving the targets would adversely affect affordability and reliability.  In that context the question is where does the state stand vis-à-vis the energy efficiency needed for all-electric heating systems.  While converting to heat pumps is an overall energy use improvement, direct combustion on-site is more efficient actually warming homes because it provides hotter air.  The only way to be comfortable using heat pumps is to have an extremely well insulated building.

Also included in this initiative is another buried cost.  In particular, there are energy use disclosure requirements:

  • Starting in 2025-Require owners of all residential and commercial buildings to obtain and publicly disclose, as part of sale or lease listing of a building, housing unit, or commercial space, the prior-year energy consumption of the building, unit, or space (e.g., at least 12 consecutive months of energy bill data).
  • Starting in 2027–Require owners of single-family buildings to obtain and disclose an energy performance rating (e.g., a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) index) as part of sale listing.

The cost of these requirements will be borne by the owners.

The third mitigation strategy initiative is entitled “Gas System Transition”.  I believe it is included because the advisory panel knows that weaning the public off natural gas will be a challenge because of its advantages.  This difficulty is illustrated in the following slide listing the components required for delivery.  The first component states “Stop utilities advertising fossil gas as “clean,” “natural,” “climate friendly,” or in similar terms”.  The problem with not calling it natural gas of course is that it is called natural gas because it is a naturally occurring gas.  Wherever a geologic formation that contains natural gas is exposed to the air, natural gas can be released to the atmosphere.  For example, western New York’s Eternal Flame Falls has a vent that seeps natural gas, and someone, sometime lit it off.  Does this panel propose to change the signage there too?

The panel recommends six enabling strategies as shown in the enabling strategy summary slide below.  All but one are financial actions and two address only financial incentives and low-cost financing.  While the panel apparently realizes that cost is a major issue for this conversion, it is not clear whether they understand that general support for environmental issues evaporates when the personal impacts to costs and individual choices are explained.  This is illustrated by recent events in Great Britain where the implementation process for a similar net-zero target is further advanced than in New York.  When the government threatened to ban gas boilers in existing homes by 2035 and to fine homeowners if they met that deadline, the blowback was immediate.  Within hours the government backtracked and said there wouldn’t be any fines.  It will be interesting to see what happens now that the curtain has been pulled aside and the public starts to see all the costs to meet net-zero targets. 

Conclusion

The presentation slides suggest the difficulties facing this sector’s reduction targets:

  • Eliminating GHG emissions from New York buildings by 2050 requires broad, systemic changes.
  • Behavior and practice change lead to decarbonization
  • Equitable transformation at this scale requires new resources.
  • Private capital investment focused on highly efficient buildings
  • Public incentives for early adoption
  • Public investments in building efficiency and electrification in low and middle income homes, affordable and public housing, and disadvantaged communities
  • Transformation at this scale and advancement of equity will require mobilizing private capital and a significant increase in public resources.
  • The CAC should conduct an economy-wide analysis to identify resources and funding mechanisms to address the Scoping Plan, holistically.
  • Advocate for Federal resources and policy support in the scoping plan.
  • Continue PSC attention to rate design and retail rates for electricity and gas.
  • Resilience is of critical importance. Amend State codes to enhance building-level resilience and grid reliability/resilience.
  • Support recommendations of the Adaptation and Resilience group.
  • Broad adoption of insulation/weatherization and energy efficiency in homes; increased funding for weatherization and energy efficiency in LMI homes; energy disclosures can inform future policy.

These are all aspirational gambits that on one hand are necessary but on the other hand are no means assured.  The comment stating resilience is of critical importance is a hollow gesture.  Fossil fuels provide more resilience in general and in the event of extreme weather such as an ice storm reliance on electric heat and renewable energy will have fatal consequences.  Importantly, the public gets that and I doubt will not willingly give up the capabilities of natural gas and fuel oil for heating.

One notable aspect of these recommendations is the inclusion of specific components that favor the interests of individual members of the advisory panel.  This is a common problem for all the advisory panels caused by the membership selection process.  For example, the gas system transition includes the following component: “Level the playing field for adoption of clean heating solutions by eliminating the “100-foot rule” which can bias customer decision-making around heating choices. (The 100-foot rule covers most or all of the cost of new gas connections for residential customers and significant costs for new non-residential firm gas customers).”  Given that all the clean heating solutions are directly subsidized and that when everything is electrified the distribution systems will likely have to be upgraded which represents an indirect subsidy, the “level the playing field” argument can only come from a vested interest blinded to the contradictions.

These panel recommendations and the facts that this sector has the highest emissions and the does not meet the projected targets is a problem for the CLCPA.  When I describe the limits on personal choices for energy use and added costs most people don’t accept that this could be possible.  I believe that public backlash will be similar to what has been observed in Great Britain when the implications and costs become readily known.  If the public response forces reconsideration of the enabling initiatives, then it will weaken the potential emission reduction strategies making achievement of the CLCPA targets that much more difficult.

Re-building Interstate I-81 in Syracuse, NY

The US edition of the Guardian has picked up on the issue of the re-building of Interstate 81 through the city of Syracuse in an article entitled The NY Highway That Racism Built.  According to the article it was built through a historically black neighborhood because of racism.  I only want to post this article because the reality is that the location of the highway was dictated by geography.

Background

Briefly, New York State wants to replace the highway through Syracuse because it is needs to be replaced.  According to the Department of Transportation website:

Interstate 81 (I-81) is important to the Syracuse area. The highway serves as a major commuter route, providing access to jobs, businesses and services in downtown Syracuse and the hospitals and institutions on University Hill. It also serves as a national and international north-south trade route from Tennessee to the Canadian border. This connectivity is essential and influences the livability, economic vitality, and sustainability of the Syracuse metropolitan region.

Portions of I-81, which was built in the 1950s and 1960s, are deteriorating and nearing the end of their useful life. Also, sections of I-81 do not meet current standards and are experiencing high accident rates. This is especially true of the 1.4-mile elevated section, or “viaduct,” near downtown Syracuse. Now is the time to address I-81’s safety concerns and the structural integrity of the viaduct. In order to do this, the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) are following an environmental review process. The purpose of the I-81Viaduct Project is to address the structural deficiencies and non-standard highway features in the I-81 corridor while creating an improved corridor through the City of Syracuse that meets transportation needs and provides the transportation infrastructure to support long-range planning efforts (such as SMTC LRTP, Syracuse Comprehensive Plan, and others).

Discussion

According to the article:

In the 1960s, I-81 plowed through a historically Black neighborhood in Syracuse, displacing hundreds. Organizers’ dream of seeing it torn down may get new life under Biden.

Just south of downtown Syracuse in upstate New York, a stretch of highway has long divided surrounding neighborhoods.

On the east side are large buildings where university students live, well-maintained green spaces, and a wall that blocks the highway from view. On the west side is a predominantly low-income and disinvested Black neighborhood where the pollution from the highway exacerbates many residents’ existing health conditions

I believe that once the decision was made to bring the highway through the city that the location was destined to go through the neighborhood in question simply because of geographical constraints.  There is an overview map of the Syracuse region in the introduction to the draft environmental impact statement.  Not shown on the map are railroads that parallel most of the route of the interstate through Syracuse.

The Central Study Area map from the draft environmental impact statement shows the north-south route of I-81 through the city.  The viaduct that is the cause of so much concern runs between Downtown and Near Eastside south of I-690 which runs east to west.  Note that further south the viaduct separates Southside and University Hill.

There is a picture in the article credited to the Onondaga Historical Society that shows the highway being constructed that shows the hills to the south of the city that are a major reason for the location of the highway. 

This picture provides the rationale for my argument that the location of the highway was due to geography.  The picture looks south with University Hill, the location of Syracuse University, to the east and downtown Syracuse on the valley floor to the west.  Check the overview map and you can see that to the north there is a lake that precludes building the highway to the west of downtown Syracuse.  The most direct transportation corridor from the north into the downtown originally followed a canal which was followed by a railroad.  The highway route replaced them both.  Not shown in the picture is a railroad that cuts under the interstate at the end of the viaduct headed south along the hill on the left.  The most direct route to the city from the south followed this transportation corridor into the city. In order to connect the two transportation corridors, the most direct route was through the predominately black neighborhood. 

Conclusion

I don’t believe that the argument that the highway location was chosen specifically to target a black neighborhood stands up to the geography rationale.  This does not detract in any way the very real environmental and health impacts of the residents near the highway.  I have not doubt that in today’s political climate that the viaduct through this section of the city will be torn down and replaced by a community grid.  The arguments for and against replacement of the viaduct versus the politically correct community grid option boil down to value judgements. 

Ultimately the only thing I am sure that will not happen is that the community grid will ignite a renaissance of the city’s fortunes and revitalization of all the neighborhoods near the highway.   There are too many other factors at play to believe that the simply changing the highway will solve the problems that advocates for the community grid option claim are due to the highway.

Updated Comments on Pennsylvania Participation in RGGI

Because I have a long-standing interest in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), I checked out a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) webinar held on August 6, 2020.  I prepared a post describing my impression of the presentation against the reality of my experience with RGGI that caught the attention of Daryl Metcalfe, the Chair of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Environmental Resources & Energy Committee who asked me to provide testimony at the August 25, 2020 committee meeting regarding RGGI as described here.  Sadly, the plan to join RGGI is still alive.  This post looks at a couple of the most recent claims made by DEP for projected emission reductions. Thanks to a friend for alerting me to the inconsistencies.

I have been involved in the RGGI program process since it was first proposed prior to 2008.  I blog about the details of the RGGI program because very few seem to want to provide any criticisms of the program. I have extensive experience with air pollution control theory and implementation having worked on every cap and trade program affecting electric generating facilities in New York including the Acid Rain Program, Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and several Nitrogen Oxide programs.  Note that my experience is exclusively on the industry side and the difference in perspective between affected sources trying to comply with the rules and economists opining about what they should be doing have important ramifications. 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.

Discussion

The DEP website  describing RGGI states: “By participating in RGGI Pennsylvania will reduce climate pollution from carbon emissions by a massive 188 million tons by 2030.”  At the same webpage, DEP further states “Air pollution Reductions: Carbon pollutions – 188,000,000 tons, Nitrogen Oxide pollution – 112,000 tons and Sulfur Dioxide pollution – 67,000”.  This post will compare the CO2 projections to other estimates.

The Pennsylvania Citizens Advisory Council reviews all environmental regulations and makes recommendations.  At the May 19, 2021 the Council addressed the proposed regulation implementing RGGI.  Slide 10 (shown below) of the presentation reports the proposed cap levels for Pennsylvania’s participation in RGGI. The RGGI annual reductions summed from 2022 to 2030 total 19,914,960 tons.  The “massive” 188 million ton reduction is over a different time period including at least 2021 but clearly the RGGI rule is not the primary driver of expected emission reductions. Another way to look at the RGGI reductions is to compare total CO2 emissions baseline for the period 2022-2030 if emissions stayed at the 2020 emissions rate throughout the period (779 million tons) to the total RGGI budget over that period (690 million tons).  In that scenario RGGI will reduce emission by 88 million tons which is just 47% of the reduction claimed by DEP on their website.

The meeting materials for the Citizens Advisory Council also included modeling results which should be the basis for the DEP claims.  They used ICF’s Integrated Planning Model® (IPM) to simulate the power generation system.  The modeling used the “most recent laws, policy changes, inputs & assumptions”.  Note that this model only projects impacts for the power sector and wholesale electric costs, it does not include costs for the economy as a whole.  The model is run for two cases: a reference case (without the RGGI regulation) and a policy case (with the RGGI regulation) from 2021 going out to 2030.  (I believe that 2021 is the starting point for the summary totals listed in the spreadsheets.)

The IPM results can be used to determine the effect of RGGI on emissions.  The Pennsylvania CO2 emissions baseline for the period 2021-2030 using the the IPM Reference Case is 679 million tons.  The most recent ICF Policy Case modelling results report Pennsylvania CO2 emissions for the period 2021-2030 to be 582 million tons which yields a planned reduction due to RGGI participation of 97 million tons or an overall reduction of 14.3% which is just over half of the 188 million ton reduction claimed by DEP.  Even considering the total RGGI reductions within all the RGGI states, the results of the two ICF Models are only estimated to reduce CO2 emissions by 75 million tons (4.6%) in the 12 RGGI States.  In fact, IPM projects that CO2 emissions will increase in the other states by 22 million tons when Pennsylvania joins RGGI.  The ICF Case results do not report estimated emissions for either Nitrogen Oxides or Sulfur Dioxide so I could not check those claims.

The slide presentation presents six 2021 modeling results key takeaways that are listed below with my comments in italics:

1: Confirmed Starting Allowance Budget: Original allowance budget confirmed at 78 million tons of CO2.  The final RGGI agreement for participation established the budget shown in slide 10 above.

2: Significant Avoided Emissions through RGGI participation: All modeling shows that PA would experience significant CO2 reductions as a RGGI participating state.  The total RGGI budget from 2021 to 2030 is reduction is 690 million tons (assume 2020 emissions for 2021 budget) and the IPM reference case for that period totals 679 million tons which means that the RGGI rule itself will only reduce CO2 emissions 11 million tons when 2021 emissions are included.

3: Sharp Decline in Coal Generation by 2025: Overall PA coal generation decreases significantly with or without RGGI participation.  In other words, RGGI has little to do with all the CO2 emission reductions associated with changes in coal generation.  The IPM modeling results for fuel consumption shows that by 2030 RGGI has no projected effect on coal generation.  The results shown also suggest that the projections should be used cautiously because it shows an idiosyncrasy of IPM.  Note that in 2020 the projected emissions are different in Pennsylvania even though the regulation does not take effect until 2022.  I am pretty sure that is because IPM has perfect foresight and presumes that the affected power plants will act in their best interests knowing exactly what will happen in the future.  That modeling assumption is wrong on so many levels that I could do a post just addressing the implications of that.

4: Limited Impact on Natural Gas Generation: Minor overall impact on natural gas generation with RGGI participation.  The IPM modeling results for fuel consumption predicts that natural gas usage is projected to be smaller from 2022 to 2030 when Pennsylvania adopts RGGI.  That runs counter to what I would expect.  The only thing I can think of is that IPM thinks the added RGGI carbon tax will make Pennsylvania natural gas generation more expensive than power generated outside the state so imports will increase but that is a wild guess.  The modeling does project lower regional energy use so that probably is the main reason.

5: PA Remains a Leading Energy Exporter: Updated modeling showing a smaller impact on exports due to RGGI participation.  No comment.

6: Similar Minimal Impact on Electricity Prices Compared to Past Modeling: PA’s wholesale power prices are projected to be slightly higher in the policy case, as seen with the 2020 modeling. This does not account for future program investments, which can reduce prices.  RGGI is a tax.  The auction for allocations will generate money that can be used for “program investments” which proponents claim will reduce prices.  If the past results from RGGI states is any guide, the benefits claims will be biased to ensure that there are cost savings.  RGGI is supposed to be a GHG emission reduction program to save society from all the purported effects of the existential threat of climate change.  In order to “prove” cost effectiveness, advocates use the social cost of carbon metric.  Note however, that New York’s record of investments relative to the metric has been dismal.  I have shown that the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority RGGI Status Report does not include a single program using auction proceeds that reduces carbon dioxide more cost efficiently than today’s social cost of carbon.  In other words their programs are not cost-effective.

Conclusion

US Alternative Energy

The DEP website claims for RGGI emission reductions, health benefits, or economic benefits are not supported by the reported ICF model results.  For one thing IPM modeling does not estimate health benefits and economic benefits and even though the model can estimate SO2 or NOx emissions no data was provided. While many questions cannot be answered by the very limited modeling results released by DEP, it is clear that their claims for CO2 emission reduction benefits are not supported by the results that are available to the public.

In addition, the modeling results indicate that most of the projected CO2 reductions will occur even if RGGI is not implemented.  It is not clear if it is in the best interests of the state to impose a new tax and bureaucratic program with such poorly defined benefits.

Land Use & Local Government Advisory Panel Enabling Strategies Submitted to Climate Action Council

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.  According to a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) bulletin dated May 10, 2021, the Advisory Panels to the Climate Action Council have all submitted recommendations for consideration in the Scoping Plan to achieve greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions economy-wide.   My posts describing and commenting on the strategies are all available here. This post addresses the Land Use & Local Government Advisory Panel enabling strategy recommendations.

I have written extensively on implementation of the CLCPA closely because I believe the solutions proposed will adversely affect reliability and affordability, will have worse impacts on the environment than the purported effects of climate change, and cannot measurably affect global warming when implemented.   I briefly summarized the schedule and implementation CLCPA Summary Implementation Requirements.  I have described the law in general, evaluated its feasibility, estimated costs, described supporting regulationssummarized some of the meetings and complained that its advocates constantly confuse weather and climate in other articles.  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.

Land Use & Local Government Emissions

This panel did not propose any strategies to reduce emissions. 

Land Use & Local Government Strategies

According to the meeting slide presentation, this panel’s recommendations encompassed the following themes:

  • Promote efficient land use and smart growth that reduces vehicles mile traveled
  • Maximize natural carbon sequestration potential
  • Facilitating responsible siting and adoption of clean energy sources
  • Provide local governments the tools and resources to lead on climate
  • Commit to environmental justice, disadvantaged communities, and a just transition

After discussing each theme, the advisory panel presentation listed the following key strategies:

  • Expand availability of hands-on support and training for municipalities across a range of climate actions with a focus on increased support to small, resource-constrained, and underserved communities.
  • Develop a centralized portal that offers resources and information to assist communities in navigating, accessing and integrating state programs relative to sustainable community development and clean energy development.
  • Explore options to simplify local government enforcement of evolving building codes such as a statewide permitting system, a tool kit with templates and guidance to assist local building departments, support for implementation of shared services agreements, and third party inspections for the energy code.
  • Establish statewide policies that require consistent advancement on building decarbonization by adopting a highly efficient State Energy Code aligned with CLCPA goals as soon as possible, establishing energy benchmarking and performance standards for buildings, and creating innovative public benefit financing mechanisms.

More detail is available in the recommendations and you can listen to the presentation.   Note, however, that the recommendations are not the same as the key strategies and themes.  I will concentrate my comments on the presentation.

The efforts to reduce vehicle miles traveled overlap with the planning strategies from the Transportation Advisory Panel.  Guiding “future growth, redevelopment, and conservation at the multi-municipal scale through regional planning” sounds innocuous but when the planners recommend that all development occur where they want rather than where the public wants it to go, I suspect there will be friction.  I discussed transit-oriented development in my comments on the transportation panel concluding that while it might work outside of New York City elsewhere the development patterns preclude it from working.  In order to make these projects work they want to “empower local governments” by providing support and “align state funding priorities to prioritize smart growth”.  The smart growth illustrated was a “once-contaminated industrial site now being re-purposed to revitalize the Oswego waterfront with housing, retail and commercial space” (Climate Action Council Meeting Presentation May 10,2021).

This is supposed to illustrate a strategy to reduce vehicle miles traveled, but like so many of the enabling strategies it does not work out all the time.  Oswego is a beautiful location for much of the year and the picture shows one of those days.  Unfortunately, that is not true all year round and the following picture from one of my more memorable commutes to Oswego shows they can get clobbered by snow.   During those periods the idea that people would walk or bike to get groceries or go to work is absurd.  Bottom line you still need to have a car but in the best case you just use it less. 

Another theme was to maximize natural carbon sequestration potential.  They only discussed wetland sequestration and “blue carbon” which is carbon captured by ocean and coastal ecosystems.  The agriculture and forestry advisory panel had strategies for carbon sequestration in agricultural soils and forests.  This panel appears to me to cop out.  Wetlands and ocean and coastal ecosystems are already regulated so it is not clear how much additional planning is needed.  On the other hand, there is a looming issue vis-à-vis the space needed for all the solar panels and wind turbines.  Why land use and local government did not address this trade-off is not immediately obvious.

The next theme is facilitating responsible siting and adoption of clean energy sources.  Excuse my cynicism, but this theme appears to be the reason that the aforementioned tradeoff is not addressed in any meaningful way.  My impression of this theme is that it is not especially concerned with local concerns about renewable developments but more getting all the facilities built.  The strategy for guiding future growth states:

Develop criteria and incentives for regional entities and counties to identify priority development areas (including areas appropriate for clean energy siting) and priority conservation areas in consultation with local jurisdictions and communities. Priority Development Areas may include Brownfield Opportunity Areas, downtowns, central businesses districts, municipal centers, hamlets, former industrial districts, infill projects in developed areas, obsolete fossil fuel-based power plants, re-development/adaptive re-use of existing buildings, TOD/Equitable TOD, disadvantaged communities (as defined by the Climate Justice Working Group), dead/dying malls and vacant property clusters designated by land banks, among others. Priority Conservation Areas may include wetlands, riparian areas, forests, agricultural lands and other natural areas and working lands that preserve and restore vital habitats, landscape connectivity, biodiversity, natural water movement, local food security and passive recreation, among others.

This description seems oblivious to the fact that clean energy siting requires much more land than available at any of the priority development areas simply because wind and solar energy are diffuse and require large areas to collect it.  Throw in the incompatibility of wind turbines in developed areas and the result is there will be a conflict between the renewable energy development and the priority conservation areas.  This theme and the Guide Future Growth enabling strategy appear to willfully ignore this issue.

The two last themes are throwaways.  Not surprisingly they think local governments need the tools and resources to lead on climate.  One of the recommendations is for a dashboard “of community greenhouse gas emissions inventories to promote local climate action planning, monitor equity considerations, measure progress, and ensure data consistency at the county/municipality level”.  Years of trying to make numbers simple enough for a dashboard has made me complete distrust the value of such a system – it’s pretty but what is it for?  Finally, they propose to “Commit to environmental justice, disadvantaged communities, and a just transition”.

Conclusion

This panel is a specific requirement of the CLCPA but why?  Land use and local government policies don’t directly affect emissions.  On the other hand, those policies do affect implementation of the enabling strategies envisioned by the authors of the CLCPA.  I suspect that it was included to address the difficulties of permitting power generation facilities and all the other land use strategies necessary to meet the CLCPA targets of a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2030 and an 85% reduction by 2050.

There is a major inconsistency in the enabling strategies vis-à-vis the agriculture and forestry enabling strategy to minizine the loss of farmlands and forests with their carbon sequestration potential versus the land needed to collect diffuse solar and wind energy necessary to meet the CLCPA targets.  Clearly, the land use and local government advisory panel should have addressed this as a priority.  It is a major flaw that it is mentioned only in passing. 

The other shortcoming and one that is consistent across all the enabling strategies is the recommendation for initiatives that work most of the time.  If you stop and think about it many personal choices incorporate some rare need such as people who buy pickups for the occasional big load.  For this panel the mixed-use development approach to reducing vehicle miles traveled was recommended.  However, there are very few locations where such a development is going to preclude the need for a car.  Residents may be using their cars less but the necessity of having a car minimizes the value of this strategy.

Transportation Advisory Panel Enabling Strategies Submitted to Climate Action Council

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.  According to a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) bulletin dated May 10, 2021, the Advisory Panels to the Climate Action Council have all submitted recommendations for consideration in the Scoping Plan to achieve greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions economy-wide.   My posts describing and commenting on the strategies are all available here. This post addresses the Transportation Advisory Panel enabling strategy recommendations.

I have written extensively on implementation of the CLCPA closely because I believe the solutions proposed will adversely affect reliability and affordability, will have worse impacts on the environment than the purported effects of climate change, and cannot measurably affect global warming when implemented.   I briefly summarized the schedule and implementation CLCPA Summary Implementation Requirements.  I have described the law in general, evaluated its feasibility, estimated costs, described supporting regulationssummarized some of the meetings and complained that its advocates constantly confuse weather and climate in other articles.  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.

Transportation Advisory Panel Emissions

Although the presentations all follow the same format the details differ.  One of the more important components of the presentations is the emissions estimates and they all include a graphic showing historical emissions in 1990, “preliminary draft” emissions for 2018, and their projections for 2030 and 2050.  The 1990 emissions were defined in the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Part 496 regulations but the sectors used in that regulation are not comparable to this advisory panel’s sector.  In the following graph 1990 emissions are 100 million metric tons (MMt) of carbon dioxide equivalent[1] (CO2e) and 2018 preliminary draft emissions are 107 MMt.  Note that as other sectors decrease their emissions the relative percentage of transportation sector emissions to the total increases.


[1] The amount of carbon dioxide by mass that would produce the same global warming impact as the given mass of another greenhouse gas over a specific time frame, as determined by the IPCC, and as provided in Section 496.5 of this Part.

There are two emission reduction targets in the CLCPA: 40% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030 and 85% reduction in GHG Emissions by 2050.   The projected total reductions emission reduction goals for this advisory panel are a 16% reduction from 1990 by 2030 and a reduction of 77% by 2050. 

Transportation Advisory Panel Strategies

The meeting minutes will not be available until the June Climate Action Panel meeting.  According to the presentation, the advisory panel proposed the following enabling strategies:

  • Transition of vehicles/fleets to electric/zero-emission technologies.
  • Enhancing the availability, accessibility, reliability and affordability of public transportation.
  • Aligning and integrating transportation investments into land use/development to mitigate carbon emissions.
  • Implementing market-based strategies to impact travel decisions and finance investments in clean transportation.

The recommendations are available in a slide presentation.  I am not going to critique these strategies individually because it would take far too long.  Instead, I will comment on a few things with an emphasis on inconsistencies and implementation issues. 

The Transition to 100% zero-emission light duty vehicle sales enabling strategy exemplifies what I think is a major disconnect between the transportation planners and the public.  I have attended stakeholder meetings for the Transportation Climate Initiative and listened to the true believers explain that there are so many advantages to electric vehicles that if only the public understood everyone would buy into the technology.  However, even this strategy recognizes that “Lack of consumer awareness/interest and consumer concerns about technology & charging/fueling” are barriers to success.  The ultimate problem with all of the clean energy technologies is that they all only work most of the time.  Most of the time a light-duty electric vehicle might work well for me but several times a year I want to haul a big load in my mini-van several hundred miles and range anxiety is a very real concern.  My wife’s car is a regular sedan and again most of the time an electric vehicle would work.  However, several times a year we drive down to see my son’s family in Brooklyn.  The joke is that is takes four hours to get to the George Washington Bridge, another hour to get to Brooklyn and then an hour to park.  I do not foresee any time in the future when that trip will be a realistic option with an electric vehicle.  I am sure my personal reservations are similar to most people.

Another reservation mentioned in enabling solution is the “Potentially high cost of supporting charging and fueling infrastructure and Zero Emission Vehicle incentives”.  Under cost and funding considerations the strategy notes that “Nearly $1 billion in ratepayer and NYPA funding is already committed for EV charging station installations”.  I believe that this $1 billion charge to the ratepayer will be buried in bills so there is no direct accountability to this initiative.  While I do see electric charging stations around town, I don’t see a lot of them so this funding is no where near what is necessary to provide charging support in public spaces.  Moreover, what about the need to charge at home?  While the cost for a simple charger is not that great, a faster charger, which I understand is needed to completely charge a depleted battery, is much more expensive. 

The final reservation mentioned is that “Unmanaged charging could have significant costs for electric grid operators/ratepayers”.   I live in a development that is on the order of 60 years old.  It is very rare that there is a house with only one car and there are many homes with adult children living at home that have more.  The personal charging infrastructure is going to be a challenge and that much additional load, and don’t forget they want to electrify home heating too, is probably going to require upgrades to the local distribution system.    Again, it may work most of the time but when homeowners really need heat are they going to be able to charge their cars too.  Finally, the challenge for charging in a housing subdivision is small relative to charging at apartment buildings and other public spaces and that challenge is small relative to providing chargers for people who have to park on the street in cities.

Ronald Stein recently described California warning signs that agree with some of  my anecdotes about electric vehicles and highlight other issues:

One of the key components of these plans is anticipated benefits and impacts to disadvantaged communities.  For this mitigation strategy the strategy states:

Enhanced incentives for residents of disadvantaged communities are essential for faster ZEV adoption in disadvantaged communities. Incentives that support used ZEV purchases and EV charging at multifamily buildings can be especially effective at increasing ZEV adoption among underserved populations. Local ownership of EV charging stations and workforce development can support economic opportunities in disadvantaged communities.

I think this is another major disconnect between the members of the advisory panel and reality.  Many people in disadvantaged communities cannot afford a new vehicle whatever the incentive.  Another electric vehicle concern is the market for used cars relative to battery life.  The common perception is that replacing the batteries is a major cost not necessary in a conventional used car.  It is not clear how the CLCPA can subsidize new vehicle purchases, used vehicle purchases, and public EV charging support in disadvantaged communities and keep the option of personal mobility available.

There is another enabling mitigation strategy: “Transition to zero emission medium/heavy duty vehicles and non-road vehicles”.  The summary claims that the ease of implementation and cost is similar for this sector has the same emissions impact, ease of implementation, and cost as for light-duty vehicles.  I disagree with all three comparisons.  Diesel vehicle emissions are a primary cause of inhalable particulates in urban areas so eliminating those emissions has more value than a comparison only to GHG emissions which could be the same for light-duty vehicles and this sector.  Similar ease of implementation is absurd.  There are electric cars that are at least arguably competitive to regular cars.  There isn’t any similar level of technological availability for heavy duty trucks and given the limits of battery technology it is a very heavy lift to assume that a zero-emission technology will ever enable the same use of trucks as today.  If you don’t have the technology, how can you possibly project costs?  Furthermore, charging a fleet of medium or heavy-duty trucks is going to require a lot of energy at freight terminals and service centers so upgrades to the distribution system, likely including new substations, will be required at a significant cost.

From a personal standpoint the transportation initiative does not mention recreational vehicles.  Since my retirement I have traveled over 60,000 miles, visited 40 states and been on the road about 20% of the time with a motor coach.  I don’t see how that life-style will be possible in the net-zero world.  Anyone who has driven I-95 in the winter has noticed a steady stream of campers headed south.  Based on my experience many travel over 300 miles per day which I expect to be the limit of the electronic technology.  The batteries necessary for that operating range will undoubtedly reduce storage space which will not be popular.  Finally, there are very few campgrounds that have any apparent surplus of electricity.  Upgrading campgrounds is another hidden cost.

Improvements to public transportation are a big component of the enabling strategies: 

Identify implementable strategies to significantly enhance the availability; accessibility; reliability; and affordability of public transportation services with an emphasis on unserved/underserved communities.

A major problem with mass transit in all but the largest cities is that it is inconvenient.  Outside of New York City I believe that using public transit basically doubles travel time.  In the early 1900’s there was an extensive interurban trolley system in Upstate New York that basically met the proposed vision for the future.  In Syracuse you could go to Utica, Rochester, and Oswego on those systems.  They all failed by the 1930’s because even though folks had to drive on dirt roads with little heat in the winter and no cooling in the summer it was more convenient than taking a ride on a trolley.  To dream that people will willingly give up that convenience when many have remote car starters is magical thinking.

The enabling strategy becomes even more detached from reality when they include plans for transit-oriented development which is “the creation of compact, walkable, pedestrian-oriented, mixed-use communities centered around high-quality train systems”.  There may be some locations outside of New York City where this might work because high quality train, or rapid transit buses for that matter, can haul commuters to the city where there is a dense network of transit routes available that can take people to a variety of jobs.  Upstate cities have no similar concentration of transit-friendly jobs in the center cities so how can anyone expect that people would want to live in a community that actively discourages ownership and use of a personal vehicle that does not have easy access to work.

Ultimately, the goal of the public transit strategies is to reduce the need for personal automobiles.  There is a fundamental problem though because population density puts limits on transit system success.  If there aren’t enough people living along the transit service then revenues will be insufficient to make them viable.  In order to address there is a strategy to expand biking, walking, carpooling, ride-sharing, and micro-transit opportunities and another for automated vehicles for smart mobility.   The idea is that if there were a convenient option people would be willing to consider transferring from, for example, an express bus to an automated vehicle for locations too far to walk from the main stop.  Transferring between subway lines in New York City is only viable because of the frequency of service.  Scaling that concept down to upstate cities with less dense ridership is unlikely to succeed. 

Of course, the transit systems will have to be converted to zero-emission fleets too.  According to a friend in the business new diesel buses cost ~$500,00, a new compressed natural gas bus costs ~$550,000, and a new electric bus costs ~$1,000,000.  That does not include the cost of infrastructure which, especially for bus electrification, is a significant transition cost.  Furthermore, the enabling initiative suggests making public transit “more attractive, accessible and user-friendly” but adding options to provide those services can run another $60,000 per bus.

Most of the other advisory panels avoided much detail on funding mechanisms and just suggested that some form of government funding would be necessary.  This panel did address potential mechanisms but did not estimate costs.  The strategy for “financing and market-based policies” includes nine potential policies: facilitating private financing, cap & invest or carbon pricing, clean fuel standards, electrification freebates, curb pricing, congestion/variable/demand parking pricing, mileage-based user fees, tax increment financing/special assessment districts, and registration fees.  Note that this spring the Climate and Community Investment Act was proposed to, in large part, provide a funding mechanism for the CLCPA.  However, when asked about the potential to increase gasoline prices by 55 cents per gallon, the Governor Cuomo said: “You can’t do it that way. I understand the concept, and the concept, it makes sense. But how does it work? What’s the economic impact? You’d have to ask all those questions.”   I look forward to the scoping plan’s assessment of CLCPA costs because I don’t believe there is any way that the costs will be as low as 55 cents per gallon for the transportation enabling strategies.  When combined with all the other advisory panel strategies, costs will be extraordinary.

Conclusion

I have three concerns with the transportation enabling strategies: feasibility, affordability and reliability. 

According to preliminary data, the transportation sector was the second largest source of emissions in 2018.  The projected total emission reduction goals for this advisory panel are a 16% reduction from 1990 by 2030 compared to the CLCPA target of 40% and a reduction of 77% by 2050 compared to the goal of 85%.  I can only conclude that the failure to meet these goals means that the CLCPA targets are not feasible particularly because I suspect that the enabling initiatives over-estimate emission reduction effectiveness.

As noted above the costs were not included in the enabling strategies but considering the scope, they are sure to be large.  On May 24 and 25 2021 a European summit met to discuss their net-zero plans and observers expect that that they had to concede that these plans will be very expensive.  I expect the same affordability issues in New York.

The ultimate problem is that the proposed “solutions” only work most of the time and society expects energy options that work all the time.  One of the initiatives proposes to “Expand the availability of low carbon transportation modes (biking, walking, carpooling, ride-sharing, micro-transit) statewide” which is an example of the personal impacts of “it will work most of the time” thinking.  Biking and walking several months of the year is not only inconvenient but also dangerous whenever roads are covered with snow and ice.  Electric vehicles will work when the power is available but what happens when there is an ice storm blackout?  No heat and no way out are a dangerous combination.

New York Independent System Operator and the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act

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.  The Ney York Independent System Operator (NYISO) is the “organization responsible for managing New York’s electric grid and its competitive wholesale electric marketplace”.  This post addresses the relationship between the CLCPA and NYISO.

I have written extensively on implementation of the CLCPA closely because its implementation affects my future as a New Yorker.  I briefly summarized the schedule and implementation CLCPA Summary Implementation Requirements.  I have described the law in general, described the enabling strategies, evaluated its feasibility, estimated costs, described supporting regulationssummarized some of the meetings and complained that its advocates constantly confuse weather and climate in other articles.  The opinions expressed in this post do not reflect the position of any of my previous employers or any other company I have been associated with, these comments are mine alone.

Background

The NYISO Frequently Asked Questions webpage explains how the organization originated.  After the Northeast Blackout of 1965, New York’s seven investor-owned utility companies established the New York Power Pool (NYPP) to address the reliability problems exposed by the blackout.  The NYPP “balanced electricity supply and demand, maintained transmission voltage, monitored system contingencies, managed operating reserves, and dispatched generation”. In the 1990s New York’s electric system was de-regulated and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) recommended the formation of independent entities to manage energy transmission. “At the same time, the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) established retail electric competition to allow customers to choose their electric supplier. The PSC supported the formation of competitive wholesale markets as the basis of retail choice, and approved restructuring plans by which utilities divested most of their power plants to competitive generation companies.”  In 1999, the NYISO was established to replace the NYPP.

The NYISO manages the electric system.  They have to balance the instantaneous supply of electricity between the generators and customers across the state.  In the de-regulated market electricity is supplied by multiple types of agreements between the suppliers and the NYISO.  Some of the power is contracted by purchase power agreement contracts, some by day-ahead auctions, and the rest by real-time auctions that cover any additional power needed.  They manage the supply of power and maintain the frequency across the state and with their connections to other operating systems.  In addition, the NYISO has to plan for future changes to the system.  At this time the biggest factor for change is the CLCPA. 

There are a few other relevant aspects in the NYISO description:

The NYISO is a not-for-profit, independent company unaffiliated with any state or federal agency or energy company. The NYISO is led by an independent Board of Directors. The NYISO’s federally-approved tariffs contain strict requirements for our Board of Directors and all employees to have no financial relationship with any of the companies that participate in our wholesale energy markets. The NYISO is dedicated to transparency in how we operate, the information we provide, and our role as an impartial system operator, planner, and broker of New York’s wholesale electricity markets.

The NYISO is accountable to both federal and state regulatory bodies and maintains compliance with nearly 1,000 reliability requirements. The NYISO’s independent Board of Directors collaborates with our stakeholders via a robust shared-governance process that facilitates input from interested stakeholders. The establishment of the NYISO created a system of shared governance that provides all market participants — from utility companies to electric generators — a voice in the operation and evolution of the marketplace.

Under the NYISO’s transparent, inclusive process, representatives from market participants have voting power to exercise responsibilities such as preparing the NYISO’s annual budget, reviewing and recommending candidates for Board vacancies, developing and adopting technical guidelines for operation of the bulk power system, and market design and system planning. NYISO stakeholders share responsibility with the NYISO Board to approve proposed changes to the NYISO’s governing documents, including its federally approved tariffs.

The NYISO’s description of their process and the very name suggest that they are independent of New York politics but that is not the case with the current administration.  In the following I will explain why I think that the NYISO is pulling its punches vis-à-vis the feasibility of the CLCPA.

NYISO and the Cuomo Administration

I am not an admirer of Governor Cuomo because my impression is that his administration has always been about his best interests.  Whenever any organization has disagreed with Cuomo’s energy agenda the response has been bluster and threats.  For example, when National Grid’s plan for natural gas supply in New York City contradicted Cuomo’s agenda, he threatened to revoke the operating license for National Grid if they did not comply with his plans.  Another example, is NRG Energy’s Dunkirk power plant which was deemed uneconomic and scheduled for closure.  For some political reason, Cuomo announced an agreement to repower the plant with natural gas.  In a de-regulated market making a grant to one facility to continue operations is sure to upset competitors and a lawsuit was filed.  In addition, certain rules have to be followed that include fee requirements and NRG decided to not pursue re-powering.  Cuomo’s response was to seek a PSC probe of the business decision.

This overt insistence on toeing the administration’s political agenda extends to all the agencies under his thumb.   The Department of Public Service (DPS) and Public Service Commission are supposed to be independent however this is not the case.  In the summer of 2019 a group of retired Department of Public Service employees submitted a letter that stated “Until the current administration, Governors have generally respected the plain language of the Public Service Law (PSL), which … safeguards the mission of the DPS to serve not political interests but the public interest.” The letter signed by fifteen retired department workers states: “Governor Andrew Cuomo, however, has not done so.”

Unfortunately, the NYISO is not immune to the Governor’s tactics. In a filing to the Public Service Commission, the NYISO noted that in order to meet Cuomo’s Clean Energy Standard, a predecessor regulation to the CLCPA, New York would have to install over 1,000 new miles of bulk transmission lines at great cost and effort which exposed one of the short-comings of the Governor’s clean energy agenda.  In response, Cuomo’s energy czar, Richard Kauffman, accused NYISO Director Brad Jones and his NYISO report as “misleading, incomplete, and grossly inaccurate…revealing an alarming lack of developed analysis into the imperative to address climate change…” Kauffman’s letter accused Jones of protecting fossil fuel generators and said that he was “dismayed by [Jones’] public comments.  

In this political climate it is not surprising that rather than standing up to the bully, the “independent” NYISO caved, Jones left, and was replaced by Rich Dewey.  Now the NYISO reports carefully word every document so as to not invoke the wrath of Cuomo’s bullies. 

NYISO Raison D’être

There is another aspect of the NYISO’s operations that colors their responses.  It is not surprising that the NYISO completely endorses the idea that wholesale electricity markets have the ability to solve any problems because that is the reason for their existence.  Unfortunately, I think some of their faith in market mechanisms is unwarranted.

I am not an expert on market design but I fear we are heading towards an energy crisis.  In a regulated market the Public Service Commission (PSC) tells the vertically integrated electric utilities to meet a specific mandate, the utilities develop a response, the PSC oversees their responses relative to reliability and affordability, and the necessary infrastructure gets built.  In New York’s de-regulated market, planners at the NYISO and various state agencies do the planning and then the NYISO and PSC develop “innovative market rules necessary to meet the objectives of the CLCPA” that they hope will engender market participants to build the necessary infrastructure. 

There are tremendous technological challenges converting from the current electric system to one dependent upon renewable energy sources and I am convinced that the only way unexpected kinks will be worked out is by trial and error.  The Texas electricity market design did not work well in February and I have no reason to expect that some new wrinkle introduced by relying on intermittent and diffuse renewable energy will only be resolved after the problem occurs. Robert Bradley recently explanation of what happened during the big freeze relative to the Texas electricity market and the difference between managed markets like New York’s wholesale electricity market and a “free market” supports my concern.

In addition, the problem may occur because the NYISO identifies a problem that the politicians who are running New York energy policy decide to ignore.  Of course, when it occurs the blame will be place on the NYISO.  In this regard Donn Dears book “The Looming Energy Crisis” provides a detailed description of potential problems that are a challenge to overcome and might require imposition of politically unpopular policies.  In the current political environment these issues are more likely than not.

Finally, I want to give an example where the market did not produce the obvious environmental solution.  New York State energy and environmental policy is more about optics than facts.  Nowhere is this more apparent than the recent spate of opinion pieces, reports, and even policy proposals related to peaking power plants.  In brief there are old simple cycle turbines in New York City that were built to provide reliable power during peak load periods.  However, there are old, inefficient and much dirtier than today’s technology.  In my opinion the continued operation of the old simple cycle turbines in New York City is the result of New York’s de-regulated market place.  I am absolutely sure that in a regulated environment the responsible utility would have made a case to the Department of Public Service that replacement with cleaner, more efficient generation was needed, the Department would have agreed,  and, after it was approved, the utility would have been guaranteed a reasonable return on their investment so the turbines would have been replaced.  However, in the de-regulated market there wasn’t a strong enough financial incentive to replace the old units.  Before I retired in 2010, I worked on two separate permit applications for new, efficient, and cleaner replacement power for one set of the old combustion turbines.  In both instances the permits were approved but the replacements were never built, apparently because the company decided that the business case was not strong enough to warrant the investment.  The fact is that sometimes the market signals are too weak to provide the desired result.

Conclusion

The point of this post is to document the importance of the NYISO but to also point out that their policies and recommendations are necessarily colored by their belief that markets are a viable solution to the challenges of the CLCPA energy transition and by the political climate of New York.  The NYISO has done a good job analyzing the challenges of the energy transition.  Unfortunately, many members of the CLCPA advisory panels and the Climate Action Council don’t understand, don’t want to understand, or choose to ignore the warnings in those analyses.  In my opinion, there are enough technical challenges in the transition that maintaining reliability will be a problem but the added challenge of designing some market mechanism to get the market to provide the resources necessary all but assures that reliability will become an issue. 

Finally, I sympathize with the NYISO position.  All their work not only has to fully explain the problems they identify but the wording has to pass a political optics text.  This means that all their reports have to toe the existential threat of climate change narrative without any suggestion that the potential risks to reliability, affordability, and environmental impacts of the proposed solutions far out-weigh the alleged impacts of climate change.  It is similar to the symbiotic relationship between the Egyptian plover and crocodile.  NYISO is performing a service to the state but you never know if the Cuomo crocodile is going to snap.

Energy-Intensive and Trade-Exposed Industries Advisory Panel Enabling Strategies Submitted to Climate Action Council

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.  According to a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) bulletin dated May 10, 2021, the Advisory Panels to the Climate Action Council have all submitted recommendations for consideration in the Scoping Plan to achieve greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions economy-wide.   My posts describing and commenting on the strategies are all available here. This post briefly addresses the Energy-Intensive and Trade-Exposed Industries (EITE) Advisory Panel enabling strategy recommendations more for completeness than anything else.  Emissions are small, choices are few, and there is not much to see here.

I have written extensively on implementation of the CLCPA closely because its implementation affects my future as a New Yorker.  I briefly summarized the schedule and implementation CLCPA Summary Implementation Requirements.  I have described the law in general, evaluated its feasibility, estimated costs, described supporting regulationssummarized some of the meetings and complained that its advocates constantly confuse weather and climate in other articles.  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-Intensive and Trade-Exposed Industries Advisory Panel Emissions

Although the presentations all follow the same format the details differ.  One of the more important components of the presentations is the emissions estimates and they all include a graphic showing historical emissions in 1990, “preliminary draft” emissions for 2018, and their projections for 2030 and 2050. 

The 1990 emissions were defined in the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Part 496 regulations but the sectors used in that regulation are not comparable to this advisory panel’s sector.  In the following graph 1990 emissions are 33 million metric tons (MMt) of carbon dioxide equivalent[1] (CO2e) and 2018 preliminary draft emissions are 16 MMt.  Note the breakdown of the emissions by process, imported fossil fuels, and fuel combustions with the explanation at the bottom of the graph.  The inclusion of imported fossil fuels makes comparison of these data with other emissions estimates impossible. 

The projections for 2030 and 2050 show reductions that exceed the CLCPA targets.  In 2030 the projected emissions are 55% less than 1990 as opposed to a target of 40% and the 2050 emissions are 91% compared to the target of 85%.  In a previous post I noted that industrial energy use was 47% reduced and that reflected the loss of New York industry rather than any improvement in GHG emissions efficiency in operations. 


[1] The amount of carbon dioxide by mass that would produce the same global warming impact as the given mass of another greenhouse gas over a specific time frame, as determined by the IPCC, and as provided in Section 496.5 of this Part.

EITE Strategies

According to the meeting minutes, the advisory panel proposed the following enabling strategies:

  • Industrial sectors within the Advisory Panel scope total a small share (less than 4%) of the State emissions;
  • The “heterogeneous” nature of industry may result in a higher cost per ton of emissions reduced;
  • Energy-Intensive and Trade-Exposed industries are likely to represent a high share of industrial sector emissions. These industries are highly sensitive to increased energy costs, that often cannot be passed along, which could cause them to leave the State, resulting in leakage;
  • Emissions will decline with decarbonization of the Power Generation sector; near-term opportunities will likely focus on energy efficiency, while most deep carbonization opportunities will occur further into the future as new technologies become more viable.

A brief translation of these strategies.  This is a small and declining sector.  The “heterogeneous” nature of industry refers to the fact that there are many different sources so economy of scale is not going to reduce costs.  Clearly the unilateral transition off fossil fuels will increase relative energy costs and industries will have to leave to survive.  The final bullet basically says this sector needs a magical solution to produce emission reductions and remain viable within the state.

The recommendations are available in a slide presentation.  I am not going to critique these strategies individually there is so little to address.

The summary slide describing the strategies states:

Mitigation strategies: Directly reduce emissions and contribute to the achievement of the GHG emission limits or carbon sequestration needed to achieve net zero, where applicable:

1.Provide financial incentives and technical assistance for the decarbonization of EITE sectors

2.Create procurement incentives for business to capitalize on low-carbon economic opportunities

Enabling initiatives: No direct emissions benefit, but enable or magnify the mitigation strategies, enhance climate justice, or just transition. (Examples: outreach, education, and awareness; capacity building; workforce development; and research and development.)

3.Identify and support technological innovation to enable deep industrial decarbonization

4.Workforce development training to support Energy-Intensive and Trade Exposed (EITE) industries

5.Increase the available data on industrial GHG emissions to help prioritize efforts and monitor progress

6.Provide economic incentives to grow the green economy

In brief, the mitigation strategies consist of subsidies to provide GHG reductions and incentives, aka further subsidies, for companies to join the grifters already lined up to save the world as long as someone else is paying for it.  If there is an existential climate crisis why are there any initiatives with no emission reduction benefits?

Conclusion

This sector is a relatively small actor relative to total New York GHG emissions.  Reductions in the sector have exceeded the CLCPA targets but only because the sector has become much smaller.

It seems pretty obvious that this advisory panel was a political ploy to placate the industrial sector.  Unfortunately, there is not much that can be done to reduce emissions significantly or prevent the remaining industries from fleeing the state out of necessity.

Waste Advisory Panel Enabling Strategies Submitted to Climate Action Council

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.  According to a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) bulletin dated May 10, 2021, the Advisory Panels to the Climate Action Council have all submitted recommendations for consideration in the Scoping Plan to achieve greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions economy-wide.   My posts describing and commenting on the strategies are all available here. This post addresses the Waste Advisory Panel enabling strategy recommendations.

I have written extensively on implementation of the CLCPA closely because its implementation affects my future as a New Yorker.  I briefly summarized the schedule and implementation CLCPA Summary Implementation Requirements.  I have described the law in general, evaluated its feasibility, estimated costs, described supporting regulationssummarized some of the meetings and complained that its advocates constantly confuse weather and climate in other articles.  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.

Waste Emissions

Although the presentations all follow the same format the details differ.  One of the more important components of the presentations is the emissions estimates and they all include a graphic showing historical emissions in 1990, “preliminary draft” emissions for 2018, and their projections for 2030 and 2050.  Most of the presentations added numbers to the slides so that it was not necessary to try to estimate the numbers.  Such is not the case with the Waste panel presentation. 

Moreover, there are problems with the data presented..  The 1990 emissions were defined in the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Part 496 regulations.  According to Part 496 the 1990 Waste greenhouse gas emissions in 1990 by IPCC sector in Global Warming Potential over a twenty-year time frame (GWP20) totaled 52.88 million metric tons (MMt) of carbon dioxide equivalent[1] (CO2e) broken down as 3.03 MMt of CO2, 49.35 MMt of CH4 and 0.5 MMt of N2O. However, in the following graph the total is well above half the range between 50 and 60.  Assuming that the wastewater component is not included in Part 496 brings the numbers close.  The bigger problem is the claim that waste is 25% of the total in 1990 and 16% of the total in 2018.  I guess the waste emissions in 1990 are 57 MMt and I know the 1990 Part 496 total emissions are 409 so that works out to 14%.  I guess the waste emissions in 2018 are 55 MMt and I estimated that the sum of emissions from all the sides in the advisory panel presentations total 377 MMt and that works out to 15% for the waste % of total NY emissions.  It could be a simple typo but in the absence of numbers in the graphic, readers do not know.


There are two emission reduction targets in the CLCPA: 40% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030 and 85% reduction in GHG Emissions by 2050.   The projected total reductions emission reduction goals for the Waste Advisory Panel are a 17.6% reduction from 1990 by 2030 and a reduction of 70.5% by 2050. 

Waste Strategies

According to the meeting minutes, the advisory panel proposed the following enabling strategies:

  • Reducing methane generating wastes from disposal in landfills and combustors;
  • Identifying and reducing fugitive emissions at waste and water resource recovery facilities;
  • Reducing the need for new consumer products;
  • Ensuring proper end-of-life materials management, with a focus on solid waste management hierarchy;
  • Supporting domestic recycling facilities and markets for recovered resources, by emphasizing the highest and best use for recycling end products; and
  • No promotion of new fossil fuel energy infrastructure.

The recommendations are available in a slide presentation.  I am not going to critique these strategies individually because it would take far too long.  Instead, I will comment on a few things with an emphasis on inconsistencies and implementation issues. 

Clearly landfills have to be the target for reductions because it is the largest source.  The plan is to achieve the “aggressive goals of Beyond Waste, the New York State Solid Waste Management Plan (e.g., 90% paper recycling and 65% food waste diversion by 2030)”.  This program was adopted 12/27/10 but beyond mentioning that meeting the goals was necessary there was no further mention of the plan in the presentation or recommendations.  Under the “Ease of implementation” category for Initiative #1: Organic Waste Reduction and Recycling, there is the following description: “Easy; The technologies exist, the challenges are financial (e.g., investment & end markets), behavioral, and logistical (e.g., siting, etc.)”.  During the question-and-answer period of the presentation Anne Reynolds asked about the status of the goals of the over ten year old Beyond Waste Program as a means of assessing how difficult achievement of the recommendations presented today might be and Ms. Rowland noted that “the State is roughly one-third of the way to 90% on the paper recycling and traditional recyclables, with significant work left to do on organics, as only about 2-3% is diverted.”  In my opinion, the financial, behavioral, and logistical challenges defined as “easy” are not.  Note that many of the recommended initiatives require legislative and regulatory action to make these “easy” changes.

There are folks involved with this process that have convinced themselves, contrary to the text of the law, that the zero-emissions mandate refers to all emissions and not just GHG emissions.  I suspect that they are disappointed that the panel projects no reduction projected from existing combustor facilities will be needed to handle municipal solid waste remaining after reduction, reuse, and recycling strategies.

The advisory panel process and the Climate Action Council meetings provide a window into the hopes and dreams of the segment of the population that is driving the concept that the existential crisis of climate change can be solved simply by ending fossil fuel use as quickly as possible.  The “no promotion of new fossil fuel energy infrastructure strategy” is the result of their concerns. Many of the most vocal people in this process are as passionate about this cause as they are clueless about the complexity of the energy systems and tradeoffs of their purported solutions. Renewable natural gas is a very good example of the resulting problem. 

According to EPA:

Renewable natural gas is a term used to describe biogas that has been upgraded for use in place of fossil natural gas. The biogas used to produce RNG comes from a variety of sources, including municipal solid waste landfills, digesters at water resource recovery facilities (wastewater treatment plants), livestock farms, food production facilities and organic waste management operations.

The ultimate problem replacing fossil fuels with renewable wind and solar energy is providing power during periods when both resources are near zero.  In their presentation to the Power Generation Advisory Panel on September 16, 2020 E3 included the following slide that notes that during these periods “firm, zero emission resources, such as bioenergy, synthesized fuels such as hydrogen, hydropower, carbon capture and sequestration, and nuclear generation could provide a number of benefits”.  In my opinion, those benefits include keeping the lights on.

In light of the critical need for these firm, zero-emissions resources and the fact that the methane emissions from municipal solid waste landfills, digesters at water resource recovery facilities, livestock farms, food production facilities and organic waste management operations are a major percentage of the total emissions, it only seems logical to address both problems by developing those resources.  However, there are passionate ideologues that don’t agree.  The meeting minutes note “concern regarding renewable natural gas, suggesting that there is a limited opportunity for it to contribute to Climate Act goals and believes that efforts in this area benefit the source without contributing additional environmental benefits”. Another member “expressed his concerns about how to move ahead with biogas if it is combusted as this would clearly increase net co-pollutants locally, and suggested the Council consider applications for biogas that would not be combusted (such as fuel cell technology at wastewater treatment plants)”.   Nonetheless the panel’s enabling initiatives included biogas recovery and agency staff argued for its use. 

Most of the other strategies proposed identifying leaks and eliminating them.  As part of New York’s irrational war on methane the new leak detection technology that has identified many new sources of methane is considered a rationale for eliminating the use of natural gas instead of an opportunity to make the source of energy that enabled most of the observed GHG reductions since 1990 even better.  Because the residence time of methane is on the order of 12 years eliminating leaks has much value.

There is another aspect to the leak issue related to the cluelessness of some panel members.  One of the other panels has a strategy that includes a public relations campaign to remove the label “natural” from natural gas because they allege that the name was chosen for advertising purposes.  They presume that if the public only understood it was not natural then they would not be so likely to use it.  The problem with that of course is that it is called natural gas because it is a naturally occurring gas.  Wherever a geologic formation that contains natural gas is exposed to the air, natural gas can be released to the atmosphere.  For example, western New York’s Eternal Flame Falls has a vent that seeps natural gas, and someone, sometime lit it off.  It remains to be seen if this natural vent will be sealed off in the name of climate change mitigation but the bigger issue is what to do about all the other sources of naturally-occurring methane.         

Conclusion

There are consistency issues with some of the numbers presented that I could not reconcile.  Using the numbers provided, this sector generates under 15% of the total New York GHG emissions but it is notable that the strategies are only expected to reduce emissions 18% in 2030 as opposed to the target of 40% and only 71% in 2050 as opposed to the target of 85%.  Clearly, this panel recognizes that there are limits to what can be achieved even though the results are disappointing.

Even though the enabling strategies do not meet the CLCPA targets, the results of the 2010 Beyond Waste, the New York State Solid Waste Management Plan suggest that even these strategies may be too optimistic “as only about 2-3%” of food waste is diverted as opposed to the 65% goal.  The concession that no reduction is projected from existing combustor facilities needed to handle municipal solid waste remaining after reduction, reuse, and recycling strategies also suggests these are aspirational strategies.

The ideologues involved in this process hinder rational mitigation approaches.  Collecting and using methane wherever possible not only addresses an emissions problem but also helps address a major concern related to reliability.  It is scary that irrational concerns about using renewable natural gas were not cut off as untenable at the outset.  Another example is not recognizing that natural gas leak detection technology advances are an opportunity to reduce emissions from the resource that has provided most of the recent co-pollutant and CO2 emission reductions rather than a reason to eliminate its use.

[1] The amount of carbon dioxide by mass that would produce the same global warming impact as the given mass of another greenhouse gas over a specific time frame, as determined by the IPCC, and as provided in Section 496.5 of this Part.

Agriculture and Forestry Advisory Panel Enabling Strategies Submitted to Climate Action Council

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.  According to a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) bulletin dated May 10, 2021, the Advisory Panels to the Climate Action Council have all submitted recommendations for consideration in the Scoping Plan to achieve greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions economy-wide.   My posts describing and commenting on the strategies are all available here. This post addresses the Agriculture and Forestry strategy recommendations.

I have written extensively on implementation of the CLCPA closely because its implementation affects my future as a New Yorker.  In this post I will briefly summarize the schedule and implementation components but I provide more details at CLCPA Summary Implementation Requirements.  I have described the law in general, evaluated its feasibility, estimated costs, described supporting regulations,  summarized some of the meetings and complained that its advocates constantly confuse weather and climate.  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.

Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use Emissions

According to Part 496 the 1990 Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU) greenhouse gas emissions in 1990 by IPCC in GWP20 totaled 17.13 million metric tons (MMt) of CO2e broken down as 0.05 MMt of CO2, 13.07 MMt of CH4 and 4.01 MMt of N2O. According to the presentation, in the 2018 preliminary draft emissions inventory there were a total of 24 MMt of CO2e.  In 1990 emissions from this sector were 4.2% of the state total and in 2018 they were 6.4%.

There are two emission reduction targets in the CLCPA: 40% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030 and 85% reduction in GHG Emissions by 2050.   The emission reduction goals for this advisory panel are a 15% reduction from current levels by 2030 and a reduction of 30% which is a return to 1990 levels by 2050.  There is an additional ambition of a 45% reduction by 2050.  Unfortunately, the panel estimates that emissions will be 20 MMt of CO2e in 2030 an increase of 3 MMt over 1990 emissions.  In 2050 two emission estimates are given that range from no change relative to 1990 to a 4 MMt of CO2e reduction in 2050 that is only a 24% decrease.

Note that the 85% reduction by 2050 target includes a goal to go net-zero.  In order to meet that goal this sector is supposed to increase carbon sequestration from the current level of 33 MMt of CO2e to 60 MMt of CO2e.  Included in the sequestration goal is for no net loss of forests from 1990 levels.  The pa

Agriculture and Forestry Strategies

According to the meeting minutes, the advisory panel proposed the following enabling strategies:

  • Agriculture: Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) planning for climate mitigation/adaptation (“carbon farm planning”), benchmarking and monitoring of GHG mitigation, carbon sequestration and adaptation performance across applicable management areas of farms;
  • Avoided Land Conversion, bolstering local agricultural economies, and enhanced local       government planning for land conversion;
  • Forest Management: expanding funding for peer-reviewed climate and forest carbon research, developing and supporting workforce development and training programs, and developing forest- based outreach, education and marketing techniques;
  • Bioeconomy: expanding markets for sustainably-harvested durable wood products; sustainable biomass feedstock action plan for 2050 hard-to-decarbonize products; increasing market access for New York low-carbon products that achieve the climate and social justice goals of the Climate Act; financial and technical assistance for low-carbon product development; bio-based products research, development and demonstration; and net negative carbon dioxide removal.

I am not going to critique these strategies individually because it would take far too long.  Instead, I will comment on a few things with an emphasis on inconsistencies and implementation issues.  I made comments on the draft strategies and will note whether the panel addressed them.

One of the reasons that I don’t have time to critique the strategies is because the use of jargon would take so long to research.  For example, “carbon farm planning” is a new concept to me and the strategy recommendations did not explain what this means in this context.  An internet search finds this definition: “Carbon farming combines cutting-edge agricultural practices with the tools of ecological design to build healthy soil and profitable farms and ranches, as well as improving the rate at which carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere and converted to plant material and/or soil organic matter.”  Frankly trying to unravel what that means in the context of the CLCPA does not appeal.

The alternative manure management strategy is a mystery to me because § 75-0109, (2) (b) states “Include legally enforceable emissions limits, performance standards, or measures or other requirements to control emissions from greenhouse gas emission sources, with the exception of agricultural emissions from livestock.”  What is the point of alternative manure management if livestock emissions are exempt?  I made the comment and because there is no response to comments document, I have no idea what their rationale was to do this anyway. 

I agree that the enabling strategies of avoided forest conversion and avoided agricultural land conversion are important and should be included.  However, the CLCPA electric sector targets are going to require enormous amounts of solar and wind energy development.  I commented that this factor has to be addressed and it was not mentioned as an issue.  If there was a response to comments document then they would have had to explain why this was ignored.

Conclusion

This sector is a relatively small actor relative to total New York GHG emissions but it is notable that the strategies are expected to actually increase 2030 emissions from the 1990 baseline rather than reduce emissions consistent with the CLCPA target of a 40% reduction by 2030.  Clearly, this panel recognizes that there are limits to what can be achieved even though the results are disappointing.

There is a big flaw in two of the enabling strategies.  There is no recognition or plan to address the extraordinary buildout of wind generation projected by the Analysis Group – 35,200 MW compared to 5,905 MW in the last DPS impact statement that evaluated wind energy cumulative impacts. I extrapolated results from several projects to estimate the potential cumulative impacts and found that if all the wind projects are built on agricultural land, then between 12% and 56% of the agricultural lands will be covered with wind turbines.  Of course, it is more likely that wind turbines will be sited on ridge lines but that will affect forest land use.  Nonetheless that study also projected 39,262 MW of utility scale solar that will have to go somewhere.  The enabling strategies inexplicably do not address these potential impacts in their enabling strategies for avoided forest conversion and avoided agricultural land conversion.