We need a practical path to decarbonize the New York grid
Climate politics and policy are often characterized by symbolic targets and unattainable carbon reduction targets. This is nothing new in environmental policy. The Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972 promises zero discharge of pollutants into our waterways in the act’s statement of noble goals, and then details the process of obtaining a sewerage permit in the fine print of the law. Zero emissions is a dream. Still, today’s water is cleaner than it was half a century ago, and I suspect our carbon footprint in 2072 will be lower than in 2022. But it takes a long time to get there, and the question is always: is the glass half empty or half full?
Colin Kinniburgh in January 2022 city, state A magazine on New York State’s current methods of generating electricity, titled “The Chimney Hides New York’s Clean Energy Plan.”according to Fort Kinney:
“This Climate Leadership and Community Protection ActPassed in 2019, it requires the state to generate 70% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030 and 100% by 2040. That would mean phasing out and replacing much of the state’s power generation capacity — more than two-thirds of which relies on natural gas and oil — in less than 20 years, although it’s expected to grow due to the electrification of home heating, transportation and other sectors. Overall electricity demand will increase. Some of these facilities are only going to age: According to data released by New York Focus and City & the New York Independent System Operator, which manages the grid. “
The 70% goal is a daunting but not impossible task. Currently, hydro and nuclear power provides 52% of New York’s electricity, renewable energy provides 5%, and oil and gas provide 43%. In short, we are only 13% away from our statewide goal. However, as Kinniburgh reports, in New York City and Long Island, fossil fuels now provide 77 percent of the electricity used. Good thing it’s a statewide goal, not a NYC subway goal… With federal infrastructure funding and state funding to decarbonize NYC’s electricity, it’s clear that government and utility policy makers are working to reduce greenhouse gases emission. New York has about 80 fossil fuel plants, but none burn coal, and those that do burn oil are gradually converting to natural gas. We are heading in the right direction. The question is how much we are willing to spend to convert the system to renewable energy.according to Fort Kinney:
“…so far, the country has No funding to match its legally binding climate goals. NYSERDA analysts working with the Climate Action Council estimate that decarbonizing New York’s economy will cost some $15 billion per year. The New York Renews, the coalition behind the CLCPA, is urging governors and legislatures to include the full amount in this year’s budget… 50 state Democrats Hope the governor includes Create Public Renewable Energy Act in her budget. The bill would enable the New York Power Authority to build new large-scale wind and solar facilities and would require it to phase out fossil fuel facilities by 2025. Backers say the effort will pay for itself, relying on the authorities’ well-established bond process. ”
The annual decarbonization cost of $15 billion will be paid by consumers and subsidized by federal and state taxpayers. In short, as capital and annual expenses increase, we are both building new infrastructure and continuing to pay for the fossil fuels used during the transition, so capital costs will be a pressure. Ultimately, the end of fuel payments (the sun and wind are free) should ultimately reduce energy costs for New Yorkers. The devil will be in the details and the speed of the transitions. The transition must be carefully managed to ensure that energy supplies are not interrupted and costs are contained. This could mean that some goals, especially those for 2040, may not be met.
But they probably will. Because the wild card for the next two decades will be the development of new technologies. If solar panels become cheaper, smaller and can be deployed by people living in apartments, and if batteries become smaller and less expensive, many people may reduce or even eliminate their use of the grid. You might be skeptical, but there are a lot of recent examples of technology taking over. Many young people have never had a landline on their phone. Many people have already cut their connection to cable TV, and some are no longer bothered by a wired connection to the Internet. Electricity is more complex, but it’s easy to imagine a breakthrough that would reduce demand on the grid.
Improving energy efficiency may also reduce electricity demand. The use of heat pumps, increased insulation, more energy-efficient appliances and more efficient light bulbs may affect our energy use. All of this is more than enough to make up for the ever-increasing demand for electricity from electric vehicles, heating and cooking.
The overall reality of decarbonization must be described as unpredictable. Still, we can predict some elements. Our daily energy use will continue and it has become an important daily necessity for modern lifestyles. The energy supply must be consistent and reliable, so we cannot decommission a fossil fuel plant unless we can replace its electricity with renewable energy. We can also predict that the capital cost of the energy transition will be high, but operating and maintenance costs should fall as expensive fossil fuels are replaced by zero-cost renewable sources.
The symbolic politics of goals and objectives has value here, but cannot be allowed to compromise operational reality. Advocates need to be careful to ensure that energy supplies are not disrupted to meet carbon reduction goals. An ideological insistence on decommissioning power plants while they are still needed could undermine the entire effort to modernize the energy system. While there are some dangers in going too fast, there are equally dangers in going too slow. One effort some utilities are pushing is to convert fossil-fuel power plants to ones fueled by biofuels or zero-emission generators because of carbon capture and storage systems. If the capital costs of gas-fired power plants haven’t been fully recovered, or if utilities don’t want to invest in solar or wind, they may try to push this approach.New York state legislature reportedly quietly trying to redefine zero emissions Colin Kinneyburg in a city, state In an article last March, he observed that the power industry proposed:
“…defines a “zero-emissions energy system” as one that does not result in “a net increase in emissions of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere at any point in the power generation process…that would most likely benefit from the bill The technologies all involve burning some kind of fuel, whether it’s hydrogen, “renewable” natural gas, or simply fossil gas combined with carbon capture and storage. “
This approach by utilities has led advocates to question their commitment to decarbonization. What utilities and environmentalists need to do is work harder to build consensus and trust. Avoid the symbolism of environmentalists and the sneakiness of industry, and embark on a realistic path to decarbonization together. The process of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and modernizing New York’s energy system will be very difficult without a reflexive return to “us-them” politics. Let’s leave this crap to the federal government and let New York focus on a pragmatic, realistic path to reducing greenhouse gas pollution.