Sometimes, it seems like the world is just flailing away in its concerted efforts to achieve zero carbon emissions. In the U.S. the President can’t get his grand “green” plans through a Congress controlled by his own party. In Europe, a countryside blanketed with wind turbines can’t counteract a wind drought in 2021, and emissions rise even while natural gas prices spike to nearly 10 times the U.S. level.
New York may be a late-comer to Net Zero plans, but by God, our politicians and bureaucrats are so much smarter than those clowns across the country or the pond. In 2019 the New York legislature enacted the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act), self-described on the State’s website as “the nation-leading [law] to empower every New Yorker to fight climate change at home, at work, and in their communities.” The Climate Act set a series of highly ambitious targets for emissions reductions (e.g., 70% renewable electricity by 2030, 100% zero-emission electricity by 2040, 85% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050). It also created a Climate Action Council to figure out how to achieve these targets. Task number one for the CAC has been to propound a so-called “Scoping Plan,” containing the details informing us how this will be accomplished.
Through 2020 and 2021 we waited on pins and needles as the CAC and some seven advisory sub-panels held dozens of meetings and beavered away on their big report. And then finally, on December 20, the curtain went up: the CAC finally released its Draft Scoping Plan to the public. Follow this link to download a copy of the full thing — 330 pages, not including appendices.
If you think that a document with this kind of build-up and heft would contain at least a little serious effort to grapple with the major engineering problems of decarbonizing everything from the electrical grid to home heating to private autos to aviation to ocean shipping, all at the same time, think again. The words “incompetent” and “amateurish” come to mind, but don’t really even begin to describe how bad this work product is. The 330 page length, filled with padding, fluff, and repetition, is mainly to assure that nobody whose time is valuable will ever be able to read it. The authors are like a parody version of King Canute, who actually believe that when they order the tide to stop rising, it will obey.
Consider the vision here for decarbonizing the electrical grid. Remember, under the law, we are required to achieve a zero emission grid by 2040. But other jurisdictions that got a much earlier start pushing toward the same goal can’t seem to get above 50% electricity from renewables for any substantial duration. The wind and sun just don’t work enough of the time to get past that level, no matter how many facilities you build. What will New York do differently? From the Scoping Plan, page 149:
Vision for 2030. The Climate Act requires that 70% of statewide electricity come from renewable energy sources by 2030. The Climate Act also requires 6,000 MW of distributed solar by 2025 and 3,000 MW of energy storage be installed by 2030. This can be accomplished by aggressive deployment of existing renewable energy technologies such as wind, solar, and energy storage. With the primary procurement mechanisms already established to do just that, the recommendations included here for 2030 look to ensure that the procurement mechanisms lead to construction and operation of renewable energy and accelerate the pace and reduce the cost of decarbonizing the electric grid.
(Emphasis added.). Actually, anyone paying attention knows that 70% of electricity from renewables cannot be achieved by just building more wind and solar facilities, and existing types of batteries can provide only the most limited help, and even then at outrageous cost.
The vision for 2050 is even more pure fantasy. Again from Scoping Plan page 149:
Vision for 2050. By 2040, the Climate Act requires that the State achieve a zero-emissions electricity system as well as 9,000 MW of offshore wind by 2035. Achieving this will require all of the actions identified for 2030, further procurement of renewables, and a focus on developing new technology solutions.
The technology to do this does not currently exist, but if we just order it to come into being, it will happen. The authors who presume to order this to happen don’t even pretend to know what technologies may be sufficient to reach their goals, or how much this may cost.
Equally delusional are the plans for transportation, appearing at pages 93-117. The Scoping Plan reports approximately 9 million personal autos registered in New York as of November 2021. The first all-electric Tesla came out in 2008 — thirteen years ago. After those thirteen years, what percent of our personal autos in New York are all-electric? From page 93:
As of November 2021, one half of one percent of the over 9 million registered LDVs in New York were ZEVs.
One half of one percent would be about 45,000 of the 9 million after 13 years. But supposedly we are now going to go to 3 million all-electric cars in just the next 9 years, and then on to essentially all electric by 2050. How to get there? From page 94:
An aggressive and implementable mix of policies will be required to accelerate GHG emission reductions to the level needed by 2030. By 2030 nearly 100% of LDV sales and 40% or more of MHD vehicle sales must be ZEVs and a substantial portion of personal transportation in urbanized areas would be required to shift to public transportation and other low-carbon modes. New York can achieve these goals through ZEV sales requirements and accompanying incentives and investments to help achieve these mandates, historic investments in expanded public transportation and micro-mobility, enhanced bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, smart growth development, market-based policies that support lower-carbon transportation choices, and potentially a clean fuel standard that reduces the average carbon intensity of fuels as the transition to zero emissions vehicles proceeds.
Order it up, and it will happen. How much extra will New Yorkers have to pay for all these electric vehicles? No mention of that here.
And what is the plan for, for example, air travel and freight rail? From page 95:
Some segments of hard-to-electrify subsectors, such as aviation, freight rail, and potentially some MHD vehicles are expected to rely on green hydrogen and renewable biofuels (e.g., renewable jet fuel) to fully replace fossil fuel combustion if zero emission applications are not feasible.
Airplanes will run on “green hydrogen.” Has there been as of today any demonstration of the feasibility of such a thing, let alone any company working to develop a commercial version?
The Scoping Plan does build on what is called an “Integration Analysis,” that supposedly weighs (wildly underestimated) costs against (almost entirely imaginary) benefits of this energy transition, and comes out with a supposedly positive answer. I don’t have nearly the space here to go into detail on this subject, but highly recommend a November 22 Report from the Empire Center called “The Green Scheme,” as well as the December 15 blog post at Roger Caiazza’s Pragmatic Environmentalist of New York site titled “Review of Costs in Green Scheme: The Climate Action Council’s Climate Transition Cost Analysis.” Here is one among many choice quotes from Caiazza:
The Integration Analysis is not a feasibility study. The Analysis does not include an engineering evaluation to determine how the grid has to be upgraded to maintain current reliability standards much less how much it will cost. One feasibility aspect that is included is a technology to cover the need for zero emissions, firm dispatchable resources. The analysis proposes using hydrogen resources for this aspect of the system but that technology has not been proven at the scale necessary for New York’s requirements. Any cost estimates of an unproven technology are wildly uncertain. In addition, I cannot find any reference to necessary transmission ancillary services support so I agree that the grid issues raised have been overlooked.
I suppose one possibility is that New York actually proceeds down the road laid out in this “Scoping Plan,” and rapidly hits the green energy wall that I discussed in my post a couple of weeks ago.