The Pied Piper Has No Clothes

Roger Caiazza

I recently noted that the New York Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act) Scoping Plan framework for the net-zero by 2050 transition plan was approved by the Climate Action Council on December 19, 2022.  In the last article I quoted a portion of Dr. Robert Howarth’s statement in which he more or less claimed credit for the Climate Act.   This post uses two children’s tales to illustrate my concerns about his claimed basis for the Act.

Climate Act Background

The Climate Act established a “Net Zero” target (85% reduction and 15% offset of emissions) by 2050. The Climate Action Council is responsible for preparing the Scoping Plan that outlines how to “achieve the State’s bold clean energy and climate agenda.”  In brief, that plan is to electrify everything possible and power the electric gride with zero-emissions generating resources by 2040.  The Integration Analysis prepared by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and its consultants quantifies the impact of the electrification strategies.  That material was used to write a Draft Scoping Plan that was released for public comment at the end of 2021 and approved on   December 19, 2022.

Children’s Stories

I believe that two children’s fables illustrate the false presumptions of the Climate Act.  According to Wikipedia, the Pied Piper of Hamelin is a Middle Ages tale from the town of Hamelin, Germany.  The pied piper, dressed in multicolored (“pied”) clothing, was a rat catcher hired by the town to lure rats away with his magic pipe. When the citizens refuse to pay for this service as promised, he retaliated by using his instrument’s magical power on their children, leading them away as he had the rats. The phrase “pied piper” has become a metaphor for a person who attracts a following through charisma or false promises.

The other fable is the Emperor’s New Clothes.  This Danish fairy tale written by Hans Christian Andersen was first published in 1837.  In this story, swindlers convince the emperor, who spends lavishly on clothing at the expense of state matters, that they can provide magnificent clothes that are invisible to those who are stupid or incompetent. The emperor and his court don’t see any clothes but pretend otherwise to avoid being thought a fool.  When the emperor marches through the city to show off his new clothes the townsfolk uncomfortably go along with the pretense, not wanting to appear inept or stupid, until a child blurts out that the emperor is wearing nothing at all. The people then realize that everyone has been fooled.  The phrase “The Emperor Has No Clothes” is often used in political and social contexts for any obvious truth denied by the majority despite the evidence of their eyes, especially when proclaimed by the government. 

The Pied Pipers of the Climate Act

The statement of Robert W. Howarth, Ph.D., the David R. Atkinson Professor of Ecology & Environmental Biology at Cornell University was very illuminating relative to the motives of the Climate Act authors.  He reiterated his claim that he played a key role in the drafting of the Climate Act, developed the irrational methane requirements, and credited one politician for getting the Act passed:

Assembly Person Steven Englebright was hugely instrumental in the passage of the Climate Leadership & Community Protection Act that established the Climate Action Council. I thank him for his leadership on this, and particularly for his support of the progressive approach on greenhouse gas emissions that is a central part of the CLCPA. I originally proposed this to Assembly Person Englebright in 2016, and he enthusiastically endorsed and supported it through multiple versions of the bill that finally led to passage of the CLCPA in 2019. In this accounting for greenhouse gases, a major government for the first time ever fully endorsed the science demonstrating that methane emissions are a major contributor to global climate change and disruption. Further, in passing the CLCPA New York recognized that consumption of fossil fuels (and not simply geographic boundaries) is what matters in addressing the climate crisis. New York wisely banned the use of high-volume hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) to develop shale gas in our State. But since the time of that ban, the use of fossil natural gas has risen faster in our State than any other in the Union. Methane emissions from this use of shale gas are high, but much of that occurs outside of our boundaries in the nearby states of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio. Through the CLCPA, the citizens of New York are taking responsibility for these out-of-state emission caused by our use of fossil fuels, particularly for fossil natural gas. The way to reduce these emissions is to rapidly reduce our use of fracked shale gas.

Based on the work of David Zaruk I recently wrote an article describing his analysis of the motives of people like Englebright and Howarth who insist on reducing their perceived priority risks to zero.  One of Zaruk’s articles explained that the use of definite articles is “abused by activists needing definite truths to win policy debates on complex problems.”  Dr. Howarth’s monomaniacal vilification of natural gas is well described by that statement.  During the discussions at the Climate Action Council meetings, he constantly referred to the science and his background as a scientist.  Zaruk writes:

In declaring: “This is the science on XYZ” an activist is attempting to own the issue and shut down any discussion or analysis. In a policy framework where there may be uncertainty or grey areas, imposing a “the” provides a wedge between others’ false opinions and “the” truth.

With all due respect to Dr. Howarth, it is appropriate to consider why a “Professor of Ecology & Environmental Biology” is qualified to be an expert on methane emissions from fracking.  In my opinion, scientists getting paid to deliver a specific result from trust fund philanthropic organizations, no matter how noble the perceived motive, is the same as the much vilified “tobacco industry” scientists.  The funding stream ends when the results don’t match the funder’s requirements so their arguments are biased.  They may be right but the arguments must be considered in that context and debated.

As a member of the Climate Action Council, Howarth was considered a saint and most unquestioningly accepted whatever he said as gospel.  This deference to his concerns is also apparent in the Integration Analysis and Scoping Plan.  However, his views are not universally accepted.  For example, the Climate Act requires New York to account for upstream emissions from fossil fuel used in the state because Howarth has claimed in a 2020 paper that “Some evidence indicates that shale-gas development in North America may have contributed one-third of the total global increase in methane emissions from all sources over the past decade (Howarth 2019).”  This paper and other similar papers claim that “methane emissions can contribute significantly to the GHG footprint of natural gas, including shale gas” and form the rationale of the Climate Act vilification of natural gas.

Despite the Climate Act mandate to provide a “detailed explanation of any changes in methodology or analysis, adjustments made to prior estimates, as needed, and any other information necessary to establish a scientifically credible account of change” any contradictory information has been ignored.  No comments on the Integration Analysis numbers that formed the basis for the Scoping Plan were mentioned at any of the Climate Action Council meetings.  For example, I noted that there is a high quality, long-term monitoring network that measures methane (Lan et al., 2019) over the period when Pennsylvania shale-gas production increased tremendously.  According to the plain language summary for the report:

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

The fact that the relevant high quality, long-term monitoring network does not show a trend consistent with the work of Howarth is a fatal flaw in his claims.  In addition, those measurements unequivocally support another contradictory analysis by Lewan that concludes his ideas, perspectives, and calculations on methane emissions from shale gas are invalid.  The bottom line is that two pied pipers are responsible for the Climate Act’s irrational war on natural gas.   The Climate Act’s elimination of natural gas is based on the false promises of one biased individual supported by one charismatic motivated politician.  These pied pipers are going to lead New York over an energy cliff.

The Climate Act Has No Clothes

Howarth’s statement went on to claim that the Scoping Plan development process ”brought in a large number of experts and key stakeholders who worked diligently to advise the Council on our Scoping Plan”.  After extolling the success of the stakeholder process and the staff members who contributed, he explained why everything will work out:

I further wish to acknowledge the incredible role that Prof. Mark Jacobson of Stanford has played in moving the entire world towards a carbon-free future, including New York State. A decade ago, Jacobson, I and others laid out a specific plan for New York (Jacobson et al. 2013). In that peer-reviewed analysis, we demonstrated that our State could rapidly move away from fossil fuels and instead be fueled completely by the power of the wind, the sun, and hydro. We further demonstrated that it could be done completely with technologies available at that time (a decade ago), that it could be cost effective, that it would be hugely beneficial for public health and energy security, and that it would stimulate a large increase in well-paying jobs. I have seen nothing in the past decade that would dissuade me from pushing for the same path forward. The economic arguments have only grown stronger, the climate crisis more severe. The fundamental arguments remain the same.

I believe that this is the fundamental basis for the Climate Act’s aggressive schedule.  The Jacobson analysis approach unfortunately is pretty much the same as the Integration Analysis modeling approach for the Scoping Plan.  Both modeling efforts project future load requirements, then list a bunch of control strategies, estimate the energy they could produce, and presume everything will work together if we cross our fingers.  Neither includes a feasibility analysis that considers reliability, affordability, or cumulative environmental impacts.

Howarth appeals to the authority of peer-reviewed science to provide credibility to the Jacobson analysis. However, science is a continuous process where hypotheses are constantly challenged and confirmed.  In this instance Howarth neglects to mention the analyses that discredit the Jacobson work. 

The Jacobson analysis cited was a continuation of previous work.  For example, in a widely publicized November 2009 Scientific American article, Mark Jacobson and Mark Delucchi, suggested all electrical generation and ground transportation internationally could be supplied by wind, water and solar resources as early as 2030. However, other contemporary projections were less optimistic. Two examples: the2015 MIT Energy and Climate Outlook has low carbon sources worldwide as only 25% of primary energy by 2050, and renewables only 16% and the International Energy Agency’s two-degree scenario has renewables, including biomass, as less than 50%.

Howarth’s statement cites a specific plan for New York (Jacobson et al. 2013) that he and Jacobson laid out a decade ago.  He says that “In that peer- reviewed analysis, we demonstrated that our State could rapidly move away from fossil fuels and instead be fueled completely by the power of the wind, the sun, and hydro.”   Table 2 from that report follows.  This analysis includes power from exotic resources such as waves, geothermal, tidal turbines, and concentrated solar power but no energy storage.  It is significantly different than the projections in the Integration Analysis and the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) 2021-2040 System & Resource Outlook that exclude all the exotic renewable generating capacity, contain significant amounts of energy storage, and include a new dispatchable, emissions-free resource for a set of resources that they think can provide sufficient electrical power for the future.  Furthermore, it claims that end-use power demand can be decreased by 37%.   In my opinion, any analysis that suggests that concentrated solar power is a viable source of energy in New York is simply not credible because that resource would never work in New York.  It is too cloudy to operate enough to cover costs and the environmental impacts would be too great.

There was a formal rebuttal paper to this analysis. The rebuttal paper argued that: 

The feasibility analysis performed by Jacobson et al. (2013) is incomplete and scientifically questionable from both the technical and economic perspectives, and it implicitly assumes, without sufficient justification, that social criterion would not produce even larger feasibility barriers.

Jacobson et al. responded to that rebuttal claiming  that “The main limitations are social and political, not technical or economic.”  Given the significant differences between that analysis and the most recent projections by the organization responsible for keeping the lights on, I agree with the conclusion cited above.  I do not believe that the 2013 analysis includes a defensible feasibility analysis.

Using Jacobson as the basis for the Climate Act transition gets worse.  Unmentioned by Dr. Howarth is that in a 2015 article for a different iteration of the wind, water, and solar roadmap Clack et al, 2017 discredited the Jacobson approach:

In this paper, we evaluate that study and find significant shortcomings in the analysis. In particular, we point out that this work used invalid modeling tools, contained modeling errors, and made implausible and inadequately supported assumptions. Policy makers should treat with caution any visions of a rapid, reliable, and low-cost transition to entire energy systems that relies almost exclusively on wind, solar, and hydroelectric power.

In the scientific process, when issues with your work are noted, the proper response is to provide more evidence supporting your modeling tools, explain why the claimed errors are not errors, and defend your assumptions.  Instead, Jacobson filed a lawsuit, demanding $10 million in damages, against the peer-reviewed scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and the authors for their study showing that Jacobson made improper assumptions in order to make his claims that he (and by extension Howarth) had demonstrated U.S. energy could be provided exclusively by renewable energy, primarily wind, water, and solar. In my opinion this is an appalling attack on free speech and scientific inquiry but want to emphasize that the bad actions by Jacobson in no way should be attributed to Howarth.

In February 2018, following a hearing at which PNAS argued for the case to be dismissed, Jacobson dropped the suit.  The defendants then filed, based on the anti-SLAPP — for “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation” — statute in Washington, DC, for Jacobson to pay their legal fees. In September 2022, he was ordered to pay the defendants’ legal fees based on a statute “designed to provide for early dismissal of meritless lawsuits filed against people for the exercise of First Amendment rights.” 

In my opinion Jacobson’s attempted lawsuit was because his work could not stand on its own.  Therefore, it is unsettling that it is claimed to be the basis of the Climate Act.  Howarth’s statement explicitly lays out his position for the Jacobson analysis:

We further demonstrated that it could be done completely with technologies available at that time (a decade ago), that it could be cost effective, that it would be hugely beneficial for public health and energy security, and that it would stimulate a large increase in well-paying jobs

Unfortunately, Howarth’s technology demonstration is not supportable.  Nonetheless, it forms the basis for the Climate Act schedule and zero-emission electric system by 2040 mandate.  The Climate Action Council has embraced it despite the projections in the Integration Analysis and the NYISO Resource Outlook that reject it.  The Council is denying the majority opinion despite the evidence presented in their own analysis.  The Climate Act has no clothes. 

Conclusion

Pied piper Dr. Robert Howarth stated that “Our final Scoping Plan from the Climate Action implicitly endorses the vision of the Jacobson et al. paper and is quite clear: we can meet the goals of the CLCPA and we can and will do so in way that is affordable and that will benefit all New Yorkers.”  Unfortunately, that vision has no clothes.  The implementing regulations and additional legislation necessary to implement this vision must include independent, unbiased feasibility analyses to determine if the proposed plans can maintain current standards of reliability, will preserve the affordability of energy, and not create environmental impacts to New York State that are greater than the alleged impacts of climate change.  Failure to do so will ensure that the state ends up as badly as the children’s stories.


Roger Caiazza blogs on New York energy and environmental issues at Pragmatic Environmentalist of New York.  More details on the Climate Leadership & Community Protection Act are available here and an inventory of over 250 articles about the Climate Act is also available.   This represents his opinion and not the opinion of any of his previous employers or any other company with which he has been associated.

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terry
January 3, 2023 6:45 pm

The ultimate but unexpressed goal of “visionary’s” like Howarth is the destruction of the middle class’s standard of living, for nothing else will effect the desired reduction in fossil fuel consumption. The sad truth is they will achieve that goal, as the middle class will not wake up soon enough. The fossil fuel industry will be destroyed long before Horarth’s dreams crash around his shoulders.

Scissor
Reply to  terry
January 4, 2023 5:22 am

Just wondering what the Cornell and Stanford culturally acceptable word is to mean “blackout.”

Graham
January 3, 2023 6:55 pm

Governments all over the world are attempting to go zero carbon but none will tell you that you will be severely restricted in your life style choices .
IF and it is a big IF these governments are really serious about drastically cutting back fossil fuel use there is only one solution and that is NUCLEAR power .
Once the nuclear power stations are built there is very little emissions in the running of these facilities .
The question that I ask here on WUWT is what is stopping the building of Nuclear power stations ?
If those in charge have worked through the numbers they could see quite clearly that renewables without massive battery storage can never power a modern industrial nation or even a large NY state .
These advisers and so called scientists will never accept the blame when the lights go out and industry closes down .
That is when real poverty becomes the norm.

Redge
Reply to  Graham
January 3, 2023 11:31 pm

The question that I ask here on WUWT is what is stopping the building of Nuclear power stations ?

Ideology
Kickbacks to the wrong people
Inability to control the lives of the great unwashed if they have access to cheap energy

More…

MCourtney
Reply to  Graham
January 3, 2023 11:47 pm

Turnaround time.

It takes over a decade to build a nuclear power station. In that time the Governemn has spent a fortune with no return – all the benefit goes to the opposition who will be on control by then.
And private companies have the risk of regulatory chnage mid-build due to administration change.

Gas, solar and windpower ar all quicker to build. Regardless of their usefulness or environmental credentials, they are all a safer bet for investors or governments in the forseeeable political future (at most 10 years).

Graeme4
Reply to  MCourtney
January 4, 2023 2:42 am

It might take that long in the UK and the U.S., but a South Korean company built units 1 and 2 in Barakah in eight years each, on time, on budget. And I’m sure that SMRs, when available, won’t take that long to get going.

186no
Reply to  Graeme4
January 4, 2023 3:01 am

Quite; what I find inexplicable ( but only on one level….) is that if the UK’s security rests solely on a small fleet of nuclear “SMR” powered ( and armed) submarines, which rotate between active duty and essential maintenance, why are they not being reengineered for domestic use, using “matter” which is more easily recycled as waste, sited appropriately with complete security and hooked up to the grid? Ok, rhetorical, but this needs to be shoved into the consciousness ( a euphemistic term ..) of the NZ brainwashed 100% of the time and their bluffs called. Oh I forgot, the MSM have a vested interest in not pushing this as with “other” topic(s)…

Oldseadog
Reply to  186no
January 4, 2023 3:38 am

Exactly.
Build a dozen of them on barges and moor them up near where there used to be generators and where there are already good links to the Grid. Longannet, Cockenzie and Inverkip/Hunterston come to mind for Scotland alone.

On second thoughts, maybe not Cockenzie; not a good place to moor alongside in an easterly gale.

JamesB_684
Reply to  MCourtney
January 4, 2023 5:52 am

Small Modular Reactors can be built much more quickly. Delivered on trucks to the operating site…

Rick C
Reply to  Graham
January 4, 2023 9:40 am

You’re leaving out the very important DEFRs (Dispatchable Emission Free Resources) that NY has included. Since it is apparently not a requirement for future energy sources to be real, I’m not sure why NY would not just specify 100% DEFRs for energy production by 2040. They could reduce the plan to a single page. Magical thinking can solve any problem.

Mason
Reply to  Rick C
January 4, 2023 12:15 pm

Rick, well you ruined my smug, elitist reverie that I won’t be around when all the chickens come home to roost. All of a sudden, I would like to be around to watch all these “scientists” when their bad faith bad science consequences rain down on the population.

DonM
Reply to  Mason
January 6, 2023 5:51 pm

Jacobson is an ‘engineer’; teaching at Stanford. Not a ‘scientist. I, like you, would like to see these “scientists & engineers”, when their corrupted professional prognostications are shown as impossible (and harmful), put into public stocks (with a continuously filled adjacent basket of rotten fruit).

Sad part is that Jacobson will likely be sitting in his office, just like Ehrlich, through his 80’s, getting paid to spout this same crap.

observa
January 3, 2023 7:06 pm

Trust them they’re from the Gummint and they’re here to help-
(do enjoy the comments)

spetzer86
Reply to  observa
January 3, 2023 7:26 pm

Being left alone isn’t part of the Great Reset. Somebody should’ve mentioned that to him earlier.

observa
Reply to  spetzer86
January 3, 2023 9:35 pm

Chuckle-
https://www.drive.com.au/news/toyota-boss-says-other-industry-executives-secretly-doubt-the-switch-to-electric-power/

Just heard from a friend enquiring about a new RAV4 hybrid and the sales guy said they’ve given up taking orders as it could be anything up to 3 years and likely an update model by then. Makes this market man shake my head as to why Toyota aren’t auctioning their high demand hybrids off the line instead of letting all that economic rent go begging with queuing. Sheesh!

Bill Powers
Reply to  observa
January 6, 2023 4:12 am

THEY want to control you. There is your conflict.

Steve Case
January 3, 2023 7:52 pm

Methane: The Irrelevant Greenhouse Gas

Business as usual how much is methane on course to run up global temperature over the next 100 years or by 2100 or if its concentration in the atmosphere doubles?

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  Steve Case
January 4, 2023 12:23 pm

Methane will do nothing to the climate if its concentration doubles. Just like CO2.

The imaginary “effects” of these gases on the Earth’s temperature are purely hypothetical. No empirical evidence shows CO2, Methane or any other “greenhouse gas” to be the “driver” of the Earth’s temperature.

BobM
January 3, 2023 8:33 pm

These are always great analyses. I’ve become a fan of Roger’s blog as well as the Manhattan Contrarian. I’ve been passing both along to my friends in NY, with a subject line something like, “Boy are you screwed”…

DMacKenzie
January 3, 2023 10:25 pm

When a real scientist who knows some real numbers like Blair King, Ph.D, reviews Jacobson’s work in a more localized situation, the answer comes up as “back to the drawing board”

https://achemistinlangley.net/2018/11/27/revisiting-100-wind-water-and-sunlight-for-canada-an-ill-advised-approach-to-fight-climate-change/

cilo
January 3, 2023 11:30 pm

I’ll refrain from correcting the author’s interpretation of children’s fables, and note that this essay was rather difficult to parse.
If we are ever going to make an impact against the climastrologists (and the entire basket of deplorers) we need to be as captivating, exciting, humorous and witty as our enemy. Please don’t fall for the lie that we should employ their tactics. Around here, we still remember that old saw: “You don’t civilise a barbarian by sinking to his level.”
People much prefer an entertaining lie to stern pedantry. Us the Realists need to get jiggy with this concept. The entertaining bit, not the lies…
I give the author 8/10 for content, 2 for presentation.
P.S. Can we have an open thread soon, before I forget the climate question I need to ask?

B Zipperer
Reply to  cilo
January 4, 2023 3:47 pm

cilo:
“…we need to be as captivating, exciting, humorous and witty as our enemy.”
Yes!. Never forget the power of ridicule, especially if done in a civilized manner.

The researchers who took Jacobsen’s study apart and showed how nonsensical it really was were doing academic ridicule. It embarrassed Jacobsen so much that in a fit of rage he sued.
And lost, badly, And deservedly so.
Does anyone know if he ever paid the legal fees?

michel
January 4, 2023 2:07 am

Howarth’s statement cites a specific plan for New York (Jacobson et al. 2013) that he and Jacobson laid out a decade ago. He says that “In that peer- reviewed analysis, we demonstrated that our State could rapidly move away from fossil fuels and instead be fueled completely by the power of the wind, the sun, and hydro.”  Table 2 from that report follows.

A while back Nick Stokes was arguing that no-one really has proposed eliminating fossil fuel generation totally. Its a straw man. All people are really proposing is to run wind and solar with however much conventional generation is needed to make it work.

The argument, it was claimed, was not that countries or regions can and should run completely on the power of the wind the sun and hydro. It was that adding ‘renewables’ to the mix would more than pay for itself in fuel savings from the conventional plant.

Well, here is NY State…. Watch carefully, no batteries.

Ben Vorlich
Reply to  michel
January 4, 2023 2:50 am

Has anyone ever asked any of these so called experts how the overcome the problem wind generated electricity’s dependence on the cube of windspeed? 100% output at 28mph, means a loss of 87.5% of output at 14mph. Or just how much battery will be required to cover a couple of days at 14mph winds.

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  Ben Vorlich
January 4, 2023 12:33 pm

More to the point is that below a certain wind speed you get NOTHING. And above a certain wind speed you get NOTHING.

And you can be in “nothing zones” (mostly calm periods) for extended periods of time.

Batteries are never going to fill the power production shortfalls and voids. Never.

Oh, and after violent weather like hurricanes and tornadoes, you’ll be losing not JUST transmission and distribution lines, but power production infrastructure ITSELF. So “outages” will be massively extended.

David Dibbell
Reply to  michel
January 4, 2023 5:59 am

Also to be watched carefully here in NY – how many of the well-off end up installing propane-fueled whole-house automatic backup generator systems. When the winter chill causes demand to spike from all the heat pump systems, and real-time market electricity prices go through the roof, and the new “smart meter” knows how to make you pay for it, the NY ratepayers will feel the pain. Those promises to keep it affordable were rubbish from the beginning.

Mr.
Reply to  michel
January 4, 2023 7:11 am

So do you think Nick is a luke-fossil fueler, or a luke-wind & solarer?

MarkW
Reply to  michel
January 4, 2023 12:49 pm

I guess Nick is still trying to sell the claim that fossil fuel plants can have their power outputs quickly changed from near zero to near 100% in just a few seconds.

David Dibbell
January 4, 2023 5:38 am

The Pied Piper and The Emperor’s New Clothes provide relevant moral lessons because human nature remains the same. We must guard against both core issues as I see them: susceptibility to wishful thinking, and social pressure to conform.

Good article. Thank you.

rogercaiazza
Reply to  David Dibbell
January 4, 2023 9:58 am

David,

Thanks. After the poor evaluation above I thought that I was misusing the stores but your description is what I was trying to say.

January 4, 2023 6:00 am

I consider Roger Caiazza the go to expert on New York state’s version of Nut Zero.

This is a very good article, and in my book, Caiazza is a gold star author — extremely reliable,

But this is a strange title for an article, unless someone else created the title, such as jokester Charles Rotten, under the influence of alcohol (most days) while sitting in his office (on his favorite a bar stool, inside a seedy bar near the docks (next to his “secretary”, the top-heavy Candy Deluxe).

rogercaiazza
Reply to  Richard Greene
January 4, 2023 9:57 am

Richard – thank you for the compliments.

It is my title. I wanted to combine the two stories somehow and thought it would work. The jokester offered two illustrations for it: the one you see and one that emphasize the naked part of the title that was funny but inappropriate.

Beta Blocker
January 4, 2023 10:29 am

Living in the US Northwest, I’ve been following the work of the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) and its ongoing assessments of the issues involved in moving towards a ‘clean energy’ future.

From their website: ‘WECC is a non-profit corporation that exists to assure a reliable Bulk Electric System in the geographic area known as the Western Interconnection. WECC has been approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) as the Regional Entity for the Western Interconnection. The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) delegated some of its authority to create, monitor, and enforce reliability standards to WECC through a Delegation Agreement. WECC covers fourteen western US states, two Canadian provinces, and northern Baja Mexico.’

WECC is now performing a ‘2040 Clean Energy Sensitivities Study’ in two phases. Phase I of the study is now done and Phase II is in the works. An overview of the Executive Summary of the Phase I report is here: 2040 Clean Energy Scenarios (Phase I Report). The Phase I overview summary reads:

— A 100% clean energy future by 2040 poses significant challenges to the reliability of the bulk power system in the West.
— APPROACHING CLEAN ENERGY: This assessment examined the reliability implications of reaching various levels of clean energy in the Western Interconnection by 2040. To understand these clean energy portfolios, WECC examined over 200 possible resource-load mixes for various seasonal load conditions using a production cost model (PCM) simulation. This allowed WECC to identify tradeoffs between various resource portfolio mixes for clean energy levels between 80% and 100%.
— WHY DOES THIS MATTER?: For the bulk power system to achieve a clean energy level that is reliable, supply must be balanced with demand for all seasonal load conditions, for both resource adequacy and operational flexibility. While there are multiple paths that can lead to a clean energy future, not all may be optimal. Decision-makers vested across a broad array of interests will need to work together to achieve a desirable clean energy path.
— Finding #1: Growth in electrical demand will increase significantly over the next 20 years with increased electrification, primarily from vehicle electrification.
— Finding #2: To reach higher levels of clean energy, the resource mix will need to maintain a certain amount of flexibility. Battery storage alone will not provide the required flexibility at clean energy levels above 90%.
— Finding #3: New resource technologies that can provide the same operational flexibility as gas fired resources — but without carbon emissions—will be needed to reach a clean energy future.

The full report from Phase I of the WECC study is here: 2040 Clean Energy Sensitivities Report (January, 2022).

Take some time to read the Executive Summary of the Phase I report, at least, and the summarized conclusions on the last few pages. Reading the details inside the report itself, you will gain a good appreciation of the technical and coordination planning complexities of attempting to move towards a wind & solar energy future where electricity replaces fossil fuels in most sectors of the economy.

The 2040 Phase I report does not attempt to address the full cost & schedule implications of achieving Net Zero on President Biden’s announced schedule. But it does go into good detail as to what kinds of resources must be available in order to make a wind & solar powered grid work in practice; and it identifies the risks and uncertainties associated with the transition from a grid powered by fossil fuels to one powered by the renewables.

At any rate, what we learn in Project Management 101 is that project scope & complexity, planning uncertainty & risk, and technical uncertainty & risk are drivers which can work together in powerful ways to force project cost & schedule rapidly upward. We are seeing this happen in the UK and in Germany, and we will be seeing it happen here in the US in the next decade as the Net Zero transition moves forward.

The only means for achieving Net Zero on anyone’s schedule is to view electricity conserved as being fully equivalent to electricity produced. Energy rationing in other words, done through directly or indirectly constraining the supply of energy, and through directly or indirectly raising its cost.

B Zipperer
Reply to  Beta Blocker
January 4, 2023 4:23 pm

beta:
Here is the link to the Executive Summary: [your top link –> “404”]
https://www.wecc.org/Administrative/2040%20Clean%20Energy%20Sensitivities%20Report.pdf

Finding #2 above : On a cost basis alone it is nearly impossible for battery storage back-up of renewables [wind & solar] to get anywhere near 90% of an electric grid. I’d be surprised if it got to 30% except in isolated, smaller regions, but not for the Western Interconnect.
Finding #3 above: “New resource technologies” are equivalent to the DEFR [dispatchable emission free resource] the Scoping Plan envisions. Both terms refer to things that don’t exist. Thus, magical thinking! Embarking on a project hoping for some breakthrough before you finish it is… science fiction.

Here is McKinsey Corp.’s estimate for NetZero by 2050:
ttps://www.scribd.com/document/555773648/McKinsey-The-Net-Zero-Transition-What-It-Would-Cost-What-It-Could-Bring-250122
[my executive summary:USD $270 trillion, ie $9T per year; and it too includes technology not demonstrated or invented for it to work. More magical thinking!]

Beta Blocker
Reply to  B Zipperer
January 5, 2023 7:55 am

The WECC Phase I report doesn’t address either the cost issues or the industrial supply chain issues of the Net Zero transition. How deeply will the Phase II report address those issues, if at all? We will have to wait and see.

The WECC technical staff has to know that Net Zero is impossible to achieve on anyone’s schedule unless drastic energy conservation measures are being imposed, ones which cut America’s consumption of all forms of energy to possibly a quarter or less of what we consume today.

Regardless of what members of the WECC technical staff might believe personally about Net Zero, the politicians who fund WECC have made a firm public policy decision to go forward with it regardless of the consequences.

WECC and its staff are between a rock and a hard place. If I were in the difficult position the WECC staff finds itself in, I would compile the necessary information about the realities of the Net Zero transition and then present it in ways which illuminate all facets of each and every technical issue, each and every cost issue, and each and every supply chain issue — without making a direct judgemental conclusion as to the overall practicality of Net Zero.

Once that job is done, critics of Net Zero will then have the data and information they need to oppose Net Zero in the regulatory hearings and in the public policy forums they will be attending.

As I’ve said before on WUWT and on the Manhattan Contrarian blog, the results of the 2022 mid-terms demonstrate there is no political price to be paid for pushing Net Zero. IMHO, the climate activists will be in control of the federal government and its bureaucracy indefinitely into the future.

Everyone who opposes Net Zero must grit their teeth and persevere in the face of what will be some very difficult times ahead.

Boff Doff
January 4, 2023 10:55 am

As a patriotic Brit I can only hope that Blue US goes full Howarth/Jacobson. It’s just a pity that the UK hasn’t worked it out yet. I fervently hope it will but who knows? China has…

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