New York can have 100 percent zero emissions electricity in 2040. But it can’t have enough of it to keep the lights and the heat on.
Last night, New York’s Climate Action Council voted to release its Draft Scoping Plan (“the Plan”) to implement the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. Unfortunately, the Plan fails in its most important task–ensuring a reliable supply of electricity at all times. This risks leaving New York in the dark due to severe electricity shortages.
The Plan explicitly admits that in 2040 there may be a gap of 15-25 gigawatts of electricity production, as much as 10 percent of the state’s electricity needs, according to the New York Independent Systems Operator (NYISO). The gap is much more than it takes to power every home in the state, and is equal to as many as 10 hydroelectric or nuclear power plants.
The problem is that the Plan calls for a dramatic increase in electricity demand without sufficient increase in production. The new demand comes from the electrification of home heating and cooking and the shift to electric vehicles. According to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) this will increase statewide electricity demand by 65 to 80 percent.
Currently available renewable energy technology cannot meet this demand. But the NYISO report makes clear that dispatchable emissions-free sources are not technologically available.
Wind and solar are not dispatchable on demand because of the variability of the weather. Battery power and pumped hydro storage are dispatchable but can provide only a few hours of supply. The Plan call for energy storage that is available for “weeks and even longer.”
Hydrogen might some day be a long-term energy storage solution, but it is only now beginning testing for utility-scale power production. New York cannot stake its future on unproven technologies.
NYSERDA’s own consultant recommended new natural gas facilities with carbon capture and sequestration as part of the pathway to deep decarbonization of the electrical supply. With carbon capture, 90 percent of the carbon is removed from natural gas emissions. However, the Climate Act and the Plan explicitly reject that sensible path, calling for the elimination of all fossil-fuel sources by 2040.
Another clean energy source is nuclear power. But while the Plan relies on the continued operation of the state’s existing nuclear plants, it does not call for new nuclear power.
We still don’t know how much this reckless plan will cost New York utility ratepayers. But we do know that with the demise of Joe Biden’s Build Back Better bill, the federal funds expected to help pay for the energy transition may never be available.
New York faces a bleak prospect of energy shortfalls, and the Plan provides no solution. Unless and until the state can fully build out and prove its non-fossil fuel capacity and reliability, clean non-renewables must remain as part of its electricity supply portfolio.