Does the Call for 100% clean energy refer to all energy sources, including transportation and heating?
Is it possible for NYS to transition to 100% clean energy by 2030?
Various studies (e.g., the so-called Jacobson study) by Stanford and Cornell Professors show that it is technologically feasible to go to 100% clean energy (non greenhouse emissions) by 2030.
Other studies show that an industrial state like NYS should be able to transition in 10 years.
It is also easier to achieve 100% clean energy if it is defined as zero carbon emissions. So some small amounts of greenhouse gas emissions could be offset by processes that reduce the amount of carbon emissions, such as sustainable agriculture practices that return carbon to the soil to help improve its fertility.
Why do Other Reports such as the Solution Project call for 100% clean energy by 2050?
The biggest barriers to 100% clean energy remain political and economic opposition, not technologically feasibility. Studies pointing to 2050 seek to reflect those political realities. Those calling for 100% by 2030 seek to change those political and economic barriers.
For instance, the report by Jacobson calls for 40% of the state’s energy to be produced by off-shore wind projects. This is feasible to do. Yet NYS has not yet approved any such projects and the LI Port Authority, controlled by Governor, in Dec. 2014 rejected a major off-shore wind project
The last few percentage points of any transition will be the most difficult and challenging. That is why we need to focus on doing as much as we can as fast as we can
A major problem is that NYS continues to invest in fossil fuel infrastructure, such as gas pipelines. Once built, it is like that financial and political interests will seek to continue to use such infrastructure until it is ready to be retired.
Going to 100% clean energy is particularly a problem with transportation. The ongoing purchases of vehicles that burn fossil fuels will slow down conversion to 100% power by electricity or other non-greenhouse emitting sources. Airplane travel will also pose a problem, though overall airline travel should be reduced (e.g., better high speed trains).
100% renewable energy is not a question of if, but of when, how, and who will lead and profit. Non-renewable energy sources, by definition, will only deplete. In the meantime, continued dependence on them is causing multiple crises. If we want energy, transitioning to 100% renewable sources is inevitable. The real issues are when we do it, how we get there, and who is going to move quickly and reap the greatest benefits.
Wouldn’t it be Easiest to Covert Electrical Generation to 100% clean (renewables, efficiency, and conservation)?
Yes. That is why some groups focus on pushing this section to covert by 2030. However, this represents less than 40% of the greenhouse gas emissions in NY.
How Much Will it Cost NYS to convert to 100% Clean Energy?
A good question. The Jacobson report estimated that the cost will exceed $460 billion. However, a significant part of this figure is money that would already be invested in building and maintaining the state’s energy system. Other studies show that such investment might account for around 75% of the overall cost.
Will Converting to 100% clean energy lower electric costs?
The Jacobson study estimated that focusing on renewables and conservation would result in electric rates less than 50% of what they would be based on continued reliance on fossil fuels. (Note: this estimate was made before the recent drop in oil prices, which have a history of significant volatility,)
Wind and solar are already price competitive with fossil fuels and those prices will continue to drop as their production and technological improvements increase. And the long term operational costs of renewable energy is of course much cheaper than extracting, transporting and burning fossil fuels.
Are there Other Cost Savings from renewables compared to Fossil Fuels?
Yes. For instance, Health problems for air pollution from fossil fuels are estimated to cause $27 billion annually in additional health care costs and more than 3000 deaths in NY alone.
Which is better at creating jobs – clean energy or fossil fuels?
Clean Energy. The Jacobson study estimated that the transition to 100% clean energy would create 4.5 million jobs – this would be the equivalent of 280,000 40 year jobs.
(From Union of Concerned Scientists) Compared with fossil fuel technologies, which are typically mechanized and capital intensive, the renewable energy industry is more labor-intensive. This means that, on average, more jobs are created for each unit of electricity generated from renewable sources than from fossil fuels.
Is the Jacobson Study a Plan for NY to transition to 100% clean energy?
The Jacobson study is one of several showing the technological feasibility of converting to 100% clean energy. It provides one mixture of the renewable energy sources, conservation and efficiency that could be used to achieve such a goal.
A more detailed plan is needed to provide benchmarks and timelines to achieve this goal and reflect the political and economic challenges that exist in NYS. Large power projects tend to generate some level of opposition and it can take years to receive the necessary approvals. New York needs much stronger political leadership and community participation and education to accomplish such a transition. It needs to significantly increase funding for renewable energy and related infrastructure needs.
Wouldn’t burning natural gas help to reduce climate change?
Recent research indicates that global increased natural gas consumption will have little to no effect in reducing CO2 emissions and may actually increase CO2 emissions. Moreover, life-cycle methane emissions from unconventional oil and gas development over a wide range of emissions, consistently add to global warming. http://www.psehealthyenergy.org/data/Methane_Science_Summary_Oct20143.pdf
Burning fossil fuels creates carbon pollution. Coal, oil, propane, kerosene, gasoline or natural gas all contain carbon, which gets released as a greenhouse gas. Methane or natural gas, however, is 72 times more potent at capturing heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide over the first 20 years after release and 25 times more potent over 100 years. While gas-fired electricity plants emit only half as much carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour generated as do coal-burning plants. that doesn’t take into consideration the leakage of methane during mining or transport. http://www.psr.org/environment-and-health/environmental-health-policy-institute/responses/natural-gas-the-newest-danger-global-warming.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/
Is a carbon tax needed to reduce climate change?
The biggest obstacle to clean energy is that the market prices of coal, oil and gas don’t include the true costs of carbon pollution. A robust and briskly rising U.S. carbon tax will transform energy investment, re-shape consumption, and sharply reduce the carbon emissions that are driving global warming. A carbon tax is an “upstream” tax on the carbon content of fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) and biofuels. A carbon tax is the most efficient means to instill crucial price signals that spur carbon-reducing investment. (Carbon Tax Center)
Climate change activists are divided over whether to supports a “fee and dividend” approach, where the entire revenue is rebated to taxpayers, or whether a portion should be invested in other needs such as renewable energy. Everyone agree that at least a significant portion should be rebated to low and moderate individuals to offset the regressive nature of any energy tax. Polls however show that a plurality (60%) of all Americans, including Republicans, support a carbon tax if the revenues are used for renewable energy. The fee and dividend approach still receives majority support (56%) from all voters but not from Republicans (43%).
The State of Oregon commissioned a study on the carbon tax. They concluded that a tax of $10 per ton would not help Oregon reduce greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels. At $60 per ton, a carbon tax would begin reducing emissions below 1990 levels almost immediately by cut emissions by 26 percent and would raise $2.35 billion in new taxes. The study’s authors dismiss the drag factor at even the highest level — $150 per ton — as “small.” A $60 per ton carbon tax would raise the price of gas by about 6 cents. Natural gas prices would rise 18 percent and electric prices would rise 9 percent to 30 percent, depending on regional variability. More info re Oregon.
An overview of state carbon taxes. http://www.carbontax.org/states/
Does increasing renewable energy automatically result in a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions?
No. It is important to also enact policies that directly target reduced carbon emissions.
Going to 100% clean energy of course is designed to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions.
Germany at times has seen an increase in carbon emissions while it has increased renewables. It increased its use of coal plants at the same time, partially as a result of moving away from nuclear power but also because its economy rebounded from the recession.
Will I be able to heat my home without using fossil fuels?
The easiest way is to build a new home to reduce or eliminate outside energy needs, starting with insulation. Incorporating passive solar.
Converting existing homes is more of a challenge. Solar thermal heating, photovoltaics, geothermal heat pumps, wood stoves are all option (though wood contributes carbon emissions). Use more energy efficient appliances. Get an energy audit which will include recommendations with anticipated pay back periods to break event.
Geothermal heat pumps for heating and cooling can be an immediate replacement for gas and heating oils. State policy needs to finance the initial capital costs on favorable terms.
(From University of Maine.)
One option is ground-source heat pumps. In winter, a heat pump is essentially like a refrigerator circulation system that removes heat from one place (the ground) and transports it to another (your home). In summer, the pump uses the even temperature of the ground to cool your home. A heat pump is two or three times as efficient as an electric heater or air conditioner. It has higher initial capital costs but much lower operating costs, so can quickly pay for itself.
Passive solar homes are designed with little or no window glass on the north side of the home, large energy-efficient windows on the south side, and a large amount of thermal mass (water tanks, concrete floor, etc.) placed so that it is warmed by the sun during the day, and then stores and releases the stored heat during the night.
There are a number of steps that homeowners planning to use solar electric systems can take to make the most effective use of photovoltaic energy:
- Use the most energy-efficient appliances.
- Use appliances that utilize other sources of energy, for example a gas dryer, a gas stove, a gas or solar water heater, and a wood-burning heating appliance.
- Buy a super-insulated refrigerator.
- Install an active or passive solar home heating system
- Manage electricity use according to times of generation (sunny days).
- Clear trees and shrubs that might shade the solar array.
Why isn’t Nuclear Power part of the clean energy climate solution?
Besides the environmental dangers posed by nuclear power plants, they are too expensive and require government subsidies and protections (e.g., Price-Anderson Act) to exist.
If a meltdown were to occur, the accident could kill and injure tens of thousands of people, leaving large regions uninhabitable. And, more than 50 years after splitting the first atom, science has yet to devise a method for adequately handling long lived radioactive wastes. For years nuclear plants have been leaking radioactive waste from underground pipes and radioactive waste pools into the ground water at sites across the nation.
In addition to being extremely dangerous, the continued greenwashing of nuclear power from industry-backed lobbyists diverts investments away from clean, renewable sources of energy. In contrast to nuclear power, renewable energy is both clean and safe. Technically accessible renewable energy sources are capable of producing six times more energy than current global demand.
First, nuclear power plants continuously emit low levels of cancer-causing strontium-90 radiation during “normal” operations, and higher levels when there are serious problems such as the continuing leakage of radioactive water from the tsunami-damaged reactors at Fukushima,
Next, the trees: nuclear power plants are not “carbon free.” They do not emit carbon or other greenhouse gases as they split atoms during the fission process, but their carbon footprint must be assessed on the basis of their complete nuclear fuel life cycle. Significant amounts of fossil fuel are used indirectly in mining, milling, uranium fuel enrichment, plant and waste storage construction, decommissioning, and ultimately transportation and millennia-long storage of waste. In addition, the nuclear industry’s false refrain that nuclear power plants have no carbon footprint is an attempt to obscure the fact that nuclear power plants’ radiation footprint is far more lethal than the carbon footprint of any other industry.
Additionally, the industry’s rhetoric masks the astronomical costs for thousands of years of storage that could be better invested in rapidly developing renewable fuels with a zero carbon footprint like solar, wind, geothermal, and Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion, which don’t carry harmful, let alone lethal, side effects.
What Role should energy conservation and energy efficiency play in 100% clean energy?
A major role.
We need to reduce the amount of energy we use. This is where conservation comes in.
In NYC, buildings account for 75% of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions. Buildings should be made airtight – caulking electrical outlets, tightening up loose windows, adding weather stripping to the front doors, and sealing elevator houses on the roofs. Triple glazed windows. Insulate.
(Alliance to Save Energy) Energy efficiency is one of the most important tools for avoiding climate change by reducing use of fossil fuels. However, energy efficiency and related demand management measures also can address some of the energy sector’s vulnerabilities to climate change impacts:
- Deploying energy-efficient technologies in end-use facilities and in power generation, transmission and distribution can help counteract the increased demand on and decreased output of power plants due to higher temperatures;
- Demand response programs and efficiency programs aimed at peak loads can help counteract the increase in peak demand due to increased use of air conditioning, and address the uncertainties in generation and consumption due to extreme weather, thus helping avoid the need for additional power plants;
- Builders can “future proof” buildings against predicted changes in weather patterns by ensuring long-lived characteristics such as orientation, insulation and windows are appropriate for expected climate conditions;
- Cities can reduce ambient temperatures, and make buildings more efficient, with cool or green roofs;
- Constructing distributed generation, especially efficient combined heat and power (CHP) plants, can provide secure electricity for large energy consumers or microgrids that is less subject to grid outages due to extreme weather; and
- Water efficiency programs can address climate impacts on water resources and reduce energy use for pumping and treating water.
How Could Organic Agriculture Reduce Climate Change?
According to the EPA, agriculture accounts for 9% of US greenhouse emission. International groups estimate that one-third of the world greenhouse emissions are from agriculture. The UN estimates from agriculture, forestry and fisheries have nearly doubled over the past fifty years and could increase an additional 30 percent by 2050, without greater efforts to reduce them.
(From Organic Consumer Association, Cook Organic: Not the Planet)
Organic technology could cut greenhouse emissions in half and literally suck down and sequester carbon dioxide in living soil – bringing the total amount of CO2 in the atmosphere down to 350 ppm, The average organic matter in world arable soils at present is somewhere around 2%. A 3% organic matter content is considered good soil and 1% is not uncommon. Best farming practices could likely double the amount of organic matter content held in the world’s farm soils. This would store a huge amount of carbon, increase crop yields, reduce erosion and reduce floods, all at the same time.
The production of meat, eggs and milk on factory farms is responsible for up to 51 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Worldwatch Institute. Those emissions, which include CO2, methane and nitrous oxide, arise from the combination of livestock feed production, the animals themselves, and the waste they produce. Industrial farming, especially the cultivation of genetically engineered soy and palm oil, is also responsible for the destruction of millions of acres of forests and rainforests. When forests are logged or burned to make way for fields or pastures, they release CO2 into the atmosphere. In fact, 20 percent of all greenhouse gas pollution comes from deforestation. Once forests are stripped of their trees, they’re also stripped of their ability to help stabilize the climate by naturally sequestering billions of tons of carbon.
Factory farming is inherently inefficient. It requires enormous amounts of pesticides and fossil fuel-based fertilizers to grow grain, most of it genetically engineered corn and soy, to feed just cattle alone. More than 80 percent of the grain grown in the U.S. goes to feed animals crammed in factory farms. What do we get in return? For every 100 food calories of edible crops fed to livestock, we get back just 30 calories in the form of meat and dairy – a 70 percent loss.
Won’t Reliance on Renewable Energy result in blackouts and brownouts
Avoiding blackouts is one of the key challenges of any energy distribution system. Renewable energy advocates and state energy regulators are very aware of this and supply and demand management is a critical part of any solution. Fortunately, technological advances with renewable energy, energy storage and energy distribution are all making this easier to manage.
What is net metering?
Net metering means that customers with distributed systems can sell excess power they generate back to the local utility. In other words, they can make the meter “run backwards.” For example, electricity generated by home rooftop solar panels during the middle of the day–which coincides with “peak” power demand–can be sold back to the grid. But at night, when solar panels can’t generate power, the homeowner will buy power from the utility. Since net metering helps “pay back” the cost of investing in the distributed equipment, it’s great incentive.
Is GELF a Project of the Green Party?
GELF is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.organization. As such it does not endorse any political party or candidates.
Does Capitalism Cause Climate Change?
Solving climate change will require both system change and energy democracy.
Capitalism believes that the drive for profits is the best way to organize the economy. It tends to ignore the external costs imposed on society by businesses, such as the negative impacts (air pollution, climate change) associated with burning fossil fuels. It puts the profits of the 1% ahead of the needs of the 99%.
Capitalism is a system of competitive accumulation where each private firm must grow or die in its competition for market share and profits with other firms. This growth dynamic fuels endless expansion of the whole economy, including energy use and fossil fuel burning. Capitalism is structurally incapable of being a steady-state economy that sustainably meets human needs in balance with renewable energy and resources.
The concentration of political and economic power among a small rich elite under capitalism makes rational climate policies to radically reduce greenhouse gas emissions impossible to adopt and sustain. Power is concentrated in a few thousand corporate managers and board directors who use interlocking boards of directors and cross-ownership to control the big global corporations, 147 of which control 40% of the world’s wealth and 739 of which control 80%.
Unfortunately, governments that embrace a more socialist approach to the economy also often fail to make ecology a central principle. While governments own about 70% of the world’s fossil fuel resources, they have not committed yet to stop burning them. Even newer more progressive governments in South America are converting fossil fuels because it is one of the few assets they have they can quickly raise funds to address inequality in their countries.
Only by creating a democratically run, planned and managed economy do we have a chance at stopping climate change and building a stable, healthy planet.
More than half of the American climate change organizers in a recent survey said the movement should go beyond tackling climate change and also address social justice and diversity, racial, and gender issues.
What is Energy Democracy?
Energy Democracy is a political, economic, social and cultural concept that merges technological energy transition with a strengthening of democracy and public participation.
Energy democracy means that community residents are innovators, planners, and decision-makers on how to use and create energy that is local and renewable. There are no effective national solutions that exclude people of color because a majority of the US population will soon be Latino, Black, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Native American. Policies, capacity-building, and engagement around green energy solutions must support diverse communities to ensure meaningful innovation so that these solutions can be scaled for more impact.
The power of fossil fuel corporations has made it practically impossible to protect the health and safety of workers and communities, and union representation is under attack across the globe. Despite more energy being generated every year, energy poverty remains a serious global issue — 1.6 billion people, or 20% of the world’s population, do not have regular access to electricity. It has become increasingly clear that the transition to an equitable, sustainable energy system can only occur if there is decisive shift in power towards workers, communities and the public.
What is REV?
“Reforming the Energy Vision” (REV) is a major decision-making process underway now to transform the retail electricity market and overhaul New York’s energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. The stated goal of the proceeding is to create a cleaner, more affordable, more modern and more efficient energy system in New York, through the increased development of distributed energy resources, like rooftop solar, energy efficiency, and battery storage. The REV proceeding was initiated by New York’s Public Service Commission in April, 2014.
By promoting efficiency and distributed energy, REV also seeks to avoid billions of dollars in investments to repair or replace our aging energy infrastructure. Distributed energy refers to small scale energy sources like rooftop solar, residential wind, battery storage, combined heat and power, energy efficiency, demand response, and other decentralized energy resources. A decentralized system based on these resources can be more efficient and resilient (meaning it can better withstand or recover from extreme weather events and outages).
REV is an opportunity to fight for energy democracy, so that residents and communities can be full participants in a clean energy future, from owning renewable energy projects, controlling how we distribute energy, or gaining the power to make decisions about how energy investments are made in our neighborhoods.
However, the development of REV has been highly influenced by New York’s investor-owned utility companies (like National Grid, ConEdison, RG&E, etc). As a result, the PSC has handed the design of and responsibilities for our renewable energy and energy efficiency programs over to the for-profit investor-owned utilities. Also of concern is that as the state moves toward a market-oriented approach to promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy, the PSC is proposing to phase out subsidies for clean energy over the next 10 years.
Here is a two page flyer on REV.
What is RPS?
The Renewable Portfolio Standard is how NYS pushes utility companies to develop more renewable energy. It ends in 2015.
Initiated in 2005, RPS aims to meet 30% of the state’s electricity consumption with renewable generation by 2015, from a baseline of roughly 19% renewables already supplied by large legacy hydropower projects in the state. Available forms of generation include wind, solar photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal, fuel cells, anaerobic digesters, small hydropower, and biomass.
It only added 4%.
Most RPS programs in the US require utilities and certain other electricity suppliers to meet a specified percentage of their customer demand with renewable generation or pay a noncompliance penalty. In contrast, NYS uses a central procurement model in which the six major investor-owned utilities are required to collect an RPS charge from their electricity customers. Once collected, the RPS charges are transferred to a fund administered by the NYS Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), which then provides financial incentives to renewable energy projects.