NYS Climate Action Council Discusses $300 Billion Price Tag for Renewable Energy System

On Tuesday, August 23, the NYS Climate Action Council held its monthly meeting to discuss its progress processing public input for the Empire State's clean energy plan. It received presentations from various subgroup committees including the Gas Transition Committee (presented by Jared Snyder), dove into Cost Analysis findings by Carl Mas, and heard Sarah Osgood put structure around how the 35,000 plus public comments will be categorized for review and incorporation into the final plan.

The “Meeting Agenda” is available here and the “Presentation” by the CAC staff members is available here.

According to Politico, the Gas Transition Sub Committee did not publish its report in advance of the meeting. The report discussed during the meeting flagged several "economy-wide considerations" as complex challenges to overcome. They ranged from achieving realistic emissions reductions to maintaining affordability and reliability of the energy system.

Source: Screenshot from NYS Climate Action Council Meeting held on August 23, 2022

Equity issues were reported as a common concern across CAC committees. The disproportionate cost impact in terms higher utility bills for the poor and elderly were acknowledged as the revised cost to overhaul the energy system (using only certain weather-dependent power sources) was pegged at $300 billion. While the current forecast for community benefit was shown to be marginally positive at $135 billion max, that is, assuming the underlying assumptions hold true over time. Nonetheless, ironically, the cost analysis conclusion was "inconclusive" on whether the final plan could deliver on the promise of an affordable, reliable, and safe energy system in the end.

The Cost Committee ultimately determined that there was "substantial uncertainty" in forecasting costs given higher market prices due to exporting of Liquified Natural Gas as well as challenges in upgrading electric distribution system.

Source: Screenshot from NYS Climate Action Council Meeting held on August 23, 2022 | Link: https://twitter.com/CEJCoalitionNY/status/1562154995302162432

During the general feedback report session, Ms. Osgood highlighted the numerous concerns raised about the cost of the "renewable transition" as well as the disproportionate impact of increasing costs on disadvantaged communities and increasing taxes unnecessarily. She noted that public comments received by the CAC panel featured tremendous support for nuclear power to play a larger role in New York’s clean energy future. It was reported that there were at least three email campaigns outlining the importance of the continued operation of existing nuclear facilities and the extension of certain NYS tax credit programs beyond 2030 to incentive baseload decarbonized power sources.

Other concerns raised related to the potential for “companies could raise prices when homes would have no alternative energy source.” It was observed that the new rules may create an energy monopoly as consumers will lose access to affordable heating fuels such as natural gas, propane, and wood. Worse, it was reported there was “concern that the Plan will increase taxes and place financial burden on New Yorkers, citing the already high living cost in the State which has been exacerbated by COVID-19 and inflation and warned that cost of living will drive people and businesses out of New York.” It was estimated that upgrading homes with alternative technologies could range from $25,000 to $50,000 per unit without an affordable mechanism to help pay for the changes. Additionally, the reliability of the current grid was called into serious question, asking whether intermittent power sources were safe enough and reliable enough to replace baseload power sources.

The CAC panel received an overwhelming concern about more frequent power outages and pointed to Texas and California’s power outages. Further, commenters indicated that, in the wake of Russia’s war on Ukraine, energy security should be prioritized, and New York should focus on generating more in-state power than relying on outside, foreign energy supplies. While the plan has potential for job creation, commenters cautioned the panel examine “how the existing workforce and local businesses would be impacted by the energy transition and stressed the importance of preparing for the shift” to hedge against the potential for “widespread jobs losses.”

According to the CAC website, a record of the meeting will be posted on the Climate Act website within three days of the meeting, or as soon as practicable. For more information, visit the following: https://climate.ny.gov/CAC-Meetings-and-Materials