The Gap in New York's All-Renewable Decarbonization Plan


Project Report:
New Tool, New Solutions for Decarbonizing Calif & Georgia Grids
Purpose
- Investigates the causes of economic imbalances.
- Explores and develops market-based solutions.

Summary

This project will use a unique new computer-based tool to investigate how two states, California and Georgia, can successfully decarbonize their electric grids by introducing nuclear power, a reliable, emission-free energy source. The electric grids in these states will need dispatchable emission-free resources to assure a reliable future grid. This project will describe the size, output requirements, and cost of these resources in these two contrasting case studies.

Description

The project began formally on May 1st, so this is the first monthly report I will submit to the Walker Foundation and the Anthropocene Institute.

Data gathering began several months ago with the assistance of Kasumi Yajima, an intern with the Anthropocene Institute. We began gathering a wide variety of core data we will need for the project. We started by identifying the public agencies in California directly concerned with the operation and future planning for the electric grid. There are four of them: CAISO, which operates the grid on a day-to-day basis and publishes every-five-minute load and source data; the California Energy Commission (CEC), responsible for planning the future of energy production and use in California; the California Air Resources Board CARB), which initially was concerned with air pollution but now has a much broader interest in the sources of climate change; and the California Public Utility Commission, which oversees the grid from the point of view of ratepayers and the overall state economy. The latter three agencies have been working together to develop plans for decarbonization.

I have found the data I will need initially. This includes current consumption andproduction patterns as well as projections for the future from the different agencies in California that have responded to climate concerns., as well as details supplied by E3, their principal modeling consultant (and New York’s modeling consultant as well).
The central legislative guidelines are provided by what is referred to as SB100, which sets a goal in 2045 that is quite different from New York’s. 2040 and 2050 goals. Like New York’s, California's approach focuses on renewables, but the goals are quite different. In New York, the CLCPA requires an emission-free grid by 2040 and an 85% society-wide reduction in GHG
emissions by 2050 (with the remainder supposed to be balanced by offsets of some kind). In California, the legislation does not specify any goal for society-wide reduction of fossil fuel burning; it only describes the goal for the electric grid, which is assumed to expand to supply whatever electrification of transportation and buildings takes place (nothing is said about
industrial use of electricity or fossil fuels). The description the grid in 2045 allows a substantial amount of burning of natural gas, accounted for through the losses from transmission and the charging and discharging of batteries.

Interestingly, California’s planners, unlike those in New York, have posted online the full details of the modeling used to plan the transition to their mostly renewable electric grid. This release makes clear that there is no analytic basis for New York's claim that the gap-filling dispatchable, non-renewable source will be used only 2% of the time. (This is the major issue I
examined in my study of New York.) No such clean dispatchable source is assumed in the New York modeling or in the California studies which assume the continued use of natural gas when the renewables are not able to meet the expected demand.

It has also become clear that the linear programming optimization model that both California and New York are using cannot provide any information on the size of this gap that these mostly-renewable plans will face. It looks at only a “representative” one-tenth of the days each year, and so cannot take account of multi-day solar and wind droughts (“dunkelflaute”) or evaluate how useful batteries will be in overcoming the intermittency of the renewable. Evaluating how large the gap will be when renewables are used is what our work is all
about. It has become clear that our hourly dispatch model will provide important new insights on the severe limitations of these optimization models that are now central in the planning of decarbonized grids in New York and most Western states.

I have created an Advisory Group composed of persons familiar with the energy debate in California and supportive of nuclear energy. The current members are Dinara Ermakova and Guido Nunez-Mujica, researchers at the Anthropocene Institute, along with Jim Hopf and Ryan Peterson, independent analysts and activists. I expect to add more as we identify others who could be helpful to the project. I will be meeting with the current members later this month.

We are ready to perform our first runs, which will take place during this month. We will use the same assumptions that E3 has used in developing the SB100 Core plan which the Governor's Office is now using. This will be our starting point, but we will then look at a variety of other scenarios. We expect to be able to see clearly the difference between what is likely to to happen hour by hour under their future scenarios and what the state’s current model claims.

During June, I completed setup of the CACI software for California and performed a set of preliminary runs describing the current situation and 2045, when electric power is supposed to be emission-free. The data shows what I expected: there will be a need for clean firm dispatchable power that is not accounted for in their current plan (see attached figure). The state’s plan envisions relying only on natural gas as a dispatchable source. The Governor’s claim that their plan will provide “100% clean electricity by 2045” is simply false.

I prepared a slide presentation explaining and demonstrating these results and presented it during the first meeting on June 26 of the Advisory Group I created for this project. The meeting went well and led to a number of useful suggestions.

In July, I will prepare estimates of the cost of the state’s plan and develop and analyze an alternative plan using nuclear power. This will provide a realistic decarbonization alternative to compare with the state’s defective plan.

Purpose

Modern industrial, technological society requires a reliable electric system. We now understand that, to be sustainable, it must also be one which does not rely on burning fossil fuels. This project will describe the requirements for emission-free dispatchable resources in the states of California and Georgia, offer roadmaps for creating the kinds of electric grids that can sustain the economies of these states into the future.

Scope

This project is focused on two states, California and Georgia, in the United States. It will contain lessons, though, that can be applied elsewhere around the globe.

Amount Approved
$35,000.00 on 4/15/2024 (Check sent: 4/22/2024)


Posted 4/10/2024 9:58 PM
Updated   7/8/2024 4:46 PM

  • Nonprofit

Nuclear Plant Vogtle
Barrett & Peggy Walker on a Foundation site visit to Plant Vogtle, Georgia. Nuclear reactors 1 & 2 were completed in 1987 & 1989. Unit 3 began commercial operation in 2023 and Unit 4 in April 2024. The combined output of the four reactors will power over a million homes.

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