Saturday, February 14, 2015

Get beyond Fracking by REV [ing] up renewable energy in New York State

 

CCDodgeSUnless your head is still buried in Sen. James Inhofe’s (“outspoken denier of climate science and chairman of the Senate’s environment committee”) climate-denial book, you know that New York State is banning Fracking. Fracking is a dirty way of extracting a dirty fossil fuel, when we should be turning towards clean energy (wind, solar, geothermal, conservation, energy efficiency, microgrids, and net metering). Now that our attention is back after having been hijacked for 6 Fracking years, we should focus on clean energy options in a time of Climate Change.

Admittedly, it is not going to be easy to get Rochester to focus on responsible energy options—even though energy use is now understood as synonymous with morality. (Just ask Pope Francis.) We still think cold weather means Climate Change is a hoax. We still want to keep our local nuclear power plant even though it’s one of the oldest in the nation and the public may be forced to keep it on life-support. Fracking still makes for sexy, pugilistic headlines and clean energy doesn’t.

However, the clean energy program that should have evolved, instead of the Fracking dinosaur, now has a chance to survive and thrive. That program is “Reforming the Energy Vision" (REV) brought to you by the New York State Public Service Commission, who “regulates and oversees the electric, gas, water, and telecommunication industries in New York”. (Wiki) Why didn’t they launch REV six years ago? Was it because of Fracking?

There has been a series of public meetings so locals can learn more about REV and comment. You could have joined the party if you lived in Syracuse, Buffalo, New York City, Kingston, Albany, Yonkers, and Binghamton—but not Rochester, until a couple of NYS senators (Republicans) complained. Maybe the state thought the specter of clean energy would frighten the third largest city in the state. Nonetheless when we did have a chance to speak last Thursday evening at City Hall, many spoke eloquently about the need to link our energy use with Climate Change. You didn’t know that? That’s probably because the local media didn’t come to the party. They were too busy, or too cold, or they don’t cover events after dinner, or it wasn’t about Fracking energy, or the dog ate their homework. Who knows?

Anyway:

What's REV Why Does It Matter? "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.” Alliance for a Green Economy (AGREE)

Stop. Before we go any further, you must watch this fun 16-minute video that explains the REV program that is so wonky and complicated your mind will explode: “Reforming the Energy Vision, from AGREE.

Good, you’re back. (Sorry, that thing about your mind exploding was a bit over top, but trying to understand REV really is wonky and complicated.) And, just in case you cannot make it through this whole essay, here’s the take home message: Please comment on Track 1 of REV prior to February 17, 2015 “First track involves a collaborative process to examine the role of distribution utilities in enabling market-based deployment of distributed energy resources to promote load management and greater system efficiency, including peak load reductions.” 14-M-0101: Reforming the Energy Vision (REV)

See what I mean? It really is very wonky and complicated. There’s 90 pages of this stuff.

OK, if you’re still with me and willing to go just a little further, let me explains why all this matters.

If you don’t have the patience to get through all the particulars and jargon of the REV program, AGREE will help you out. And, oh yeah, it’s crucial for our state to hear loud and clear that we care about addressing Climate Change and want our energy options to reflect that.

Sitting this one out, ignoring Climate Change and not giving voice to a major shift in the way New York State gets energy is a major copout on the greatest issue of our day. I know, you’re busy and have lots of other stuff to do. But if Climate Change becomes overwhelming, all that stuff you’re doing now won’t matter.

This week, while on the road to the COP21 Paris Climate treaty in December, there’s a U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change talks in Geneva. Negotiators are ramping up for binding agreements in Paris to keep the 2°C (or 3.6°F) goal for keeping greenhouse gases (GHGs) above pre-industrial averages. However, despite the hue and cry about what curbing our fossil fuel addiction will do to our economy, (the fossil fuel industry’s standard trope), and the supposed threat to our lifestyles in the developed nations, there’s a dirty little secret: 2°C, though very ambitious, is not enough to stop the catastrophic consequences of Climate Change. Geneva is working on new goals that would complement the 2°C goal.

New Global Warming Goal Is Goal of Talks For five years, United Nations climate negotiators and onlookers have been focused on one big-ticket objective: Preventing the planet from heating up by more than 2°C, or 3.6°F. That’s a convoluted goal, though. Not all the extra energy that’s trapped on Earth by greenhouse gases manifests as warmth at its surface; most of it heats up the oceans. If current trends continue, scientists say we would blow past the 2°C target within a few decades — but the modeling required to make that projection produces substantial uncertainty. One of the main issues under negotiation during U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change talks in Geneva this week is a potential new global climate target — something more tangible for policy makers than the 2°C goal, with progress that’s easier to track. (February 12, 2015) Climate Central

Yes, it’s inconvenient and difficult to ask nations to do even more to address Climate Change than the 2C goal, since even this inadequate number is extremely unlikely to be achieved. However, the battle to align Climate Change politics (what we are willing to do) with science (what we have to do) cannot be achieved by unanimity. It would be like saying in order to get a plane off the ground we would need to balance the techniques of aeronautics with everyone’s ideas, including those who believe in telekinesis. That would be absurd. If the scientific characterization of Climate Change doesn’t prevail, we are screwed. 

Climate Change includes Global Warming but on a local level risks will vary. In the Rochester, NY region, for example, there are many Real Changes going on in our region right now that are not necessarily what other regions are experiencing. (In California it is wicked hot, not wicked cold like it is here right now.) And in the near future the Likely Changes are not what other places will be facing. But the trajectory for all of us is a warmer planet—that’s if we survive the local variations. Climate Change is about planning and we should be doing that on a massive scale. One way to do that is to shift our New York State present fossil fuel power grid to a greener power grid.

Climate Change is global, but the consequences and solutions are local.

IPCC scientists call for focus on regional climate risks  Data on geography of rising temperatures is not getting through to adaptation specialists, warn co-chairs  From heatwaves and wildfires in Australia to flooding in India, climate change affects different parts of the world in different ways. In the last round of reports from the UN’s climate science body, physical scientists produced an atlas of regional temperature and rainfall projections. But this has been underused in efforts to prepare for the impacts and threats of climate change around the globe, the top authors say. Ahead of a key meeting on the future of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in Nairobi this month, they are pushing for a heightened focus on localised risks. (February 13, 2015) Responding To Climate Change (RTCC)

Time passes.

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