NYC details how it can move to ‘renewables-based’ grid

Source: Saqib Rahim, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, October 5, 2016

To meet its climate goals, New York City will need a power grid that’s “renewables-based” — not the fossil fuel-dominated grid it has today.

That’s the finding of a report issued yesterday by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Office of Sustainability. De Blasio has set a goal of cutting the city’s greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.

But in 2014, two-thirds of the city’s power came from natural gas. Almost a third came from nuclear power — specifically, the Indian Point nuclear reactor that is likely to shut down.

“A key challenge will be moving away from our current dependency on fossil fuels to the greatest extent possible, which currently provide us with the vast majority of energy we use for power, heat, cooling, and mobility,” the report said.

“New York City will not meet its 80 x 50 commitment if we continue to consume natural gas at today’s rate,” it said.

The report is the most detailed attempt so far to grapple with a tricky energy question: How do you green a densely populated city that’s surrounded by water and has one of the oldest power grids in the world?

De Blasio’s answer: Bring in renewable electrons from upstate and offshore. Improve energy efficiency in the city’s 1 million buildings. Reduce the amount of driving, and get more people to use transit and bikes.

The strategy would also relegate natural gas to a supporting role. Buildings that use gas for heat and hot water would be encouraged to switch to lower-emission technologies, like heat pumps and biofuels.

Last week, de Blasio also set new targets for solar power and energy storage: 1,000 megawatts of solar by 2030 and 100 megawatt-hours of energy storage deployment by 2020.

Meanwhile, the city would be counting on the upstate grid to get a lot greener. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has put the state on that track, with a Clean Energy Standard that requires 50 percent renewable power by 2050.

Right now, the city is on track for 50 percent fossil power by 2050. Two “bookend” scenarios show that the city’s future could be heavily renewable, or heavily fossil-based.

In a low-carbon scenario, New York City could get nearly three-quarters of its power from renewables. But in the high-carbon alternative, three-quarters of power would be fossil-based.

“Based on the City’s analysis, the New York State electric generation mix will need to move beyond the [business-as-usual] grid to become 70 to 80 percent renewable,” the report said. “This will include significant volumes of offshore wind, expansive land-side solar and wind installations, hydropower, and new transmission that will allow access to these renewable energy sources from outside the city.”