Geo Blogs

National Grid Halts North Brooklyn Pipeline Construction April 06 2020, 0 Comments

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported on March 27, 2020 in its article, "Coronavirus: National Grid halts North Brooklyn Pipeline construction after outcry":

Construction on National Grid's North Brooklyn Pipeline was halted on Thursday afternoon after residents, activists and elected officials complained that the utility company was endangering its employees by sending them to work during the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite the city and state's orders for residents to stay at home as much as possible, and aggressive measures put in place to encourage social distancing, work on the controversial project had proceeded with employees in close contact, according to witnesses.
Thanks to Politico New York Energy (2020 03 30) for alerting us to this item. 

Refrigerants 101 April 06 2020, 0 Comments

If you didn't get a chance to see this webinar from New Yorkers for Clean Power, the recording is now available online.

Most refrigerants used in heat pumps are very powerful greenhouse gases. Does that make heat pumps a poor choice for our heating needs? Hear from experts in the field to learn the facts about refrigerants, how to safely manage them, and how heat pumps measure up.

Slides from the presentation can be downloaded here.

Thanks to Betta Broad and Michaela Ciovacco from New Yorkers for Clean Power for organizing this program.


State Budget Analysis April 06 2020, 0 Comments

Here are Governor Cuomo’s Highlights of the FY 2021 Budget.

From Politico New York Energy's Marie J. French (2020 04 02) summary:

ENVIRONMENTAL WINS ABOUND: Despite a global pandemic and dire financial pronouncements, the state's budget includes significant funding and lots of policies backed by environmental advocacy groups. The renewable siting changes [link requires subscription] could have a significant impact in accelerating construction over objections from local communities and beefed up transmission planning could enable more renewable electricity bottled upstate to get to New York City. ...The Environmental Protection Fund gets $300 million once again. There's no redirection of the fund to pay staff to administer it. ...Fracking [link requires subscription] and foam food packaging will be statutorily banned.

..."This budget reflects tremendous leadership and resolve even in the face of so much uncertainty," said Natural Resources Defense Council's Rich Schrader in a statement, citing the fracking ban, renewable siting and bond act.
Here is a blog about the budget's Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth & Community Benefit Act from Cullen Howe of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

Here is an analysis from the Sierra Club.

Of note: the $3 billion environmental bond act authorized in the budget includes $350 million for Green Buildings Projects.


California Utility Prioritizes Carbon Metric March 30 2020, 0 Comments

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) has begun using an innovative carbon based accounting approach. It says, in part:

Currently, 65 percent of customers in the United States are served by a utility with a carbon or emission reduction goal, according to the SEPA [Smart Electric Power Alliance] Carbon Reduction Tracker.

...SMUD is leading the way in not only committing to zero-carbon but also aligning internal goals directly with avoided carbon as the key metric. Moving to a carbon-based accounting approach is critical for utilities like SMUD to meet their greenhouse gas goals, especially as they electrify all residential energy use.
Slides regarding this initiative can be found here.

A few editorial observations:
  1. This may be a good example of public ownership providing a quicker route to positive climate action.
  2. From looking at the materials, it also looks like yet one more example of a building decarbonization strategy that discovers the problem of peak electric demand resulting from the use of air source heat pumps without examining geothermal heat pumps as the solution to that problem.
  3. The Sacramento approach looks similar to Beneficial Electrification Earning Adjustment Mechanisms that have become a standard part of NY utility rate cases, opening some space for possible collaboration and cross pollination.
Thanks to NY-GEO member Joe Parsons for this tip.


Urgent Need to Spur Renewables March 30 2020, 0 Comments

Green Energy Times (2020 03 21) summarizes a Utility Dive report (2020 03 20):

Unemployment Poised To Skyrocket, Creating Urgent Need To Spur Renewables: Obama Veteran Of 2008 Financial Crisis.

Power sector leaders are pushing Congress to address hits to the industry in its stimulus package. A former Obama transition team member pointed out that clean energy buildouts could be the first to hire.

NYS Guidance on Essential Businesses March 30 2020, 0 Comments

This Empire State Development website describes which businesses can continue to function within the coronavirus pandemic as of March 28, 2020. The construction section is most relevant to geothermal installers:

9. Construction
  • All non-essential construction must shut down except emergency construction, (e.g. a project necessary to protect health and safety of the occupants, or to continue a project if it would be unsafe to allow to remain undone until it is safe to shut the site).
  • Essential construction may continue and includes roads, bridges, transit facilities, utilities, hospitals or health care facilities, affordable housing, and homeless shelters. At every site, if essential or emergency non-essential construction, this includes maintaining social distance, including for purposes of elevators/meals/entry and exit. Sites that cannot maintain distance and safety best practices must close and enforcement will be provided by the state in coordination with the city/local governments. This will include fines of up to $10,000 per violation.
  • For purposes of this section construction work does not include a single worker, who is the sole employee/worker on a job site.

NY PSC Recognizes Gas Industry Shakeout March 23 2020, 0 Comments

In its March 19th meeting, the Public Service Commission initiated a proceeding that recognizes the profound changes ahead for the gas industry in light of climate change. From a press release on the Commission meeting:

Gas Planning: Recent developments have challenged conventional approaches to gas system planning. These developments include instances of supply/demand imbalance, the emergence of viable, less traditional and increasingly cleaner alternative solutions for demand and supply, uncertainty associated with major gas infrastructure decisions, and the CLCPA's establishment of state policy directions. This proceeding calls for a comprehensive proposal to modernize gas planning processes suited to forward-looking system and policy needs, designed to minimize total lifetime costs, and inclusive of stakeholders.
Read the Press Release here and the Commission Order here.

See the PACE Energy & Climate Center initial summary here.


Utilities/NYSERDA File Incentives Plan March 23 2020, 0 Comments

As of April 1, NYS utilities will take over heat pump incentive programs. They have been assigned targets for energy savings through heat pump installations and funding to provide incentives.

Please see the Implementation Plan here, the new Program Manual here, a table showing new incentive levels here. (NOTE: this table omits LIPA territory as the PSEG LI incentives remain the same.) Incentive changes are a mixed bag—up in some utility territories and effectively down in others.

The program manual does NOT require a local permit to be filed as part of the rebate application. Many of our members have found permits to be inaccessible in many locations and this had been causing severe problems for them.

Economy Gasping—Where Does That Leave Us? March 23 2020, 0 Comments

In this time of crisis, survival of many businesses—and even entire industries—is threatened.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency in response to the coronavirus crisis, and on Friday, March 20 he announced he is signing the "New York State on PAUSE" executive order, a 10-point policy to assure uniform safety for everyone.

As of 8 PM on Sunday, March 22, 100% of New York's nonessential workforce must stay home. All nonessential gatherings of any size, for any reason, are canceled. Essential businesses such as pharmacies, grocery stores and medical facilities will remain open, but they must implement rules to facilitate social distancing. (Here is the full list of essential businesses.)

While construction is listed as an essential business, we are still working to get clarity on where different parts of heat pump installation businesses fit within this permitted category. Further, there is the question of balancing the health and safety of employees with the ability of employers to continue paying them.

The NYS Department of Labor website has current information on unemployment insurance, sick leave, paid family leave, disability benefits and other items to protect workers and businesses.

We expect more clarity on these issues and are working with State officials on initiatives that may provide relief for our industry. We face contradictory times where heat pump policy is advancing while the economy is collapsing.

Please stay tuned as we will try to keep you informed the best we can. Send any suggestions/solutions you’d like us to share with other members.

The False Promise of "Renewable Natural Gas" March 16 2020, 0 Comments

David Roberts writes in a Vox article (updated Feb 20, 2020) titled The False Promise of "Renewable Natural Gas":

It’s no substitute for shifting to clean electricity.

To stay in line with the targets laid out in the Paris climate agreement, the US needs to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, known as “deep decarbonization.” Virtually every credible study on deep decarbonization agrees on the basics of a strategy to get there.

The heart of the strategy is cleaning up the power grid, which is currently responsible for 28 percent of US greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions...

Concurrently, two of the biggest sources of GHGs, transportation and buildings, must switch over to run on that zero-carbon power. The transportation system (29 percent of US emissions) is almost entirely powered by gasoline and diesel; it must transition to electric vehicles to the extent possible. And buildings (also 29 percent of US emissions) are now frequently heated and cooled by oil or, more commonly, by natural gas; they must transition to electric heating and cooling to the extent possible.

This strategy — for which I use the shorthand "electrify everything!" — is beginning to catch on… In a relatively short span of time, a robust "all-electric movement" has emerged, as dozens of towns and cities take steps to encourage all-electric construction in new buildings.
To see the rest of this article click here.

Thanks to NY-GEO Director of Operations JR Rath for this tip.