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Green Economy FAQs


Can we reliably power the grid with 100% renewable energy?

Yes! Modeling has shown that we can reliably power New York the vast majority of the time without nuclear OR fossil fuels. According to Budischak et.al., our electric system could be powered on renewable electricity alone for 90%–99.9% of all hours, at costs comparable to today’s. The study also directly addresses renewable intermittency, or the idea that  the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine. Analysts have been studying this challenge for years and have identified numerous strategies for balancing supply and demand with renewable energy, including demand response, blending complementary renewable energy sources (such as hydroelectric, wind, wave, geothermal, and solar), investing in transmission to move energy from a variety of locations, overbuilding/curtailment, energy efficiency measures, smart grids and rates designed to minimize peak energy demand, and various types of storage (including battery storage, pumped hydro storage, thermal storage, and gravity-based storage).

Can switching to renewables lower energy bills?

Yes! Increased renewable energy generation will have significant long-term benefits to New York residents in terms of costs saved. Overall, the potential effects on energy bills are influenced by the specific policies, incentives, and market conditions in place, as well as the overall energy mix and infrastructure in the state. In general, renewable energy technologies like solar and wind have experienced significant cost reductions in recent years. The costs of renewable energy projects are also more stable compared to fossil fuel and nuclear projects, which are susceptible to fluctuations in fuel prices or spikes in costs from unforeseen safety issues. This stability in costs can contribute to more predictable and consistent energy pricing for consumers. Increased energy efficiency of the grid and in homes and businesses will also aid in making a renewable transition affordable for developers, homeowners, and renters and will help offset upfront infrastructure costs. It is important to note that gas and gas infrastructure is currently heavily subsidized by utility ratepayers (us, the customers!), making it a cheap way for the gas utilities to continue building out pipelines and reap massive profits for shareholders. If these subsidies were to be redirected towards renewable capacity and improved grid infrastructure, electricity generated from renewables would be even cheaper, lowering energy bills. It’s also important to note that the rates we pay are designed by our utilities and their regulator. Currently we have regressive rates that penalize low income households and electrification, but this needs to change for a just transition. 

Do heat pumps work in the cold weather?

Yes! Heat pumps are actually designed to provide heating and cooling in homes and buildings throughout the year, and the technology has come a long way since they first entered the residential market in the 50s. They work by transferring heat from the outside air or ground to the inside of a building. Ground source (geothermal) heat pumps work well in the winter by utilizing the stable temperature of the earth. They circulate a water-based solution or refrigerant through underground pipes to absorb heat in winter and dissipate heat during the summer. During the winter, an air-source heat pump extracts heat from the outside air, even when the temperature is below freezing. The extracted heat is then compressed and transferred to the inside of the building, providing warmth. Today’s heat pumps are designed to work efficiently at temperatures down to -13F, and those that are air-source are equipped with features like defrost cycles to ensure that they work properly.

Is nuclear energy emission free? Are nuclear facilities safe?

No and no! Nuclear energy emits around 66 g/kWh of carbon throughout its lifecycle, including uranium mining and fuel fabrication, construction, operation, and decommissioning. That is two times more than the lifecycle emissions of solar (at 32 g/kWh) and six to seven times that of wind (9-10 g/kWh). All nuclear plants routinely release radiation, are profit motivated to cut corners and lobby against regulation, and are never 100% safe for communities and our environment. For example, in New York, the Fitzpatrick Nuclear Reactor is still in operation despite a long list of ongoing safety issues. Climate change makes nuclear plants even more unsafe, because 2 in 5 plants operate on the coast and at least 100 have been built just a few meters above sea level, and even nuclear plants further inland will face increased risks from floods, storms, erosion, droughts, and wildfires.

Is hydrogen gas an efficient and cheap fuel/energy source?

No! Some of the main downsides to hydrogen gas are that it is neither efficient nor cheap. For one, it is expensive to transport and store given that it is flammable, explosive, and has the tendency to leak. In addition, a transition to an energy system using wide-scale hydrogen would require extensive replacement of existing gas pipes to pipes resistant to hydrogen-induced cracking. Integrating hydrogen into residential home heating would introduce similar hydrogen-induced appliance damage, costing consumers thousands of dollars to replace stoves and furnaces. Scaling up the use of hydrogen derived from renewable energy sources (green hydrogen) for use in building heating, which accounts for the majority of New York’s electricity needs, is not an efficient solution either. It makes much more sense to electrify buildings and there’s little reason to believe that green hydrogen could even be scaled up to such a massive level of production; right now, gray hydrogen (hydrogen derived from fossil fuels) is the cheapest and most commonly used form of hydrogen, but is also the most carbon intensive.

Do we currently have reliable and scalable technology for batteries and energy storage?

Yep! There are scalable and reliable energy technologies available today, it is just a matter of increasing storage deployment. This will be essential in ensuring a 100% renewable energy future because of storage’s ability to fortify and improve grid efficiencies. Adding more storage to a green grid has a myriad of benefits, including making renewable energy “dispatchable” – in other words, available when needed, improving the resilience of the grid, and increasing grid efficiency by flattening demand during times of peak energy usage. And storage doesn’t just mean batteries! All kinds of technologies are being developed to store mechanical energy in many different forms. These kinds of storage can take advantage of local geographies and reduce the amount of materials required for energy storage. New York state has a goal of achieving 6GW of energy storage by 2030.

Is Biomethane (“renewable natural gas”) clean and green?

No! Biomethane (marketed as “renewable natural gas” (RNG) by the fossil fuel industry), is neither clean nor green. Unlike fossil gas, this form of gas is not extracted from underground hydrocarbon deposits and is instead harvested from waste matter emissions. Methane gas is an extremely potent greenhouse gas with 80-100 times the warming power of carbon dioxide, and the capture, transport, and combustion of it releases far more emissions than reported by the industry. Framed as a renewable energy source, biomethane provides an opportunity for the gas industry to maintain its position in the energy system as opposed to investing in electrification powered by solar and wind. Although it may be beneficial to capture and flare biomethane produced by small-scale farms so that it is not released into the atmosphere, using biomethane as a wide-scale energy source incentivizes unsustainable production of waste and large-scale animal feeding operations which pose risks to human and animal health as well as the environment.

Can we replace Indian Point with renewables?

Yes! We need to ramp up our renewable energy capacity to currently meet the demand created by Indian Point, but this is a matter of political will, not technical feasibility. As part of The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, New York state is required to transition to zero-emission electricity by 2040 with 70% renewable energy by 2030. It is also required that New York have an 85% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This means New York by law must take action to phase-out fossil fuels, making continued investments into fossil-fuels that could replace nuclear plants, extremely difficult. Roadblocks to replacing Indian Point with renewables are due to a lack of political will and ambitious changes to our energy system and not a lack of available funds and technology. 

Will electrifying buildings and homes be too expensive and make rent unaffordable?

Nope! Although electrifying buildings will require some adjustments in how we build and design affordable housing, long-term costs will greatly decrease for renters and energy consumers. But it is critical that we center renter and low to moderate income homeowners in an electric transition, and to that end, electrification must be accompanied by energy efficiency measures, such as improving insulation, upgrading appliances, and implementing smart energy management systems. These measures can help reduce overall energy consumption in the long-run and help electrified households save on electricity bills. According to a recent report by RMI, all-electric homes were found to be more economical than those that use gas. Mixed-fuel homes tend to have multiple gas-powered appliances such as furnaces, water heaters, and air conditioning units. In contrast, all-electric homes rely on a single heat pump system for both heating and cooling, along with a heat pump water heater. Heat pumps provide considerable energy and carbon savings compared to gas appliances. Although energy affordability must remain a front and center issue to be addressed in a clean and just energy transition, all-electric buildings and homes provide great opportunities to address these and increase affordability for home-owners and renters.

Do we have a shortage of land availability for solar and wind projects?

No! There is plenty of open and unused land in NY, and many upstate farmers will benefit from the option to be paid to host wind or solar projects on their unused land. If we built 20,000MW of solar in New York, which is an overestimate of what we would need to achieve our 70% renewable energy by 2030 climate target, that would only take up ~164 square miles, or .3% of all the land in NY. New York can also generate renewable energy from offshore wind turbines, rooftop solar, and solar canopies over existing land uses like parking lots. According to NREL, New York State could generate 25% of its energy needs from rooftop solar alone.