Meeting the Challenge: Scenarios for Decarbonizing New York’s Economy

When the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (the Climate Act) was signed into law in 2019, it placed New York State at the forefront of one of the most ambitious greenhouse gas reduction commitments of any major economy. It also called for the formation of a Climate Action Council (CAC) to create a scoping plan to determine how the state should achieve these commitments.

To contribute to this process, National Fuel recently commissioned Guidehouse, an independent consultancy, to conduct a study examining several different pathways for achieving the Climate Act’s goals.

The analysis showed that there are several pathways to achieve the Climate Act’s goals, but that a Selective Electrification scenario – one that takes an “all of the above” approach to leveraging the most effective technologies and solutions, and pursues decarbonization opportunities as broadly as possible across all relevant sectors – can achieve the Climate Act’s decarbonization targets while offering additional benefits particularly related to the crucial elements of the reliability and resilience of the energy system.

The Selective Electrification scenario leverages existing natural gas distribution infrastructure to provide a comprehensive solution to achieving the Climate Act’s decarbonization targets, and Guidehouse found that hydrogen can play a key role in offsetting natural gas emissions in the industrial sector. An approach that retains natural gas for selective end uses and introduces low-carbon alternatives such as renewable natural gas (RNG) and hydrogen could achieve New York’s emission targets at a lower total capital cost than an approach focused solely on electrification.

By offering more technology options and a more diversified energy system, the Selective Electrification scenario also preserves options to provide a more resilient system in the future. Significant growth in energy production from intermittent renewable resources, such as wind and solar, requires energy storage and dispatchable electricity generation capabilities to ensure that energy system resilience can be maintained. While batteries will provide some of this needed capacity, they do not currently provide a viable solution for longer duration and seasonal storage, which are foundational elements of the existing natural gas system and can also be leveraged as part of a future low-carbon gas system.

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