The power needed after Indian Point Energy Center shuts down can be replaced, but it will require the state to ramp up its energy efficiency initiatives.
That’s according to the findings of a new report commissioned by Ossining-based Riverkeeper and the Natural Resources Defense Council. The two environmental nonprofits commissioned the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Synapse Energy Economics Inc. to study replacement options for the Indian Point nuclear plant in Buchanan.
The plant will shut down by 2021 under the terms of a deal reached between Indian Point’s operator, Entergy Corp., and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a legal agreement that included Riverkeeper. Cuomo and environmental groups such as Riverkeeper and the NRDC have longed opposed the plant for its potentially dangerous proximity to New York City and the Hudson River. But the 2000-megawatt plant produces low-cost, carbon-free power that makes up about 25 percent of Westchester and New York City’s supply, leaving a big gap to fill.
That gap can be filled, according to the report, by both scaling up renewable energy sources and increased incentives for energy efficiency. Both of these measures are also central to the state’s Clean Energy Standard, a Cuomo-backed initiative approved last summer that requires half the state’s energy come through renewable sources by 2030 and provides subsidies to help build up renewable production.
“Under aggressive but cost-effective and potentially attainable increases in energy efficiency beyond the levels assumed in the Clean Energy Standard, all of the consumption otherwise met with (Indian Point) output could be met by more efficient energy use alone by 2023,” according to the report. The report adds that, under more aggressive energy efficiency measures, Indian Point’s current output could be doubled by energy savings.
The report also positions the Champlain Hudson Power Express as a measure for meeting the demand left by Indian Point. The proposed 333-mile transmission line would bring about 1,100 megawatts to the region from hydropower in Quebec. The $2.2 billion line, proposed by Transmission Developers Inc., an affiliate of Blackstone Group LP, would run underground from the Canadian border, through the Hudson River and into converter stations in Astoria, Queens.
A combination of the Champlain line, increases in renewable energy production mandated by the Clean Energy Standard and an aggressive push on energy efficiency measures could well exceed Indian Point’s production levels, according to the report.
“Recent transmission improvements – coupled with energy efficiency gains, cheaper renewables and lower demand estimates—show that New York is already on its way to a reliable, affordable, clean energy future,” said Paul Gallay, Riverkeeper’s president.
The report said state policies such as a higher efficiency savings target and increased incentives could help boost the state’s overall energy efficiency.
Nuclear power plants, unlike coal and gas-fired plants, do not generate carbon emissions. It’s part of the reason why Cuomo, despite his fight against Indian Point, added a ratepayer subsidy into the Clean Energy Standard to help keep three upstate nuclear plants open. Part of the concern was any loss in nuclear production would be met with a boost in natural gas energy production, instead of renewable energy. The same concerns have been expressed for Indian Point’s future shutdown. The report rebuts that thinking. The state’s Clean Energy Standard-backed renewable production and an increase in energy efficiency would eliminate the need to use fossil fuels or imported fossil fuel energy, it says.
“We have shown that New York can easily exceed its electric sector greenhouse gas emission reduction goals by 2030 by deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy in place of (Indian Point),” the report concluded.
Still, not all are believers in the vision laid out by the report. Jerry Kremer of the New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance business group, said replacing Indian Point’s production will be a “formidable task.” The state, he said, should release a plan of its own for replacing the power.
“For years, opponents of Indian Point have minimized the cost and environmental disruptions that will occur if the plant closes,” Kremer said. “Yet, in places where nuclear plants have closed, carbon emissions have skyrocketed and numerous economic disruptions occurred.”