Reliability Post-Indian Point? Yes. Now Clean Energy Is Key.

A detailed new analysis from the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO), the body in charge of New York’s electric grid, confirms that the lights will stay on in New York when the Indian Point nuclear power plant closes in 2021.
Credit: Tony Fischer via Flickr

A detailed new analysis from the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO), the body in charge of New York’s electric grid, confirms that the lights will stay on in New York when the Indian Point nuclear power plant closes in 2021.

The study is one of several that confirms New York homes and businesses can still enjoy reliable and cost-effective electric service when the plant goes offline. Another recent analysis from Synapse Energy Economics, commissioned by NRDC and Riverkeeper, concluded that clean energy and efficiency are capable of fully replacing Indian Point’s power generation by 2021—as long as New York effectively implements its bold renewable energy policies, and, in particular, shores up its energy efficiency efforts.

When Governor Cuomo announced the plant’s closure earlier this year, he also committed to replacing Indian Point’s power without increasing carbon emissions. That was a key decision, because nuclear power, despite its problems, is carbon-free. The Synapse study shows that not only can New York keep the lights on without Indian Point—it can also keep costs and pollution down, too, by turning to clean energy and efficiency to replace Indian Point’s power.

New York’s smart clean energy policies, enhanced by the plummeting prices of wind and solar power, have made this transition a realistic and practical scenario. New York State has already adopted a “50 percent by 2030” Clean Energy Standard. To that end, Governor Cuomo has also committed to developing 2400 megawatts (MW) of offshore wind power by 2030—enough to power 1.25 million New York homes. This is off to a promising start, with the 90 MW South Fork wind project recently approved by the Long Island Power Authority. On the solar front, Governor Cuomo’s NY-Sun program continues to advance New York down a path to see over 3000 MW of behind the meter projects by 2023. And with the recent enactment of a bill to scale up energy storage, that resource can also play a role in Indian Point replacement, as further outlined by this study from Strategen released earlier this year.

As part of his nation-leading climate and clean energy portfolio, the governor also committed in his 2017 State of the State address to strengthen the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a successful cap-and-invest effort that is cutting carbon pollution from power plants in nine Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states. That leadership was integral to ultimately driving a strong outcome for the region: under the updated RGGI agreement, the nine states will reduce carbon emissions an additional 30 percent through 2030, further encouraging a shift toward cleaner energy even after Indian Point closes.

However, New York is currently leaving money—and carbon pollution—on the table by failing to capitalize on energy efficiency, the cleanest, most cost-effective energy solution. While New York has historically put policies in place to increase energy efficiency investments in our buildings, as a result of the lack of a clear, robust framework on energy efficiency in recent years, it has lost ground and now ranks only 7th in national energy efficiency ratings. The state has yet to adopt and implement that essential robust portfolio of policy measures needed to achieve rapid, large-scale energy efficiency improvements, such as requiring utilities to invest in all cost-effective energy efficiency. With  billions of dollars in consumer savings, countless jobs, and the Governor’s climate commitments at stake, New York needs to expand its energy efficiency efforts to keep costs and pollution down after Indian Point closes.

Some claim that the NYISO report shows that new natural gas power plants are needed to replace Indian Point. That’s incorrect. The NYISO report actually explains that there are many ways to provide the limited additional energy resources (100 MW) that will be needed to meet technical reliability requirements after Indian Point closes in 2021, including not only generation but “transmission, energy efficiency, and demand response measures.” Again, New York State has many energy options—it just has to choose the clean ones. The path that New York selects should become clearer with the 2018 State of the State, set to take place on January 3. 

With policies in place to ensure continued progress on clean energy—and to expand energy efficiency in particular—New Yorkers can look forward to getting out from under the shadow of Indian Point’s risky nuclear power and stepping into a brighter, cleaner energy future and the sustainable jobs that future will deliver.  

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