Indian Point's Nuclear Power Can Be Replaced with Low-Carbon Options Led by Increased Energy Efficiency and Renewables
NEW YORK – Electricity generation from the aging and problem-plagued Indian Point Energy Center (IPEC) nuclear plant north of New York City can be replaced with increased amounts of energy efficiency and renewable energy sources coupled with transmission system upgrades and other replacement projects already well underway, according to a report by the leading utility industry research firm Synapse Energy Economics, Inc., released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Riverkeeper.
A key Synapse finding: New York can rely predominantly on energy efficiency, wind and solar resources to replace Indian Point’s power if the appropriate policies are in place. The report provides a detailed policy roadmap that describes how the state can secure this clean replacement power at very small cost and without adding carbon pollution or risking reliability.
Importantly, this small cost brings with it the marked benefit of retiring a dangerous nuclear power plant, which was not accounted for or incorporated into the analysis. Nearly 20 million people live and work within 50 miles of Indian Point, which supplies electricity to the greater New York City area and has a long history of operational, safety, and environmental problems.
The report, “Clean Energy for New York: Replacement Energy and Capacity Resources for the Indian Point Energy Center Under New York Clean Energy Standard (CES)” says effectively scaling up renewable energy under New York State’s already adopted “50% by 2030” Clean Energy Standard (CES) and adopting policies to increase energy efficiency investments in the state’s buildings are critical to replacing the plant’s two units with clean energy.
Paul Gallay, president, Riverkeeper, said: “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. This report shows that when Indian Point closes in 2021 that power can be replaced entirely with clean sources as long as we take advantage of the additional renewable energy and efficiency options available to us. This is a huge opportunity for New York. We’ll have plenty energy to keep the lights on — even on the hottest days — and New Yorkers won’t face big increases in electric bills.”
Jackson Morris, eastern energy director, NRDC, said: “More energy efficiency is critical to replacing Indian Point’s output and successfully transitioning New York State to cleaner electricity generation sources. We can do this. Governor Cuomo has been a national leader on renewable energy with ‘50 by ’30’ and now New York State needs to adopt and implement a bold energy efficiency platform to capture this vast, untapped resource to ensure a clean energy future without Indian Point.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, along with Riverkeeper, last month announced an agreement with Entergy to close one unit of Indian Point, located 35 miles from midtown Manhattan, by April 2020 and the second by April 2021.
Bob Fagan, lead report author, Synapse Energy, said: “The report is a comprehensive update of an October 2012 analysis looking at the same replacement options but this one incorporates the many market and policy trends that have arisen over the past four years—including the plummeting costs of wind and solar power, transmission upgrades, along with a marked expansion of energy efficiency and local, distributed generation like rooftop solar. We examined six scenarios and there is no doubt that with the right policies in place, Indian Point can be replaced with low-carbon options.”
Key findings include:
- The portfolio of clean energy outlined in the report is expected to have a very small impact on consumer costs over the 2016-2030 timeframe. The Indian Point retirement will add less than 1 percent to overall wholesale electric system costs; retail price impacts would be smaller because wholesale costs are on average less than 50 percent of the average residential bill.
- In all six scenarios for replacing Indian Point modeled in the report, carbon emissions decline through the 2030 Clean Energy Standard time frame. The greatest emissions reductions are realized with higher levels of energy efficiency investments combined with construction of the Champlain Hudson Express transmission line delivering 1,000 megawatts of hydropower from Quebec to NYC.
- Effective implementation of the state’s “50 by ‘30” renewables initiative under the Clean Energy Standard will drive a major buildout of utility scale and distributed (local, onsite) solar, as well as land-based and offshore wind in coming years. Combined with the necessary scaling up of energy efficiency and a more nimble grid, this reduces the reliance on traditional baseload energy sources that have to run 24/7 unlike variable renewable resources.
- Under aggressive but cost‐effective and potentially attainable increases in energy efficiency beyond the levels assumed in the new Clean Energy Standard, all of the consumption met by Indian Point’s electricity generation could be met by more efficient energy use alone by 2023. And locking in the standard’s assumed levels of energy efficiency and going beyond those levels could result in efficiency gains that are more than double Indian Point’s energy output by 2030.
- Other advances, such as the Champlain Hudson Power Express (CHPE) carrying hydropower energy from Quebec to NYC, could play a low-carbon role in augmenting the boosted renewables and energy efficiency to be deployed under the Clean Energy Standard.
For background, see this blog by Jackson Morris and NRDC Energy and Transportation Director Kit Kennedy at https://www.nrdc.org/experts/jackson-morris/gov-delivers-indian-point-close-clean-energy-advances. They will also post a blog today on the report at https://www.nrdc.org/experts/jackson-morris
Gallay will post a blog on the report at https://www.riverkeeper.org/blogs/indian-point-blogs/powering-ahead-without-indian-point
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.
Riverkeeper is a member-supported watchdog organization dedicated to defending the Hudson River and its tributaries and protecting the drinking water supply of nine million New York City and Hudson Valley residents. Since its beginnings as the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association 50 years ago, Riverkeeper has helped to establish globally recognized standards for waterway and watershed protection and serves as the model and mentor for the growing Waterkeeper movement that includes more than 290 Keeper programs across the country and around the globe Visit us at www.riverkeeper.org.