Ever since Governor Cuomo announced the state’s new deal to close the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant after 2021, supporters of the plant, the media, and many others have been asking key questions about replacing the power. Will it actually be possible? What will the costs be for consumers? What if it cannot be replaced adequately? (See our previous coverage.)
Now a major new report commissioned by the independent nonprofit Riverkeeper and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has answered those questions in detail.
Bottom line: The report shows that New York can definitely provide a cost-effective transition from the nuclear power generated at Indian Point to clean, safe energy without any risk to reliable electric service, and it can be done without a net increase in carbon pollution. An important caveat is that this transition depends on ” the right policies on the books and smart execution of those policies.”
According to the report, 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 crucial for success.
The lower cost of wind and solar power and many of the clean energy projects started by the Governor in recent years are enabling factors for success.
The report updates a 2013 study, also by Synapse Energy Economics, Inc., and provides a detailed analysis of six possible scenarios over the 2016-2030 time period, looking at projected electricity demand, future transmission systems upgrades, and expectations about power plants exiting or entering the market in the coming years.
The modeling demonstrates that once Indian Point closes, electric service will be reliable in all scenarios. (NRDC explains how to maintain grid reliability in the future with renewables here.)
Will consumers get bigger utility bills? Not according to the report which finds that the costs for consumers will be “minimal.” Also the report notes that as New York increases investments in energy efficiency improvements, the costs can go even lower.
On carbon emissions, the report says New York can meet its ambitious climate goals even after Indian Point closes if it implements: 1) offshore wind power projects; 2) the Clean Energy Standard’s renewable program of 50% renewables by 2030; and 3) a much more robust energy efficiency portfolio in the near-term.
The nine-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) also would have an important role in limiting power sector carbon pollution after Indian Point is closed. The Governor has proposed stricter caps on carbon emissions from power plants as part of the RGGI initiative.
Joyce H. Newman is an Emmy Award-winning environmental journalist, educator, and gardener. She holds a Certificate in Horticulture from The New York Botanical Garden, and is a tour guide there.