Report Finds Efficiency Could Replace Power from Indian Point Nuclear Plant in New York

February 28, 2017

Last month, when New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a deal to close the Indian Point Nuclear Power plant by 2021, some experts questioned whether the plant’s output could be replaced without relying on large quantities of natural gas. Indian Point supplies one quarter of the electricity consumed by New York City and Westchester County.

Under Gov. Cuomo, New York has established aggressive renewable energy and carbon-reduction goals, and the governor said the state had identified zero-emitting sources to replace the plant’s generation, including  investing in offshore wind, and adding new transmission lines to deliver large quantities of hydropower from Québec.

A new report from Synapse Energy Economics, Inc., estimates that more efficient energy use alone could replace all of Indian Point’s annual energy production of roughly 16 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2023, and lead to efficiency gains that are more than double the plant’s output, by 2030.  In addition, through deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy, the state can “easily” exceed its goal of cutting electric-sector greenhouse gas emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, said the report, which was prepared for two environmental groups, Riverkeeper and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Under New York’s Clean Energy Standard, energy efficiency measures must yield energy savings equivalent to 1.5% of annual retail sales, or 2.2 TWh of electricity, by 2025. The researchers found that by ramping up the energy-efficiency requirement to 3% of retail sales by 2021 — an energy savings of 4.6 TWh a year — all of the consumption that would otherwise be met with power from Indian Point could be met through more efficient energy use, within eight years from now. The report stresses that the more aggressive energy savings are achievable, and points out that in recent years, utilities in multiple New England states, including Massachusetts and Rhode Island, have achieved annual efficiency savings of roughly 3% of retail sales.

The researchers also modeled various other scenarios, including the completion of a transmission line to carry hydroelectric power from Québec to New York State, known as the Champlain Hudson Power Express. The project has reportedly received most of the state and federal approvals it needs to begin construction.

The analysis showed that hydropower supplied by the transmission line would make up around 43% of Indian Point’s power. If there were no changes to the state’s energy-efficiency requirements, in order to bridge the supply shortfall – and avoid importing non-Québec energy or boosting in-state fossil fuel generation — the state would need to increase power production from renewables beyond the requirements in its current Clean Energy Standard, a situation that would cost more than the aggressive energy efficiency scenario, the report said. (Québec hydropower cannot be used to achieve compliance with the state’s Clean Energy Standard.)

Ultimately, the overall costs to the electricity system to replace the generation supplied by Indian Point are estimated to range from 0.2% to 2.1%, and will hinge on the technologies that are used, as well as total demand in the state, said the report.

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