The Huntley and Dunkirk coal plants have no reason to stay open, the New York Independent System Operator claims, but politics might interfere with progress.
According to a new study conducted by the NYISO, in collusion with the National Grid, found that the two decades-old power plants in Western New York could close down without significantly affecting energy levels. The study assumes the National Grid will successfully implement several planned advancements, namely supplying power from Pennsylvania and importing from Ontario. The National Grid developed these programs to alleviate dependency on the two aged coal plants.
NRG, which owns the two plants, has filed to shut down Huntley by March 2016, while Dunkirk’s future remains in doubt. Nevertheless, representatives from the energy giant and union representatives have arrogated the study’s claims, accusing it of bias.
The closure of the two plants would have significant economic impact on the local communities, Buffalo, Tonawanda and the eponymously-related Dunkirk, through the loss of tax revenue they provide to these localities. Lawmakers have set to work on a $19 million fund to compensate these communities. Tonawanda stands to lose $6 million.
Union representatives contend that the closures will result in massive job loss, although the plants have consistently downsized operations for several years. Four of Huntley’s six coal-fired units have shut down, and the other two now approach 60 years of operation. The union representing the plants’ works has further argued that the plan to import energy from outside New York will serve as a loophole on existing environmental regulations.
The Dunkirk plant has long surpassed its intended lifespan. In 2013, Cuomo announced his plan to reinvigorate the plant, which operates at only one-fourth the power it once did. The plan would see Dunkirk transition over to natural gas. The plan ground to a halt, however, when Louisiana-based energy company Entergy Corp., which owns a nuclear plant along Lake Ontario, filed a lawsuit to halt the revitalization last February.
NYISO and National Grid have suggested that NRG mothball Dunkirk, meaning that the plant goes offline but the power generation units remain intact in case of future necessity. NRG plans to put the plant on hold starting January 1.