Governor Cuomo and NY environmental groups have reached a long-time goal: permanently shutting down the Indian Point nuclear plant in Westchester County. Though operating company Entergy recently applied for two twenty-five year license extensions from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, they have announced the two reactors at Indian Point will be shut down in 2020 and 2021.
In order to replace the power produced at Indian Point, New York has three options:
a) Develop more renewable energy projects within the state
b) Import hydropower from Quebec through new voltage lines
c) Improve the energy efficiency of systems already in place, thus reducing demand
The Natural Resources Defense Council and Riverkeeper commissioned a full report that provides their answer to this question. According to the modeling results of their replacement-scenarios, the most cost effective way to replace Indian Point’s energy capacity will be to improve the efficiency of systems already in place and build the state’s renewable portfolio. Though the Quebec connection could provide clean energy and Upstate construction jobs, it is far more expensive than the other options.
Steps New York can take to improve efficiency are already laid out in the Clean Energy Standard: implement LED lighting, improve building insulation, incentivize public transportation, upgrade vehicle transmission, and use smart technology to manage lighting, to name a few. However, the nuclear decommission is also an opportunity to develop new renewable energy projects altogether, like wind and solar farms.
Though importing hydroelectric power from Quebec is still a possibility, Indian Point’s decommission could be an opportunity for New York to build more of its own renewable projects. The connection at hand would only make up for half of the energy Indian Point provided, so New York will have to improve its own efficiency either way.
Gradually implementing greater efficiency in addition to the Clean Energy Standard’s levels can make up for the decommissioned plant’s capacity by 2023. Environmental groups and Governor Cuomo have long supported decommissioning Indian Point because of its age and proximity to New York City. The facility had already lived out its initial forty year lifespan when it applied for a twenty-five year extension in 2015. Being only thirty miles upriver from Manhattan also makes the possibility of plant failure particularly consequential.