Closing the Nuclear Plant Threatens the Reliability of the Electric Grid
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has negotiated the closure of the Indian Point nuclear plant by 2021. Indian Point—a 2,083-megawatt, zero-emission facility—supplies about 25% of New York City’s electricity. Closing this giant plant, located 44 miles north of Times Square, increases the risk of blackouts in the New York City area.
The electric grid must be continually tuned so that electricity production and consumption match. Doing so helps assure that voltage on the grid stays at near-constant levels. If voltage fluctuates too much, blackouts can occur.
Over the past several years, the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO)—the independent, nonprofit organization that manages the state’s electric grid—has repeatedly stated that Indian Point is needed to ensure reliability. During summer peaks, for example, power demand in the New York City area can exceed 13,000 megawatts; NYISO has also said that before Indian Point is shuttered, new power plants will have to be built close to New York City.
Natural gas–fired generation could provide a relatively low-cost replacement for the electricity now being produced at Indian Point. But the Cuomo administration is blocking the expansion of the state’s gas pipeline network. If New York is to avoid an electricity-related crisis, policymakers need to understand the risk to the grid if Indian Point is closed prematurely.